Los Angeles-based Jeff Keasberry was born in Amsterdam and raised in his grandmother’s Dutch Indies restaurant, Djokja, on the north side of the Ferdinand Bolstraat and famous for its traditional fusion of Dutch and Indonesian cooking, a style little-known outside of The Netherlands. The Dutch Indies, of course, was a Dutch colony reclaimed by Indonesia in the late 1940s that had been crucial to the Dutch economy for its role in the spice trade. And, like most colonized nations, the food of this region is influenced by both traditions.
Keasberry inherited the restaurant when he was 18, but after years of trying to maintain quality and a loyal following in a rapidly changing city, he reluctantly shuttered the place in 1990, after 35 years in business. But it wasn’t until he moved to California in 2005 that he fully understood the importance of the Dutch-Indonesian culinary narrative and what it had to offer the rest of the world. As he longed for the comfort food of his childhood, his desire to preserve the traditions of his culture grew stronger. He had written a sequel to his grandmother’s cookbook that was published in Dutch in 2012, and then he set about writing a cookbook for English-speaking readers. Indo Dutch Kitchen Secrets, published in 2016, containing more than 100 recipes, beautifully photographed, and a thorough history of those who straddled continents and cultures while managing to preserve their culinary traditions — and their distinct identities.
Keasberry has put together a fun and informative online class — Rijsttafel in a Box — that allows people from all over the world to have an Indo-Dutch-themed dinner party at home. You can choose group or private instruction, and you can even have remote parties with family and friends by ordering multiple kits and creating your own group event. Keasberry sends you all the shelf-stable ingredients you need for the feast, and you pick up the meats and fresh vegetables required for the menu.
I cracked a bottle of Alsatian Riesling, which is perfect for this kind of meal and its spice range, and joined my class, where Jeff was waiting with stories, advice, and tips I wouldn’t have thought of, not having had much experience with these ingredients before.
For just $94, you get a full DIY rijsttaaffel (which literally means “rice table”) starter kit, a series of 10 small dishes that, in The Netherlands, are served all at once, kind of like Korean banchan or the Chinese tradition of small plates surrounding hotpot.
Krupuk Udang – shrimp crackers with sambal or peanut sauce
Rendang – braised beef in coconut curry – specialty from Sumatra
Ayam Smoor – braised chicken in sweet soy sauce – specialty from Java
Gado Gado – mixed vegetables with peanut dressing
Acar Ketimun – sliced cucumber salad in sweet and sour dressing
Krupuk Udang – shrimp crackers
Emping Melindjo – melindjo nut crackers
Sambal Terasi – spicy condiment – for on the side
Bawang Goreng – fried onions – to sprinkle over your rice
Spekkoek – thousand layer spice cake – serve with coffee or tea