Medan, North Sumatra (ANTARA) - The Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture culinary journey in Medan, North Sumatra, started with a warm and friendly atmosphere at Petisah Market on Sunday, June 25, 2023.

Two chefs from Qatar -- Hassan Abdullah Al Ibrahim and Noof Al Marri -- who represented their country in the cultural program, greeted the people they met, including pedicab drivers and traders, with friendly faces.

Ibrahim even attempted to ride a motor-powered pedicab and took pictures with the local residents.

Ibrahim, nicknamed "Captain Chef" since he also works as a pilot, is an explorer chef, who has sampled different types of food in 175 cities across the world. Moreover, he owns at least three restaurants in Qatar.

The other chef, Marri, is a well-known Qatari chef, who is an expert at making local Middle Eastern dishes. She is also a food entrepreneur and owns a restaurant named Desert Rose Cafe in Doha.

At Petisah Market, they bought some spices, vegetables, and fruits. According to Ibrahim, the vegetables, fruits, and spices sold at Petisah Market are unique and interesting.

The two chefs managed to make an interesting start to their journey in Medan that was continued on Monday (June 26, 2023). They added more interesting chapters to their journey, which they said, left a lasting impression and would remain etched in their memory.

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Medan is a unique city for Ibrahim and Marri. In North Sumatra's capital city, they witnessed a strong blend of inter-ethnic cultures.

The ethnic diversity in Medan City cannot be separated from the long history of plantations in the region. The plantation businesses attracted migrants, who eventually chose to stay.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that there are several ethnicities in Medan, such as Malay, Batak, Chinese, Javanese, Acehnese, Sundanese, Indian, and Arab.

Medan residents' openness to diversity has made those visiting the city feel welcomed. This was also felt by Ibrahim and Marri.

Due to the warm welcome extended at every place that they visited, the two did not feel like foreigners.

The friendly atmosphere boosted their enthusiasm to conduct various activities in Medan on June 25-26, 2023.

On Monday, for instance, Marri conducted a cooking workshop at Medan 14 Vocational School during which she communicated closely with dozens of students, who were open to asking questions.

While cooking a Qatari dish, sago, she motivated the students to never give up on realizing their dreams in the culinary field.

"Cook whatever you like. Do not listen to the negative comments out there," according to Marri, who happily took pictures with students and teachers after the event.

On the same day, Ibrahim visited a house of a Nainggolan family to relish Batak dishes.

When he arrived, the chef immediately received a traditional Batak cloth, ulos, from the host as a sign that he was accepted into the family as a good friend, which was a gesture he found quite flattering.

He was then introduced to several Batak dishes, such as arsik ikan mas (carp fish dish), ikan mas na niura (carp fish dish cooked without using flame), gulai ayam (chicken curry), dali ni horbo (buffalo milk), and lapet cake, a pyramid-shaped cake wrapped in banana leaves, made from rice flour and sometimes filled with palm sugar.

Apart from being taught how to cook those foods, he was also edified about the meaning behind those dishes in Batak culture.

As he was interested in those foods, Ibrahim had the idea to mix them with Qatari food called "Qatari Gee," which he prepared directly there.

Qatari Gee is food in the form of a clear brown liquid made with ingredients, such as grains, butter, dates, and saffron.

After being cooked, the chef mixed it with buffalo milk and chicken curry. He invited those present to have a taste.

Toga Nainggolan, a family representative who is also a Batak culinary observer, praised the taste of the food of different cultures as being good. He even suggested naming the dish as "Batak-Qatar food," an idea that Ibrahim responded to with laughter.

The friendly atmosphere was felt even as Ibrahim ate along with the Nainggolan family. It is common for Batak people to eat together when they gather with relatives.

After dinner, his face lit up. He barely left anything on his plate.

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Stories behind food
The culinary journey in Medan became an unforgettable experience for Ibrahim. For him, food is not only about taste but also about the stories behind it and the love while making it.

"I am happy that we ate together, chatted, and everyone welcomed me," he told ANTARA.

He promised to attempt to prepare several Medan dishes, including Batak dishes, in Qatar. He had already bought some spices needed to make them at Petisah Market during his Sunday visit.

Ibrahim, who had earlier visited Papua before his trip to Medan, expressed hope that the relations between Qatar and Indonesia would become stronger in areas apart from the culinary sector.

Indonesia and Qatar have several cultural similarities, and it will support the development of a sense of brotherhood between both nations.

He assessed that Indonesia and Qatar need to collaborate more, not only in the culinary field but also in the business sector and others, so that people of both nations can remain in touch with one another and increase their knowledge.

A similar sentiment was echoed by Santhi Serad, the program coordinator of Iftar and Culinary Journey Qatar-Indonesia and one of the founders of the I Love Indonesian Food (ACMI) community.

She emphasized that food is a language of friendship that can be understood and used by every human being.

The idea becomes the essence of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture culinary journey. Apart from Medan, the journey will cover two other destinations: Papua on June 19-24, 2023, and Bali on June 27-July 2.

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Translator: Michael Siahaan, Raka Adji
Editor: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
Copyright © ANTARA 2023