Yes, I have to commend Indonesians who actively promote our cultures to foreigners. I also have to appreciate foreigners who genuinely love our cuisines without any desire to pander to validation-hungry Indonesians.
But, I also need to criticise them for overselling ayam geprek.
In a previous blog, I talk about how Indonesians are clumsy in translating certain words and act like Indomie is the only existing instant noodle brand. But, I find theayam geprek problem to be more infuriating.
While the origin is unclear, it is believed to be created in the early 2000’s. It started gaining national popularity in the mid 2010’s. Basically, it is so recent, I would be surprised if there are younger Millennials and older Zoomers who consider it a comfort food.
Nasi goreng, mie goreng, bakmi, soto, bubur ayam, sate, those are dishes which evoke strong nostalgia among many Indonesians. Personally, I would also add ayam goreng lengkuas, ayam pop and ayam penyet – three other variants of fried chickens (yes, there are others) – to the list.
I am not a hater. I actually love the dish. The texture of crispy batter and succulent meat mushed together, the heat level customisation, the additional salted egg sauce or melted cheese, I love them all. If I am okay with having my stomach scorched, I would definitely eat it.
My problem is that people – both Indonesians and foreigners – use it as the introduction to Indonesian cuisine. It gives an impression of deep-rootedness, like tempura and sushi are in Japan, even though it is an ongoing new trend.
Yes, I know we are talking about food here. Such misperception, as annoying as it is, won’t cause harm to anyone. But, misleading nonetheless.
Talking about religion and politics, however, would actually be consequential. Misperception would cause certain phenomena to appear more or less entrenched than they really are, giving societies undeservingly negative or positive reputations.
People – again, both Indonesians and foreigners – have also screwed up when talking about politics and religion in Indonesia; as a nation, we seem either more progressive or more backward than we really are.
If you cannot be trusted to represent trivial facts, you cannot be trusted with the more consequential ones. I don’t care if I sound petty.
Just wait for the next few decades. If ayam geprek is still popular, then it has achieved traditional status.*
But, even if it already is, it makes a bad gateway dish.
It is unbelievably spicy, even for the spice-loving locals. Unless you are a hardcore chili lover or an adventurous foodie, the extremeness of the introduction will put you off.
Just stick with nasi goreng, mie goreng, bakmi and bakso; they are easy for foreigners to enjoy or, at least, tolerate. Imagine being introduced to Japanese foods and, instead of starting with tonkatsu, gyoza, ramen and tempura, they want you to go straight to natto and anything involving raw fish.
You will find the entire cuisine off-putting.
*Note: decades may sound like a relatively short time for something to become traditional. But, the longer something stays popular, the more deep-rooted it will become.
Besides, tinutuan – also known as bubur manado – is considered a traditional dish, despite being created (allegedly) in the 70’s or 80’s.
Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.