Rickshaw Republic has been peddling traditional Indonesian fare since opening earlier this year, prepared and served by the Setiawan family. This summer, the Indonesian clan is taking the concept of family to another level with their new "guest moms" series. Starting this week, the series invites a different family friend into the restaurant each week to prepare traditional Indonesian pastries uncommon in Chicago.
The idea for the guest moms series struck Oscar Setiawan out of his love for collaboration and his family's passion for sharing their cuisine with Chicago. He's also a wedding photographer, so collaboration is in his blood, and he thought it would be a great way to incorporate more delicacies into their restaurant. In particular, he wanted to share more snacks and pastries, like the kinds of items one would find on the wet market, the term for the bustling fresh food markets found throughout Asia. Due to the lack of such markets in the U.S., it's difficult to make traditional Indonesian pastries, as ingredients aren't organized together en masse like they are in Asia. Over there, these pastries are common specialties of small mom and pop businesses run out of their homes. The Setiawans wanted to take that mom and pop (emphasis on mom) pastry concept and start making great, authentic Indonesian pastries at Rickshaw Republic.
They've begun gathering pastry-minded Indonesian mothers, all family friends or acquaintances and all good at making one or two kinds of pastries. The idea is to have the moms prepare their pastries at the restaurant, using ingredients sourced from Asian markets in Chicago, and sell specific varieties in limited quantities. Each week will feature a different mom and a couple pastries. Up first this week are risoles, pastries filled with béchamel, chicken, carrot, and celery; and coconut pancake rolls called dadar gulung. Just like the recipes used for the regular menu at Rickshaw Republic, recipes used for the pastries are generational, passed down from grandmothers and moms.
(Expect to see stuff like this rissole at Rickshaw Republic. Photo: Wikipedia)
The guest moms series is set to run for a couple months, going through important Indonesian events such as Ramadhan and Indonesian Independence Day on August 17.
Rickshaw Republic traffics in the traditional street foods of Southeast Asia, from satay and deep-fried fishcake balls to curried chicken gulai and gado gado. The endeavor is a family-run operation, with mom and son in the kitchen, cooking up generations-old recipes, and dad and another son up front.