The Kerinci’s Steak

Jon Priadi Barajo exhibits the traditional Kerinci’s dish through Dendeng Batokok

The Reinvent Section features Jon Priadi Barajo, a Kerinci, Jambi man who studied and worked in Canberra, Australia, and now acts as F&B consultant in Jakarta. In many occasions, Jon served the favorite menu from his birthplace, Dendeng Batokok.

About Jon

Jon was born and raised the mountain feet of Kerinci, Jambi. Since graduated from high school, he pursued his study of Japanese Literature in Yogyakart. In 2001, he moved to Timor Leste and involved in the activities of street children’s life. His college life was spent with Yogyakarta’s artist communities; he was also actively involved in social issues.

In 2005, Jon decided to continue his study to Canberra Australia, in culinary academy of CIT (Canberra Institute of Technology). He worked in some restaurants in Canberra, such as Cream Coffee Bar and Mocan and Green Grout. “Mocan is a happening place in Canberra. The kitchen was very small and we only got 3 chefs working there, but we are capable of serving 400-500 customers per day. From breakfast to closing, it’s like we were having non-stop job,” Jon recalled.

One of the most memorable workplace for Jon is Temporada, which has 2 hats in Canberra (hat is some sort of award for restaurants in Canberra, similar to Michellin’s star concept) “Temporada serves Australia’s traditional dishes that were not too exposed culinary-wise. However, famous restaurants such as Noma had set up a pop up kitchen there and explored the Aborigin dishes, the concept worked pretty well,” he said.

In 2015, he returned to Jakarta, Indonesia, although he admitted that he was travelling back and forth from Indonesia to Canberra. Currently, he is occupied by his job as consultant of Go Café, an inhouse restaurant by Gojek which has pretty big production. “Go Café’s guests are Gojek’s engineers and IT staffs from various countries in Asia, such as India, Singapore, and Hong Kong. We try to introduce the varieties of South East Asia cuisine, and of course, Indonesian cuisine here,” said Jon.

Dendeng Batokok
The meat preservation such as curing and smoking is a common practice in every country. Similar to pasta preservation, one of the biggest reasons why people do it is because they haven’t got a refrigerator to preserve the food back then. The Indian is one of the first people to invent this technique, and they named it charque or ch’arki. In Singapore 1933, a person named Mr. Teo Swee Ee is known for preserving meat. Until today, we know him through his world wide brand Bee Cheng Hiang.
Actually, Dendeng Batokok is not that different with other preserved meat from other places in Indonesia, such as East Nusa Tenggara with its popular Sei or the jerky from Padang.

“The difference is, Dendeng Batokok is not as dry as Padang’s jerky. If other jerky is dried and then fried, Dendeng Batokok has to be marinated in spices, sautéed until the spice is absorbed, pounded, and then grilled on charcoal. Batokok that literally means pound, was conducted to make the surface of the meat larger and thinner. For the beef cut, most of the times Dendeng Batokok uses tenderloin or sirloin, both can be used,” explained Jon.

“In Kerinci, we have many migrants from West Sumatera, they breed here and influenced the local culture. It’s no wonder that Kerinci cuisines are similar to Padang’s,” said Jon. We can also spot Dendeng Batokok in traditional ceremonies that were held annually by the tribal chiefs, usually to discuss the territorial boundaries. However, today, you can see Dendeng Batokok in most restaurants in Kerinci, especially in Eid or other holidays. “If you’d like to try Dendeng Batokok in Jakarta, you can have it in Marco Padang. I met with Chef Marco Lim and he admitted that he was inspired by Kerinci’s recipe.”

Traditionally, Dendeng Batokok is served with brackish rice and green chilly. “Brackish rice is a very special kind of rice because of the limited supply. It’s the original rice from Kerinci that has a very umami taste. It took 6 months to harvest it, much longer than the other rice can be harvested in around 3 months. For the use of green chilly, it’s a common knowledge that the people who live in cold climate prefer spicy food. However, I don’t really like spicy food so I modify the recipe so it can be accepted by wider range of people,” he said.

The last thing that separates Dendeng Batokok with other jerkies is the grilling process that uses cinnamon. “Kerinci is quite famous as cinnamon producer in Indonesia, even in the world. The local might use it to build houses, but it’s common to use it also to cook, in fact we rarely use coconut shell to grill,” explained Jon.

For his version of Dendeng Batokok, Jon admitted that he doesn’t modify too much in the marinating process. “I use coconut water, coriander and other spices to marinate the beef all night. Actually, you can do it faster, let say in 1 hour, but you have to slice the beef. Personally, I prefer to marinate the beef all night because the process tend to make the beef more tender,” said Jon.

Jon’s version of Dendeng Batokok has more similar texture to steak than the drier jerky. Jon also use less spicy chilly so he can serve it to wider range of expatriates in various events.