Indonesia comes to London Book Fair

17,000 Islands of Imagination at London Book Fair

Indonesia will be London Book Fair’s Market Focus for 2019, introducing the country’s “17,000 Islands of Imagination” to the international public, “symbolising the intellectual and artistic richness of this incredibly diverse and multi-religious nation”. London Book Fair, 12 – 14 March 2019, at Olympia.—main-page/Indonesia/


General de Gaulle famously asked “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

He was of course referring to France, but I wonder what he might have said of Indonesia, a country of more than 17,000 islands and a population of over 261 million, speaking 726 languages.


Many of the islands are tiny, so their agriculture is “organic by default”.

Natives of Papua say they can navigate their way in the rainforest as you and I would the aisles of a supermarket.


Javara is an entrepreneurial business that was created to help Indonesian indigenous rural economies to flourish.

Founder & CEO, Helianti Hilman, flew to London in December 2018 to support Indonesian Organic Food Day, a new initiative to raise awareness in the UK. Forbes Magazine Indonesia has mentioned her as one of 20 Global Rising Stars.



Helianti Hilman (centre) with Tracey Howes, who coordinated the day. Photo credit traceymayhowes












Guests were invited by the Embassy of Indonesia to a breakfast buffet at the London Marriott Hotel at County Hall, followed by a panel discussion.

Javara works with over 50,000 smallholder farmers, from production to distribution, to make their products available to broader markets. The demographic of both the farmers and consumers is getting younger; Javara makes the connection between the two.

Indonesian organic food can only survive through export. Sales started in 2011 to one country, and by 2014 90% of sales were exported to 23 countries.



The Indonesian Breakfast Buffet

The breakfast buffet was mostly savoury: crispy prawns, Rendang skewers, fried rice in eggshells….


“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly….”

It was enthusiastically received!



I usually drink espresso, but I enjoyed tasting a mild organic coffee from Sumatra. It’s quite low in caffeine, so I could imagine enjoying rather a lot of it!



Enjoying Indonesian coffee with the producer












I also came across this dried mushroom powder, described as being a new super food “coffee”. I think it could also work as a condiment, perhaps dusted over rice, eggs or fish.


“Mushroom Coffee”












The breakfast buffet was created and prepared by London Marriott County Hall’s executive sous chef, Budiono Bin Sukim. It was a celebration of Indonesian cuisine, showcasing the region’s organic produce, presented with pride, enthusiasm and an infectious smile.


Chef Budiono Bin Sukim











Chef Budio and his team also prepared a lunch, served in The Library, which overlooks the Thames and Big Ben.

This part of the day was by invitation from the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Dr Rizal Sukma.



The Ambassador’s speech of welcome












Highlights of lunch: a trio of starters, including Gado Gado, one of five national dishes of Indonesia, and Forman’s “London cure” smoked salmon, a playful nod to the London location.














Part of the main course was grilled Ribeye with Rendang, a richly flavoured dry curry sauce with coconut, accompanied by a wonderful chilli sambal, made with lemongrass, ginger and galangal.


Desserts were served in a cascade of dry ice; another playful touch. There were glutinous rice cakes with chocolate mousse; black rice porridge; this time the London accent was a lemon meringue pie.


Desserts AKA “Indonesian steamed pudding”












A crack team of professional food commentators attended Indonesian Organic Food Day, 2018.


Photo credit traceymayhowes












Disclosure: I was a guest of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Kingdom, Ireland and International Maritime Organization. All views are my own.

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