Fusion food is a topic that causes lively debate among foodies. While some embrace it like I embrace bad 80s music, self-confessed food purists abhor it – what’s the point of combining two seemingly different cuisines just for the sake of experimentation? Why fix something that simply ain’t broke?
Despite popular belief, however, fusion food is not a new phenomenon. Austrian celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, for example, has been marrying European techniques with Asian ingredients long before Teage Ezard wowed Australians with wasabi-infused oyster shooters. But even then, Puck isn’t doing anything particularly new.
Our ancestors have been enjoying fusion food for centuries now. When European powers colonised faraway countries, they unknowingly created fusion food when they had to modify their dishes according to what ingredients were available to them in their new homes. The beef-loving French colonialists in Vietnam arguably contributed to what is now a well-loved soup noodle dish called phở (from the French pot-au-feu, meaning ‘pot on the fire’). Similarly, French baking techniques combined with Vietnamese staples such as pork, coriander, daikon and fish sauce led to the bánh mì, a sandwich that boasts a colourful fusion of contrasting flavours and freshness.
As an Indonesian, it’s hard to deny the impact that the Dutch had on Indonesian food today. In 1619, the Dutch East India Company colonised the spice-rich archipelago of Indonesia for commercial purposes. When the company’s charter expired in 1799, the Dutch government governed Indonesia until independence in 1949. Today, the Dutch influence is still prevalent from beautiful Colonial-era stock architecture in cities such as Bandung and Surabaya to the food that’s still being enjoyed by millions around the country.
One such dish is the famous dessert called klappertaart, which hails from Manado, North Sulawesi. In Dutch, klappertaart means ‘coconut tart’, however its texture resembles that of a baked custard dessert. This wonderfully sweet – and indulgent – treat combines Dutch dessert-cooking techniques with cinnamon and fresh coconuts, both of which are common ingredients in Indonesian cooking.
Some klappertaart recipes contain egg whites for a crispy meringue topping, however this simplified version purely focuses on the creamy, cold custard. I’d even go so far to say that this klappertaart is fusion cuisine – it’s very hard to find canarium nuts at your local supermarket so walnuts are used here.
Enjoy your klappertaart – perhaps you might see a variation of it at your local Mod Oz restaurant one day!
500 ml milk
50 grams plain flour
30 grams tapioca
50 grams sugar (you can add a little bit more if you have a sweet tooth)
50 gram butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon condensed milk
1 tablespoon raisins or sultanas (and extras to top)
2 tablespoons walnuts, coarsely chopped (and extras to top)
3 egg yolks, whipped
Meat from two young coconuts, chopped
Cinnamon powder, for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Mix half the milk (250 ml) with flour and tapioca in a bowl, set aside.
3. Mix the rest of the milk with sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it simmers.
4. Stir the milk and flour mixture from step 2 into the saucepan.
5. Bring the mixture to boil, then remove from heat (but don’t turn it off just yet).
6. Fold in the butter, vanilla essence, rum, condensed milk, raisins or sultanas, and walnuts.
7. Return the saucepan to low-medium heat and fold in the egg yolks and coconut meat.
8. Stir the mixture for a minute, or until the custard is smooth and thick. Remove from heat.
9. Pour the custard into ramekins or a big baking tray.
10. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
11. Let the klappertaart stand at room temperature to cool down, and then store in the fridge until it’s ready to be consumed.
12. Just before serving, garnish the top with raisins or sultanas, and walnuts, then dust with a bit of cinnamon powder.
1. Some recipes tell you to top the klappertaarts with raisins/sultanas and walnuts before putting it in the oven. I’d recommend topping the klappertaarts AFTER taking them out of the oven – both the custard and the raisins/sultanas contain lots of sugar and sugar burns really easily. Avoid this by topping the custard after they’re safely out of the oven – oh, and by not forgetting to take them out!
2. If you don’t like walnuts, try substituting with almonds.
3. If you can’t find fresh young coconuts (or can’t be bothered chopping them up), then store-bought shredded coconut meat will work.