The matriarch in question is surprisingly young – 38-year-old Jazmyn Widjaya. It’s meant to refer to how food is usually a key linchpin in a matriarch’s arsenal to bringing people together.
“(A lot of my customers) have told me that the dishes reminded them of their grandmothers’ or mothers’ cooking,” explains Widjaya. “The word ‘matriarch’ might seem audacious since I am not that old; however, I envision myself as one as I believe I carry the same heart of any matriarch – that is to prepare each dish with love, doing it from scratch and just having immeasurable joy seeing people coming together to enjoy a good meal.”
Widjaya named her business after old-school matriarchs as a nod to their ability to bring people together through food.
The striking Widjaya has been involved in the private dining scene on the side for nearly a decade but she took a hiatus to start a social media agency four years ago. With the agency’s business being battered by the pandemic, she dove back into food and hosting through The Matriarch’s Kitchen (TMK) last July.
Her homely, predominantly Peranakan dishes have customers saying they remind them of their mothers’ cooking.
She whips up mainly Peranakan cuisine (go for the black pepper flower crabs, chicken rendang and soto-inspired collagen broth – $600 for a five-person meal) due to popular demand but if there’s something you have in mind, she’s open to discussions.
At the moment, however, Widjaya says she’s hosting primarily at clients’ homes by appointment only, as she’s in the midst of moving – reach out to her via TMK’s Instagram account (@the_matriarchs_kitchen).
She’s chosen to share her recipe for what she calls “fusion fruit rojak” – it’s a simple dish to recreate but also one that holds significance for her. “The word rojak (can also be used) to describe someone with multiple ethnic backgrounds. I think this best describes me as a person, as I have South Asian, Thai, Cambodian, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean heritage in my family background, and I think I’ve expressed them through my cooking.”
HOW TO MAKE THE MATRIARCH’S KITCHEN’S FUSION FRUIT ROJAK
Widjaya chose rojak as her recipe to share with us due to the dish’s mixed heritage – something that’s much in line with her own family’s background.
Serves: 8 to 10 people
Preparation time: 25 minutes
No cooking is required
1 bottle shrimp paste
1 dollop sambal paste
2 tbsp tamarind juice
1 to 2 tbsp brown sugar
2 to 4 tbsp passion fruit gelatinous pulp
1 torch ginger, thinly sliced
2 tsp calamansi lime juice (optional)
1 tbsp plum sauce (optional)
Step 1: Go to any fruit store and buy the fruits that
Step 2: Slice the torch ginger and mix all the sauces together evenly – if
you need more sweetness, add more brown sugar.
Step 3: Chop up the fruits (as many as you desire) and display them on a cleaned banana leaf and serve with the freshly mixed sauce.
A version of this article first appeared in FEMALE‘s June 2021 Fashion Activity Book