Mata Karanjang

6th May 2024
From popular to lesser-known dishes, Mata Karanjang in Wijaya maps out the diversity of Minahasan cuisine, capturing their signature aromatic and fiery flavours.

While Jakarta is no stranger to Minahasan cuisine, the full breadth of its rich culinary tapestry still eludes the majority of the metropole’s denizens. In comes Mata Karanjang, a quaint and casual restaurant recently opened in Wijaya, ready to surprise diners with dishes from North Sulawesi that go beyond the familiar and ordinary.

Running the kitchen is Chef Jovan Koraag-Kambey, who also oversees the recently-opened Solo Ristorante in the same location and Solo Pizza in Urban Forest Cipete. Though he was born and raised in Manado, the Singapore-educated chef spent his culinary journey cooking anything but Indonesian food. So with the opening of Mata Karanjang, a restaurant celebrating his own hometown’s cuisine, he has ironically come full circle.  

“I grew up with these dishes, so they came back to me intuitively. My contribution comes from applying the technical skills I’ve learned in culinary school to create my own renditions that focus on balance,” said Chef Jovan, who specifically employed Manadonese servers so they could well inform diners about specifics of the dishes.

It’s not as if the chef strays from the “traditional” way; rather, he demonstrates a sound comprehension of spice by manipulating their ratios to tame dishes that might otherwise be too hot for most palates. Staples such as Ayam Tuturuga (chicken braised in yellow curry, lemongrass, lime leaves and kemiri, ) and Cakalang Fufu Saos (salty smoked skipjack tuna), to lesser known dishes such as Rahang Tuna Bakar (grilled tuna jaw) are colourful with well-rounded tastes that shine due to their milder heat factor, usually enjoyed with the sweet and crunchy accompaniment of Perdekel Milu corn fritters.  

Beyond flavour and technique, Chef Jovan is also meticulous about the quality of ingredients used to cook up Manado dishes with his own spin. Using sashimi-grade tuna, he serves tender Tuna Belly Bakar complemented with the freshness of dabu-dabu sambal. Meanwhile, the Brenebon Iga, an earthy red bean soup, is simple and familiar in taste but decadent in its helping of wagyu chunks. 

Mata Karanjang’s approach to keeping coherent the soul of Minahasan cuisine may be attributed to Chef Jovan’s roots, but it is also a pursuit of exploring various ingredients and techniques and how well they can go together to still capture the warmth and depth of Manado cooking. So when asked to simply describe Mata Karanjang, Chef Jovan nailed it down to, “It’s Manado food, our way.”