There are some things in life you just can't put a price tag on...
First of all, thank you Jed, for arranging and hosting this generous, sinfully scrumptious pop up dinner for the few of us. Thank you Raj, for the eye-opening, diet-crushing and melt-in-your-mouth roast suckling pig that you had specially prepared for us. I was darn lucky to meet The Diplomatic Wife in person for the first time. I've always admired her blog, which had been one of my inspirations.
Anyone who cooks, has a signature dish.
As someone who cooks, one of Raj's signature dish is this seemingly simple number: roast suckling pig called Lechon in Tagalog. I learned about the name from The Diplomatic Wife's post here. The (poor) piglets were specially transported all the way from Yogyakarta! The way Raj did this dish, was to slow-roast it at a steady temperature of 75oC for a solid 16 hours!
The only spices and seasonings he added were the kitchen essentials: lemon, salt, thyme, rosemary, olive oil. Hours before these were served on the table, Raj re-roasted the Lechon in a wood-fire oven. This last step is essential to create that crispy crackling layer that all swine lovers go crazy for.
The slow-cooking tenderized the already tender meat of the suckling pig. When Raj told me that it would taste like melting-in-the-mouth, I was rather skeptical to be honest. But poking at the slab of meat before me using a fork, it actually truly felt like touching butter!
It happened when the first piece of Lechon melted in my mouth. The juices and the vinegar sauce (Lechon Sauce) washed every corners of my mouth with the harmonious blend of richness. Oh, did I mention about the crackling? For once, I broke my own rules in eating: to avoid the skin part of any meat at all costs. The crackling was dripping with oil and partially melted layer of fat was still stuck on the inner surface. I consciously "committed" a sin when feasted on it voraciously and enjoyed every bit of it.
Apart from the Lechon we also enjoyed a smorgasbord of delectable Italian dishes prepared by Raj from the kitchen of Alex's Pizze e Pasta, such as Pesto Aglio Olio, pizzas, vegetables, potato wedges, etc. One of my favourites of that night was the wood-oven fired pizza. It was quite thin but not crispy-thin, with half-cooked egg topping. As there was no official menu printed for the pop-up dinner that evening, I can only tempt you with these photos (the captions are not the actual names off the menu).
A Walking Piece of Art
|Fried Potato Wedges|
|Desert: Panna cotta & pistachio ice cream dessert|
The tattoos etched on Raj's skin are not just random inkings. Each symbols, curves, lines and shapes, had deep and personal significance to Raj. Just like the sprawling tattoo covering almost his entire left arm, which is a harmony of things related to his passion in cooking. Things like chemical symbols of ingredients and spices that Raj loves (Na+ & Cl- ions for salt), chili and calamari, as well as stars to signify his accomplishments having worked in Michelin Star restaurants.
On Raj's inner right arm, is a tattoo of a lady. That's his wife. Being a practical person, he finds it too inconvenient to wear a wedding ring, since he cooks and the ring will (will be) contaminate(d). So, Raj tattooed his wife's name on the lateral side of his left arm's middle finger. From afar it looks like I©N.Y. (New York), which is the city where Raj was raised. (Can you guess his wife's name?). I'd say it's a brilliant twist and certainly, a romantic and sincere expression of love.
Raj Abat is currently settled in Jakarta (I hope for good, because Jakarta needs more talented chefs like him =)) and he is cooking pop-up meals all around Jakarta. For updates and/or inquiries, visit his Facebook or Twitter.
Raj Abat Cooks
Facebook | Twitter
+62 813 15019044
Blackberry PIN: 2921AA4A (contact details courtesy of The Diplomatic Wife)
Epicentrum Walk (Kompleks Rasuna Epicentrum)
Ground Floor, Media Walk Unit W149
Ph: +6221 29941189