Their beef rendang is Louis Tikaram’s favourite spicy dish. The Brisbane-based chef (of Stanley restaurant) was recently quoted in Gourmet Traveller magazine, describing it as ‘spicy and amazing’ and ‘the perfect breakfast when I’m home visiting my family in Mullumbimby’. Utilising local Hayter’s Hill beef, it’s slow-cooked in coconut milk and spices – lemongrass, galangal and chillies from Rini’s own garden – until the meat’s caramelised and all the liquid evaporated.
It’s just one of the popular dishes dispensed by cooks Rini and Iwan from their farmers’ market stall. Based in Goonellabah, the couple are up at 3am to cook their fried rice, fried noodles and banana sticky rice before driving to the market, where the rest of the cooking takes place. There’s tiny Rini multi-tasking; patient and smiling as she lifts fritters and samosas from a small deep-fryer; ladles spicy peanut sauce on to satays; tongs banana leaf parcels of sticky banana rice across to customers, while Iwan expertly tosses around a vibrant wok-full of rice and vegetables.
Despite its proximity, Indonesian cuisine is not as widely represented here as, say, Thai and Vietnamese, Japanese or Chinese, and when I ask Rini why, she’s not sure of the reason. This big-flavoured and spicy food is vastly popular at the markets as evidenced by the number of people – customers and stall-holders both – forking into steaming feasts of rice and chicken and beef and condiments with gusto. Rini and Iwan would like to serve up more Indonesian dishes, but they need more help.
I’m keen to try the banana sticky rice; Simmered in coconut milk, the rice is then pressed on to a banana leaf to sandwich a piece of banana – local Ladyfinger – wrapped like a parcel then steamed. I bite in: it’s lovely, gently sweet, not rich at all. A health food, surely!
Find Indonesian Kitchen every Tuesday at New Brighton Farmers Market 8–11am, and Mullumbimby Farmers Market every Friday 7–11am.