Traditional Dutch feast -- rijsttafel -- has Indonesian influences

August 1, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The translation for "rijsttafel" is "rice table," and outside of Amsterdam, it's barely known. But a local catering company called The Rice Table is now partnering up with Vincent restaurant on the first Sunday of each month to bring a taste of Indonesia, believe it or not, to a Dutch restaurant in a traditionally Swedish neighborhood.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, Andersonville's Vincent is a straight-down-the-middle Dutch restaurant, offering traditional mussels and great beer. But ever since July, they've turned the restaurant over to a mother-and-son catering team on the first Sunday of the month. Their company - The Rice Table - is based on rijsttafel, their namesake, and a traditional Dutch feast.

"Rice staffel is a grand meal. Sampling a lot of different dishes varying in spices, color, and flavors," said Chris Reed, the co-owner of The Rice Table, a local catering company.

It's Dutch, but it's also Indonesian, since that's where colonization originally took place.

"The colonizers were very interested in the food there, so they had all of the natives bring out their food, one by one, and eventually they had a table full of food, which became a rice table," Reed said.

The meal begins with krupuk, an assortment of shrimp, tempeh and rice chips. Then chicken - looking an awful lot like Thai satay skewers - is served with a warm peanut sauce. That same sauce is used to dress a plate of gado gado - a cold salad featuring cucumbers, green beans, cabbage and fried tofu.

Small dishes feature all sorts of treats: curried mixed vegetables.. potatoes laced with a spicy chili sauce.. even tart, pickled vegetables. Red curry beef and corn fritters round out the savory items.. of which there are usually around a dozen in all.

Two types of rice are served with the meal, and if you run out of anything, they'll gladly replenish it at no charge.

Reed does these types of dinners all of the time through his catering business, but having the chance to prepare and serve them in a true Dutch restaurant, gives him an opportunity to showcase his native cuisine to a whole new audience. He says despite the name of the feast, there's a lot more than just rice.

"The center is the rice but there's many different dishes to pick and choose from, so there's always something that someone can find that they like in the course," he said.

The rijsttafels are held on the first Sunday of each month at Vincent, which means the next one is coming up this Sunday, the 5th. The Rice Table caterers also hold rijsttafels at people's homes, so you can also contact them directly, if you're interested in setting one up.

1475 W. Balmoral Ave.
(773) 334-7168

The Rice Table Indonesian Cuisine
Christopher Reed Chef/Owner

Catering for: corporate, social, & special events

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