When I was growing up, my parents would take me and my sister to all sorts of restaurants. We were much less of a food fixated society back then, but exotic food could be found in the Bay Area if you looked for it. In the suburbs there wasn't much in the way of Asian food but there was a wonderful Indonesian restaurant that we went to from time to time. It was a cozy place where the walls were covered with woven mats and maps of Indonesia and from the moment you stepped inside you felt like you were in another world. We always ordered the rijsttafel and got a chance to try lots of dishes.
Ever since eating at the sadly now closed Rice Table, I have been curious about the cuisine of the Spice Islands. My other exposure to the use of the spices from this region was in Portugal. The Portuguese colonized the Spice Islands and use spices like nutmeg and cloves in their cuisine. Portuguese cuisine is very different from the cuisine of Spain that relies more heavily on saffron, paprika and pepper for seasoning.
I would love to explore the cuisines of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia but until I get a chance to travel there, I can delve into the cuisine in a wonderful new book about this region, Cradle of Flavor:Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
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For my review of Cradle of Flavor, head over to Bay Area Bites