Toronto Indonesian Restaurant Serves Dutch Rijsttafel Tradition

Looking to transport yourself back to that beach holiday in Bali by finding the best Toronto Indonesian restaurant? One of the most unique ways to enjoy Indonesian food in Toronto is by taking part in the Dutch Rijsttafel feating tradition.

Borrel Restaurant on Toronto's Danforth Avenue.
Borrel Restaurant on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue hosts an Indonesian Rijsttafel every month.

Dutch Indonesian Rijsttafel Tradition

Holland has a 400-year history in the tropical Indonesian archipelago. Indonesia was a Dutch colony from the early 1600s to WWII. The Dutch quickly developed a penchant for Indonesian flavours.

Ever wonder why the British enjoy Cantonese and Tikka Masala take away? The Queen’s colonial rule over Hong Kong and India has had a lasting effect on the UK’s love for these popular ethnic foods.

Similarly in Holland, locals prefer to dine on Indonesian dishes such as nasi lemak, gado gado, and satay. During my visit to Amsterdam I spotted Indonesian restaurants a plenty. And when visiting Bali I can’t help but pull up to a bar and munch through crispy morsels of deep fried bitterballen. The love affair between Holland and Indonesia seems to travel both ways.

The Indonesian Rijsttafel, a Dutch word that translates to “rice table,” is an elaborate meal adapted by the Dutch following the hidang presentation of Nasi Padang in West Sumatra. It consists of many side dishes served in small portions, accompanied by rice. Popular Rijsttafel side dishes include egg rolls, sambals, satay, fish and pickles.

Although the dishes are undoubtably Indonesian, the Rijsttafel’s origins are colonial. The Dutch introduced the rice table not only so they could enjoy and diverse feast, but also to impress visitors with the exotic abundance of their colony.

Indonesian Rijsttafel menu at Borrel restaurant in Toronto.
Indonesian Rijsttafel menu at Borrel restaurant in Toronto.

Indonesian Rijsttafel in Toronto

If you’re keen to find a Toronto Indonesian restaurant serving Rijsttafel, look no further than Borrel on the Danforth. Borrel restaurant’s owners Alison Broverman and Justin Go throw a wildly popular monthly Rijsttafel in Toronto.

Justin shares his personal relationship with Rijsttafel, “My first memories of Indonesian food was Sunday night dinners that my opa (grandpa) would cook. Until more recently, Chinese food in Holland meant pretty much Indonesian food. Cooking Chinese food on Sundays remains a tradition in our household to this day. My family lived in Holland for a year when I was 10 years old and we stayed with them. I would help my opa in the kitchen prep for these dinners every Sunday.”

He adds, “I recently got copies of my opa’s old Indonesian recipes that my uncle scanned and sent to me. They’re awesome to see. But it’s funny to note how many store-bought sauces and pre-prepared ingredients he used. In Holland, the Indonesian food aisle is huge and you can get so many ingredients ready-made. We make everything from scratch at Borrel Restaurant. The key is that more dishes start with a “bumbu” mix. Bumbu is basically a spice mix that you grind and mix together to make a paste. It accounts for the basis of many dishes and is responsible for some of the amazing flavours. They are labour-intensive though!”

Borrel Toronto's Indonesian Rijsttafel is served family-style on long feasting tables.
Borrel Toronto’s Indonesian Rijsttafel is served family-style on long feasting tables.

Toronto Indonesian Restaurant Serves Rijsttafel

The culinary team at Borrel Restaurant hosted their first Rijsttafel when their business was still a pop-up dinner series. Justin explains, “We hosted our first Rijsttafel at The Depanneur as one of their special event dinners. It was a great testing ground for it. The owner, Len Senator, called it one of the most ambitious dinners that had been put on there. It was always important for us to have the Indonesian food component connected with our Dutch restaurant.”

The first Rijsttafel hosted at Borrel Restaurant was in January 2018. Justin explains the Toronto Indonesian restaurant’s unique feast, “We host the rijsttafel once a month for 25 people. We might expand it a bit more if there’s more demand but it’s kind of nice to keep it as a bit of a “special” event that we don’t do too often. We have two tables of 10 and then there is a high top table that can seat up to five. We serve the Indonesian dishes family-style and there are about 15-16 small dishes that come out. On our best nights, there is a lot of conversation going on between people who were strangers at the beginning. We’ve had people leaving exchanging numbers with people they were sitting with. Those are really wonderful nights to experience. Then we have a perfect marriage of a culinary and social experience.”

Massive shrimp chips and a collection of Indonesian condiments.
Massive shrimp chips and a collection of Indonesian condiments.

Toronto Falls In Love with Indonesian Food

Toronto has always had a love for Asian restaurants. From Hong Kong inspired dim sum at Crown Princess, tasty Thai at Kiin and Pai, authentic Malaysian dishes at Soos and Japanese sushi at KaKa All You Can Eat. And make sure not to forgot that Markham’s best Asian restaurants are but a short drive away.

Indonesian food is relatively knew to Toronto restaurant menus. Justin adds, “I’m excited to see Indonesian food take off a bit. It’s awesome to reconnect Dutch and Indonesian expats with this cuisine that means so much to them. The best compliments are of course from those familiar with the food and who like what I’m doing! But it’s really exciting to introduce this food to people who have never had it before.

Spicy green beans, Indonesian fried rice and pork in sweet & sour sauce.
Spicy green beans, Indonesian fried rice and pork in sweet & sour sauce.

Indonesian Rijsttafel Menu at Borrel Toronto

Borrel Restaurant serves a monthly Rijstaffel feast that requires purchasing tickets in advance. The monthly event typically sells out and has a waiting list so contact the restaurant directly to ensure you save a few spots for your foodie friends. The unique dinner party on the Danforth serves a diverse selection of Indonesian dishes. The spicy and savoury feast ends with a petite plate of Pisang Goreng, deliciously sweet deep-fried banana fritters tossed in icing sugar.

Indonesian Appetizers and Condiments

  • Krupuk: deep-fried shrimp-flavoured crackers
  • Kering tempeh: fried tempeh in sweet and spicy glaze
  • Seroendeng: toasted coconut flakes and peanuts
  • Sambal badjak: homemade hot sauce
  • Pangsit goreng: deep-fried dumplings
  • Satay sauce: homemade peanut sauce
Toronto Indonesian restaurant classic, Gado Gado salad featuring blanched vegetables and peanut sauce.
Toronto Indonesian restaurant classic, Gado Gado salad featuring blanched vegetables and peanut sauce.

Rijsttafel Vegetable Dishes

  • Sambal Goreng Buncis: green beans in a spicy coconut sauce
  • Gado Gado: Indonesian salad of blanched vegetables with peanut sauce
  • Sajur Lodeh: stewed vegetables in a coconut broth
  • Perkedel: Indonesian fried potato patties
  • Atjar Ketimun Manis: pickled cucumber
  • Nasi Goreng: Indonesian fried rice
Toronto Indonesian Restaurant serves coconut chicken and vegetable curry at monthly Rijstaffel.
Toronto Indonesian Restaurant serves coconut chicken and vegetable curry at monthly Rijstaffel.

Rijsttafel Meat Dishes

  • Chicken Satay: skewered marinated chicken
  • Beef Rendang: spicy stewed beef
  • Babi Pangang: grilled pork in sweet and sour sauce
  • Indonesian Meatballs: seasoned meatballs in a sweet kecap sauce
  • Ajam Paniki: chicken in a coconut sauce
Indonesian Chicken Satay at Borrel Restaurant.
Indonesian Chicken Satay at Borrel Restaurant.

Borrel Restaurant Toronto Reservations

1333 Danforth Avenue, 647-349-5722

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