Reviving Forgotten Recipes of Indonesia

Bali at Sayan, Indonesia

Wayan Sutariawan is a man on a mission. Head chef of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, this former “free range village kid” is reviving forgotten recipes from across Indonesia and immortalising them in a new cookbook-memoir.

With more than 18,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago – of which 6,000 are inhabited, spanning a distance of 5,342 kilometres (3,319 miles) East to West – there is plenty of cultural and culinary diversity to inspire Chef Suta.

“The evolution of modern society in Indonesia has resulted in some of our most iconic dishes being lost,” Suta says. “These dishes and the stories behind them are a window into Indonesia’s heritage, which has shaped who we are today. For me as a chef, I feel incredibly sad to see these recipes disappearing, and I want to do what I can to preserve them.”

Cherished Recipes From My Childhood was Suta’s “pandemic project,” a collection of more than 30 recipes including his native Balinese favourites, street food from Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, and a “rare but not forgotten” selection. Suta shares personal anecdotes, touching stories from his childhood, and cultural insights to enrich the flavours that pop out of every page.

The inspiration for the cookbook came from guests who encouraged Suta to publish the recipes served at the Resort’s on-site Chef's Table Dinner at Sokasi. This intimate seven-course Balinese degustation menu is available for a maximum of eight guests, who enjoy front-row seats to watch the final stages of the chef preparing dishes normally reserved for large Balinese-Hindu ceremonies. Cooking begins at dawn, long before the diners arrive, with the chef using 100 percent traditional techniques such as an underground clay oven for the 12-hour roast duck, a hand-turned coconut-fired spit-roast for the 4-hour suckling pig, and hand-grinding of fresh herbs and spices.

These popular dishes are served alongside rare recipes such as Ikan Klengis, barramundi fillet marinated in the extract of coconut oil; Ayam Timbungan with tender pieces of marinated chicken grilled inside bamboo; and Jagung Panggang, baby corn grilled and basted with a tomato and chilli relish and topped with Base Gede, the "1000 spices" paste that Suta calls the “magic” of Balinese food. As each dish is served to diners, it is accompanied by storytelling on its history, why it has become forgotten, and the techniques and ingredients used to bring it back to life at Sokasi.

While the concept at Sokasi is focused on Bali’s most iconic and forgotten dishes, the Resort’s main restaurant Ayung Terrace celebrates regional Indonesian flavours from other provinces. Suta’s mission extends beyond Bali’s borders as he revives lost tribal recipes such as Bia Paniki, traditionally made with wild bushmeats by the Minahasa tribe in North Sulawesi. Suta stays true to the original flavours of chili, ginger and lemon basil, while elevating the recipe with premium angus beef striploin.

“Bali has become a foodie’s heaven with restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world, Europe to South America, Asia to Africa. Meanwhile, most Indonesian restaurants serve only the most popular dishes and use short-cuts instead of traditional cooking techniques,” says Suta. “Some of our best recipes are becoming rare for various reasons whether availability of ingredients, laborious cooking processes or change in local preferences. They can be hard to find unless you are invited to a Balinese person’s home in the village. I’m proud to invite guests to our home here at Four Seasons Sayan and keep alive the foods from my childhood.”

Published in 2022, hard copies of Chef Suta’s Cherished Recipes From My Childhood are available for purchase from the Resort, at a retail price of IDR 1,300,000 nett.