Meet Prinka of Dapur Saraswati!
Prinka Saraswati, an Indonesian currently residing in Morocco. She cooks and writes primarily about Indonesian cuisine. You can check out her writings here: dapursaraswati.
Her articles reflect her love and passion for cooking and introducing the world to Indonesian cuisine. When Prinka is not busy with her writings, she enjoys cooking. Prinka teaches at a nursery school when she is not doing both of these.
What inspired you to start your community work/organization?
I started my cooking journal on Instagram during the pandemic after a friend suggested that idea to me. I was still based in Indonesia at that time, so I cooked Indonesian food most of the time, obviously. I experimented as well by cooking European food, like Pesto, using Kenikir instead of Basil, cashew instead of pine nuts.The idea of making the most out of local ingredients is interesting to me. Then a few months later, I went to the United States; I was stuck there for a year, then now I’m in Morocco. During this time that I’m away from home, the urge to cook Indonesian food is even stronger because it’s just simply what I can cook by heart. Luckily, there is a big Southeast Asian community in United States, so I can cook many things without having to get certain imported ingredients. I realized that there are many other Indonesian immigrants who live all over the world, whether as a refugee, family, or students. Then I started to write my captions in English or English and Indonesian, so they can follow my recipe without having to translate each ingredient.
Along the way, I saw Indonesian cuisine is poorly represented in the media, both Western and local media. It was either written by a white chef or an Indonesian who uses their Java-centric-perspective to see the diverse culture of Indonesia. So I started my own newsletter, Dapur Saraswati on substack. I don’t want to write a controversial headline just to get attention or to use my perspective from Java to see what other Indonesians eat and cook. I’m learning how to not exoticize my own food.
Why is the work you do through your platform so important?
Because it’s a way to archive culture and people. I write about what’s going on behind the food you eat, the people who cook it, and how the food travels until it gets on your plate; silk route, spice trade, forced assimilation, and even marriage (I love history!). It’s important to see how the culture and history shape Indonesian food and vice versa, as it can connect us to other ethnicities, other Southeast Asian, other Asians, and other cultures. It brings us together, it holds us together - especially when you’re a diaspora or an immigrant. Some Indonesian diaspora lost some of the recipes or even taste through forced assimilation, so I hope other Indonesians and Southeast Asians can join me! I’m planning to make a collaborative thread on my newsletter!
What is your favorite dish? Is there a story behind it?
A plate of warm rice, Sambal Korek (others call it Sambal Bawang, but it’s called Sambal Korek in my hometown because it’s pretty dry - just chilies, garlic, and salt, sticking to the bottom of the stone cobek, therefore you have to scrape (Korek) it!), Tempe Goreng or Tahu Goreng, and Tumis Kangkung (Water Spinach, stir-fried in Indonesian way, very little oil and no high heat). It’s usually cooked in my home other than Pecel (my mom is from Madiun, the hometown of this dish).
What does courage mean to you?
It means embracing who you are, apologizing when you’re wrong, learning from your mistakes, sharing what you have, and showing your love.
Where can we expect to see you in the next few years?
A full-time writer who writes deep investigative writings like Ligaya Mishan (she’s my role model and she’s Filipino-American!), writes a book about Indonesian cuisine, and travels a lot for that book project! Amen hahahaha
Thank you so much Prinka 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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