Bali’s famed beach club lands in Hong Kong with new dishes from the country’s diverse tribal cuisines.
*Featured in Crave’s July 2016 issue
Text by Cherrie Yu, select photos by Samantha Sin
PTT Family opened Kaum at Potato Head Hong Kong in late May, following the success of Bali’s iconic Potato Head Beach Club and Potato Head Folk in Singapore. Most are familiar with Potato Head Bali’s trendy, laid-back beach vibe. While there is no beach to be found at Sai Ying Pun, Kaum at Potato Head is nestled in an 8,000 sq ft multi-purpose space, along with an all-day café, a music venue and a retail space. The restaurant itself is an intimate room with teakwood furniture and a hand-painted ceiling and wall panels crafted by the Torajan tribe in West Sulawesi, Indonesia. The menu, too, is different.
Kaum will take a different approach, focusing on the food of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Bali – just a few of the regional cuisines that have developed on Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, says the group’s culinary activist, Lisa Virgiano, who designed the new venue’s menu with executive chef Antoine Audran.
“Dish selection was one of the hardest parts. We took a few factors into consideration, including unique cooking techniques and ingredients available in Hong Kong. We are trying to introduce authentic Indonesian flavours by unveiling almost-forgotten traditional cooking techniques from around the archipelago,” she says.
Audran and Virgiano worked closely with some of Indonesia’s 600 different ethnic groups to learn traditional cooking methods. “Antoine went to Toraja to learn how to make pa’piong ayam [marinated pork wrapped in banana leaf grilled inside bamboo] and understand the basic spices, while I went to West Sumatra to learn its food culture and the philosophy of rendang.”
Rendang is an old technique that requires constant stirring for three days over a low and stable heat to achieve caramelisation and rich flavour. At Kaum this translates into an intensely flavoured beef stew with red chilli, coconut milk and spices.
“Indonesian cuisine is known for its balanced savoury, sweet, salty, spicy and acidic flavours,” Virgiano says. “Yet there is still much to discover.”
1. Gohu Ikan Tuna and Sambal Kluwek
Raw tuna is marinated in salt, lime juice, shallot, mint and coconut oil using a method traditional to the Ternate ethnic group then drizzled with virgin coconut oil, lime juice, pomelo chunks and toasted kernari nuts. Each bite was refreshing, slightly acidic and crunchy from the nuts. We’re fans of marinated tuna, and we thought this was one of the best we’ve tried. Sambal kluwek, an Indonesian hot sauce adds an addictive layer of texture and spiciness to the fish.
2. Belut Sambal Hijau
A gleaming pile of seared eel fillet coated with green sauce didn’t look very appealing at first glance, but the flavours were surprisingly delicious and memorable. The fall-apart eel was slow-cooked then seared for a savoury flavour with a lovely hint of sweetness from the char-grilled cherry tomatoes. Green chilli and green tomato relish added a rounded spiciness without being too numbingly hot.
3. Mie Gomak
This highly addictive dish of wok- fried noodles with shredded chicken and curry leaves originates from the Toba region. Each strand of the Sumatran mie lidi noodles was steeped in sweet, creamy coconut milk and coated with specks of Andaliman spice, an indigenous Indonesian pepper that gave a nice lemony kick with a spicy aftertaste.
4. Babi Guling
A traditional Balinese dish of pit-roasted pork arrived covered in a layer of spices and herbs called base genep, which includes Indonesian bay leaves, Balinese ginger, turmeric and galangal. The pork had delicious crispy skin and was slightly smoky from being roasted over an open fire. The juicy, succulent meat was earthy and spiked with spicy flavours from the medley of ingredients.
This oven-baked Indonesian coconut cake is Dutch-influenced and originates from North Sulawesi. The cake is pudding-soft with a slightly caramelised top. Rum-soaked raisins add another layer of flavour to the subtle coconut cake, while crunchy pili nuts provided texture. Together with the chocolate meringue, this dish’s complex textures and flavours ensured this dessert was quickly devoured.
Kaum at Potato Head Hong Kong
100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun
Tel: 2858 6066