Meet Pat Tanumihardja
Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Pat Tanumihardja has been a food and lifestyle writer for over a decade. Pat’s bylines appear in many online and print publications where she writes about the intersection of food, culture, and history. She is the author of 4 pan-Asian cookbooks: “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook,” “Farm to Table Asian Secrets—Vegan and Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season,” Asian Pickles at Home and Instant Pot Asian Pressure Cooker Meals: Fast, Fresh & Affordable. She lives in Springfield, VA with her husband and son.
What inspired you to become a chef / food biz owner?
My mum is an excellent cook and she has always nourished my siblings and I both physically and spiritually with the food she made for us growing up. Cooking good Indonesian food was, and is, her way of showing us that she loved us and also a way for us to stay connected with our Indonesian roots since we were growing up in Singapore.
Over the years I’ve realized how important food is as a connector, not just for individuals to connect to their heritage but also as a way to connect between individuals and community.
I’m not cut out to work in a kitchen—my family owned a restaurant for several years and it’s so much hard work!—but I enjoy writing and creating recipes that everyone can make. People are often intimidated by the thought of cooking Asian recipes so I decided it was time to demystify Asian cooking.
In addition, what I’d really like to do is elevate Indonesian cuisine in the U.S. I may be biased but I think it’s a wonderful cuisine and deserves its share of the limelight.
Why did you want to highlight the food you are creating?
People often wrongly assume that Asian dishes are hard to recreate at home and/or that you need special ingredients requiring a trip to the Asian market. I try to develop recipes that are simple and easy to follow. My goal is for anyone—even kitchen newbies—to be able to cook them in their home kitchen without any hassle. My recipes may include harder-to-find ingredients like galangal or lime leaves but even if you can’t get them, the dish is still going to be tasty. As a former farmers’ market manager, I also have a penchant for combining local seasonal ingredients with the Asian flavors I love!
I also really want to bring Indonesian cuisine to the forefront in the U.S. There’s such a delicious and diverse repertoire of dishes but it’s relatively unknown here. I hope to change that! (I have an announcement coming soon but more on that later!).
What is your favorite dish? Is there a story behind it?
Pastel panggang is a childhood comfort food that I love so much. Every time I see my mum, I ask her to make it for me. It’s a Dutch-influenced dish that’s similar to shepherd’s pie. The filling consists of shredded chicken, hotdogs, wood ear mushrooms, glass noodles, mixed vegetables and is topped with mashed potatoes. I know it sounds odd but it tastes so good and reminds me of home!
What does courage mean to you?
Being afraid to do something but still going for it!
Where can we expect to see you in the next few years?
Hopefully, I’ll be spreading the word about Indonesian cuisine with a new cookbook and on other platforms, and I also have several childrens’ books coming out in 2023 and beyond!
Thank you so much Pat for sharing your story with us! Tuk Tuk Box is proud to exclusively feature Southeast Asian ingredients and include refugee, migrant, and generational stories in every box.
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