Since opening two years ago, Sticky Mango has quietly been concocting reinvented versions of Asian classics, showcasing seasonings and sauces from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore in dishes like massaman lamb shank curry and whole sea bass grilled in banana leaf.
Most recently, however, the restaurant’s head chef, Peter Lloyd, has been devoting his time to uncovering the little-known facets of Indonesian cuisine. As part of his role as an ambassador for the Indonesian ministry for food and tourism, he’s been exploring the country’s produce and traditions, from harvesting salt from the sea to making coconut vodka. Now, he’s running a menu all September that explores how people eat across the nation’s islands and regions.
“Indonesia is a bit of hidden gem for me, because there are no real mainstream restaurants, particularly here in London, that are focusing on Indonesian cuisine as a sole cuisine,” Lloyd tells Food Spark. “There are a couple of branded restaurants that are doing classical Indonesian cuisine, but no one really at a higher level that’s experimenting with those recipes and influences that make up Indonesian cuisine.”
Suckling pig, satay and sweet soy sauce
Lloyd has spent the past decade of his career cooking up Southeast Asian fare. Prior to opening Sticky Mango, he had stints at Suka at the Sanderson, which specialised in Malaysian cuisine, followed by a spell at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market.
He says people are still a bit intimidated by Asian cuisine because a lot of ingredients are still so alien and they don’t know how to use them, like shrimp paste and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). Restaurants, he believes, can help change this by supplying inspiration – as well as, of course, good food.
Sticky Mango’s 11-course journey through Indonesia takes in Manado-inspired sweetcorn and young coconut soup, Jakartan octopus asinan (a form of pickling) with dehydrated pineapple and short-rib rendang (slow-cooked meat) with jicama and palm sugar from Padang.
Lloyd hopes to make one of the dishes from the menu, Balinese babi guling (suckling pig), a centrepiece of a new Sunday brunch, and he’s also working on an Indonesian cook book to dig deeper into the nation’s many soto (soups) and satay.
“Indonesia, they say, is the land of a thousand soto and satay,” he notes. “There are so many recipes that we haven’t event touched on in this country and something personally I will definitely be exploring moving forward.”
There are also plans to trial an Indonesian pop-up at Sticky Mango, with a view to potentially spinning of a dedicated restaurant somewhere down the line.
Salty, sweet and sour
While Sticky Mango’s dishes are rooted in culinary authenticity, Lloyd also hopes to show diners how foreign ingredients can be used to accent British food too, and even replace the reflex to reach for the salt and sugar.
“Substitutes can play pivotal roles in getting the same effect,” he adds. “When we talk about getting salty, it doesn’t mean adding salt, it can mean using fish sauces. Sweetness doesn’t just have to come from sugar, sour doesn’t just have to come from lime.”
At a time when herbs like Thai basil are being grown commercially in Italy, there’s an opportunity to bring more international plants into European supermarkets.
“The Asian aisle, or couple of shelves, in my local supermarket are getting better, but they’re becoming filled more with ready pastes, ready sauces, and not so much the core ingredients,” says Lloyd. “The other day I couldn’t find palm sugar and I would have thought that would have been standard.”
Asian food lends itself to the vegetarian and vegan movements, and these dietary choices could potentially create a greater market for more novel ingredients and flavours from the East.
Other versatile items the chef says should be making their ways into consumers’ hands include galangal, turmeric root (as opposed to the powder), banana blossom and a greater variety of ginger – he describes tulip ginger, for example, as a “magical ingredient.”
Returning to Sticky Mango, Lloyd says he hopes to demonstrate the flexibility of his approach by developing his three-floor building into a trio of different areas: a bar serving snacks like Malaysian chicken curry puffs, a more casual brasserie with an outdoor barbecue area and an upscale fine dining space – essentially showcasing one concept in three separate guises.