Two Qatari chefs were the guests of honour at this year’s Ubud Food Festival in Indonesia, bringing to a close the delicious Culinary Journey portion of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.

Throughout June, the two chefs visited three cities from east to west of the Indonesian archipelago to gain a deeper understanding of Indonesia’s culture, traditional food and unique ingredients.

Chef Noof Al Marri, owner of the Desert Rose Cafe at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) famous for her expertise in preparing traditional Qatari food; and Chef Hassan Al Ibrahim, known as Captain Chef due to his work as a pilot and for his experience sampling restaurant and street food in 175 cities around the world, took part in the Culinary Journey from Jayapura (19-24 June) to Medan (24-27 June) and Bali (27 June – 2 July).

The Qatari chefs explored all corners of Indonesia through unique gastronomic experiences, enjoying street food, learning traditional cooking techniques by preparing home-cooked meals in local homes and looking into sustainable food practices.

Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who launched the Years of Culture initiative in 2012, expressed her happiness that the chefs experienced the beauty and richness of Indonesian culture through the Culinary Journey.

Food is a universal expression of culture that encapsulates the characteristics of society as well as its traditions.

I sincerely hope the chefs will bring their experiences home to inspire their next recipe and share their passion for learning and experiencing new cultures with new people.

At the start of the Culinary Journey programme, the Qatari chefs met with famous Indonesian chefs who served as guides and collaborators – Chef Charles Toto, a jungle chef native to Papua and is actively working to preserve traditional Papuan dishes, and Chef Devina Hermawan, a former haute couture model turned chef known through her role on Master Chef Indonesia.

2023 Ubud Food Festival

Chef Devina makes Indonesian food using the basic ingredients of curry. She made Medan’s signature Duck Curry Vermicelli at the Culinary Theater performance space during the 2023 Ubud Food Festival.

She explained that Medan curry has special characteristics, which make it thinner but richer in taste than other curries widely used in India, the Middle East and other regions.

(Behind the scene) Chefs and crew of the Culinary Journey in Medan, Indonesia
Behind the scenes: Chefs and crew of the Culinary Journey in Medan, Indonesia

Chef Hassan, meanwhile, was excited to learn about the different cultural traditions of the locations they visited during the Culinary Journey through dishes popular in each location.

He said that the city of Medan epitomised a fusion of various cultures – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Acehnese, Minang, Javanese and traditional Batak, which has similarities with Qatar, where most of the people are expats.

The city’s special curry dish is very easy for many people to like, according to Chef Hassan. It can be mixed and matched and packaged according to tastes and times, which he said is the right dish to represent Indonesia on the world culinary scene.

During the Food for Thought panel at Rumah Kayu @ Taman Kuliner, Chef Noof, Chef Devina and Chef Charles explored the heritage, tradition and contemporary innovations that Qatar and Indonesia share.

Attendees were invited to discuss the power of culinary traditions as a bridge between countries, in line with the essence of Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.

The choice of locations – Papua, Medan and Bali, for the Culinary Journey, was made not only to explore a variety of culinary delights but also to showcase Indonesia’s rich cultural traditions.

Hilmar Farid, Director General of Culture at Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture, said he hoped each country could strengthen bonds of understanding and explore the uniqueness and diversity of each other’s cultures through the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture and its programming.

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