From ‘kecap’ to ‘rendang’: Indonesian cookbooks win Gourmand
Awards 1

Indonesian cuisine is enjoying a spot in the limelight yet again, with three culinary books by an independent publisher, Afterhours Books, winning in the 2019 Gourmand Awards.

Founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau of Spain, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards can be likened to the Oscars of the culinary literature genre.

The three books are Kecap Manis: Indonesia’s National Condiment by the late Bondan Winarno, Leaf It to Tea: Exploring the Fascinating Culture of Indonesian Teas and Herbal Infusions by Santhi Serad and Rendang: Minang Legacy to the World by Reno Andam Suri.

Kecap Manis received the first prize in the Culinary History: Asia category, beating entries from Taiwan, China and South Korea.

Winners: Culinary books by an independent publisher, Afterhours Books, win three awards at the 2019 Gourmand Awards, likened by many to be the Oscars of the culinary literature genre.
Winners: Culinary books by an independent publisher, Afterhours Books, win three awards at the 2019 Gourmand Awards, likened by many to be the Oscars of the culinary literature genre.
(Courtesy of Afterhours Books/-)

Rendang placed third on the Single Subject category, tying the spot with Chutneys, Adding Spice to Your Life! from India and Sweden’s Låt Bönor Förändra Kokboken.

Meanwhile, Leaf It to Tea won second place in the Tea: Asia category, while also making the shortlist for the Illustration category. The book is the sole Indonesian entry for the Gourmand Awards’ Drink Culture.

Another Indonesian entry – Simon Pridmore and David Strike’s Dining with Divers by Bali-based publisher Sandsmedia – placed third in the Sports and Nutrition category, sharing the place with American Laila Ali’s Food for Life.

Afterhours Books founder and creative director Lans Brahmantyo told The Jakarta Post via email that the books were not targeted at the Gourmand Awards specifically.

“At the time, Afterhours’ foray into the culinary genre was due to the abundance of Indonesian culinary subjects, especially those related to culture, that were not well-represented internationally in the form of books,” Lans said.

He said the books’ strengths lie in the design, material and production. The contents were also edited in English to create an enjoyable reading experience for people native to that language.

He said the subject of Kecap Manis is unique to Indonesia, so it may have been the selling point for the judges.

“For Leaf It to Tea, the topic of herbal tea is also interesting because it uses Indonesian herbs, which is probably something new,” Lans said.

He noted that the first and third place entries in the Tea: Asia category were published in their native languages, Japanese and Mandarin, respectively.

For Rendang, he attributed its winning to a story line about the Minang culture in West Sumatra.

“There are practically no recipes in this book – only the journey of rendang from its raw ingredients to the dish’s many varieties,” he says, referring to the world-famous dish made of meat slow-cooked in coconut milk and spices.

Despite the popular phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, Lans believes otherwise, highlighting the strength of attractive covers when a book is displayed on a shelf.

“It’s where the uniqueness of the books comes into play. They have bright colors and there are no images of the subject on the cover. However, the books’ material designs engage the tactile senses from the moment we see and hold the books,” he said.

With the three awards under its hat, Afterhours Books plans to expand further into the Indonesian culinary genre. Kopi: Indonesian Coffee Culture and Craft by Andi Haswidi and Rodney Glick’s Coffee’s Fourth Wave were launched at the 2019 London Book Fair.

Upcoming titles include Sambal: The Flaming Passions of Indonesian Tables by Kevindra Soemantri and another book on fragrant tea, entitled Teh Wangi by Bondan Winarno. (ste)