Indonesian street food – Kaki Lima Style ? ?

We’ve managed to get hold of the lovely Kaki Lima, a start-up consisting of 2 sisters bringing Indonesian street food to London.

The first thing that caught our attention about Kaki Lima was the Indonesian cuisine – we’ll admit its not a cuisine that we’re too acquainted with, so we were happy that the Kaki Lima girls agreed to answer a few questions for us!

The 2 members of kaki Lima stand smiling in their kitchen
The 2 Kaki Lima girls, Maya on the left and Kristy on the right!

1. Tell us a bit yourselves and your backgrounds, including why you decided to begin a food venture!

Kristy: After graduating university, I was working in a low grade admin job, with no desire to progress. I went to catering college and retrained as a chef. A few years in, I had my first head chef role in corporate catering. Kaki Lima was always on our todo list, but it took a while to gather the momentum to get it going. Now we are more convinced than ever that we made the right choice. The timing is right Londoners are pushing their tastebuds’ limits more than ever, and we want to share with them the food we love.

Maya: First and foremost, we’re sisters who love food! It has always been such a massive part of our lives, both personally and professionally, and after a decade of talking about going into business together, the timing finally felt right. Our mum is Indonesian and we lived there until I was 9, so the food, for us, tastes like home. It’s one of the things we miss most, and one of the main reasons for going back when we do! We really wanted to share that with people.

2. You’re still a relatively new startup business at the moment how are you finding settling into London’s food scene?

Kristy: It’s huge! But there are nooks and crannies everywhere, it seems London’s hunger to find something new, interesting and tasty is insatiable. We’re also finding this big community welcoming us, with loads of startup support, which is a nice warm and fuzzy aspect, as well as being hugely practical.

Maya: London’s food scene is so immense, crazy, inventive, exciting I really just feel lucky to be a part of it at all. But it’s a great place to be a startup there’s loads of support, people are really up for trying new things, and there are opportunities everywhere if you are open to them.

The Kaki Lima girls taking a well deserved break
The Kaki Lima girls taking a well deserved break

3. What types of foods and spices is Indonesian cuisine made up of, differentiating it from cuisines in neighbouring areas?

Kristy: Like most cuisines, it shares lots of flavours with its neighbours but to sum up its character: Spicy, sweet, bold, comforting. Indonesian food would implode without the existence of the coconut, which is part of so many dishes from drinks to cakes to curries (Indonesians were doing coconut water way before it was a ‘thing’), and the birds eye chilli, so central to the diet that an Indonesian will happily chomp on a snack of sponge cake with a whole chilli without the slightest hesitation. Lemongrass is another essential ingredient, the fragrance and flavour of which I could never get tired.

Maya: I always think of Indonesian food as being really fragrant and comforting. I love all the aromatic ingredients like lemongrass, coriander, galangal, ginger, garlic and lime leaf. Then you have things like chilli, tamarind, shrimp paste and palm sugar to give you the (very Asian) hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavours plus coconut and peanut for richness and texture. Of course, rice is central to everything, and is so revered it even has its own goddess.

Members of Kaki Lima chopping food in the kitchen

4. Why do you think Indonesian cuisine doesn’t have the same popularity levels in London as, for example, Thai or Malaysian?

Kristy: I think it simply comes down to exposure there isn’t a big Indonesian community in London in the way that there is a Thai or Malaysian community. People don’t often come over to show everyone what delicious food Indonesia has to offer. But people will definitely have the taste for it their palates have been in training with all the Asian flavours that Londoners have grown to love.

Maya: I agree, people just don’t know it Indonesia itself is so vast and so much of it is still untouched. But Londoners have always been excited by the prospect of trying something new and the feedback we’ve had on the food has been incredible, so I think it’s only a matter of time before Indonesian food makes its mark.

5. If you could learn to cook absolutely any other cuisine like a pro, which would it be?

Kristy: Japanese. I am in awe of the way Japanese chefs work, the way they train, the way they respect their food, the way they take pride in their work, and of course, the outcome. I am pretty infatuated with Japanese cuisine.

Maya: Probably Mexican. Everything about Mexico appeals to me the climate, the people, the food, the flavours, the produce it just feels so alive.

6. We recently read a blog post by food writer and cook Uyen Luu, where she refers to her kitchen as “the beating heart, soul and spirit of the home”. What is it about the kitchen, for you, that makes cooking such a meaningful experience?

Kristy: I don’t think this statement has ever been truer than when applied to our childhood home. Growing up with our mother, we learned from a tiny age, that the kitchen is where you show love to your family. We went shopping together, picked recipes together, cooked as a family, ate as a family then left the dishes to our mum!

Maya: It’s absolutely true. The kitchen is where you nurture the ones you love, pass skills down the generations, clean physical and metaphorical spills, store things away for the future, and share the fruits of your labour. Our childhood kitchen was always the heart of our home and now that we have our children of our own, the same is true for them. The kitchen will always be the best place to potter, tidy, read, or share a cup of tea.

7. Is there anything you’d specifically look for in larger kitchen spaces, when hosting supper clubs or pop up events, that would make for a better experience for yourself and your guests?

Maya: For supper clubs, I think the layout is key being able to tend to the food and top up drinks while staying close to your guests and being part of the evening is so important.

Kristy: From a practical point of view, lots of fridge space, big pots and multiple burners always helps!

8. And finally, if you were stranded on a desert island with only 3 items of food, what would they be?

Maya: Garlic. Chilli. Rice. Assuming I’d be able to find some fresh seafood and a couple of coconuts, I’d never want for anything again. (Spoken like a true chef, Maya!)

Kristy: Garlic. Butter. Cake. On reflection, not the best combination. (We get the impression Kristy is more about comfort food than survival – way to go!)

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Thank you to Kaki Lima for their time in completing this interview!

We REALLY recommend you try their food; Kaki Lima have an event on TODAY – a pop up stall at The Proud Sow in Crofton Park, and also a stall at Camberwell Market from 4th September. Don’t miss out!