Surinamese cuisine is often criticized, a criticism that is not entirely unjustified, for being too traditional, too conservative, too static. There is too much focus on what is well known, with little attention and even less appreciation for experimentation and innovation. However, there is now a drive for innovation and the courage to change conditions in order to bring about significant development.
Victuals has set out to stimulate the development of Surinamese cuisine, with respect for the familiar and an open mind for the unknown. Therefore, we challenged our local chefs to prepare a classic European dish the Surinamese way; or to make a traditional Sranan patu (Surinamese dish) with foreign ingredients. Jurgen Boodie, chef/patron of JiJi’s restaurant is the first who dares to take up the glove. Helpers be gone, first round!
Carved pork JiJi’s Way
Boodie has the nerve to serve up carved pork, with or without mushroom sauce, even though this dish is so classic that no hip, hot and happening restaurant in Europe still dares to put it on the menu. Too classic, you might even say corny and trite. However, a company like Van der Valk would never think about removing this dish from the menu, because they know that many of their guests still prefer the old way of preparing dishes and their weekly ‘mushroom pork” with fried potatoes, is still a great favorite.
As long as Van der Valk and other conservative restaurants still have a substantial number of place settings in the Dutch hospitality industry, we can rightly speak of a classic. The basic preparation for Jurgen Boodie is clear and meets the conditions of the true European dish. The sequel, a Surinamese preparation is even clearer. The boss of JiJi’s is going completely out of the box. It is served with crackers, water spinach, and sticky rice. The late Gerrit van der Valk would, in his days, never put this dish on the menu but the SMS pier has never been so hip, hot, and happening before in the culinary field.
Instead of roasting the pork in one piece, Jurgen has chosen to first slice (tranche) the meat. These slices are then sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled. In the meanwhile, the water spinach with garlic is fried in a wok and seasoned with salt and pepper. The Pleng pleng (Javanese cassava crackers) is broken into rectangles, as the basis for the pork medallions. The putih ketan (sticky rice) is cooked and the basic ingredient for the sauce is the surprise; dawet. Indeed the famous Javanese coconut drink. The dawet is blended with lime juice, garlic, lemongrass, Borgoe, and JiJi’s own blend of spices added and the drink is then boiled and allowed to simmer slowly till it becomes a sauce. On the plate is a bed made of wok-fried water spinach and the piece Pleng pleng is placed on top.
The grilled pork medallions are placed on top with three balls of sticky rice. The dawet sauce is then poured on the meat and rice and the whole dish is decorated with a bunch of bean sprouts for the crispness. As a replacement for the traditional baked potatoes, Jurgen has opted for cassava, which is prepared in a manner similar to large Flemish fries. The cassava is cooked with salt and then cut into thick slices and fried. The cassava chips are attractively presented in a separate bowl with shot glasses of mayonnaise, ketchup, and pepper sauce. Pork JiJi’s way, mission accomplished!
The chef and his business
JiJi’s has been in existence since August 2010 and is located on the first floor of the building on the SMS pier. The restaurant has a European signature with clear Surinamese influences, not only on the menu but also in the interior. Jurgen’s vision is clear, “I do not want to make typical Surinamese dishes but I want to promote Surinamese products. That is why we always opted for local vegetable toppings on the dishes, and the greatest possible use of local chicken, meat and fish.
As the only restaurant in Paramaribo JiJi’s has a menu especially for students. This is smart, for it not only attracts a wider clientele, including a nice mix of local students and foreign trainees. Moreover, if you get bored looking at your table companion while dining at JiJi’s, you can always look out into the dark and enjoy the sight of the illuminated New Haven and Wijdenbosch Bridge. It is fantastic!
Written by Alan Tijseling, Published in Victuals Magazine Edition #03 2012-2013