Last summer, Michelle McKay started doing pop-ups in Santa Cruz County. Her food, Dutch-Indonesian, is truly unique, and unlike anything else in the county.
She started off doing pop-ups on an occasional basis, but more recently has been ramping up, and now generally produces one a week. This week, she’ll be at PopUp at Assembly on Friday, Aug. 4 from 5:30-9 p.m., and at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music’s Church Street Fair in front of the Civic Auditorium on Aug 5-6 from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. What kind of food does she serve, exactly? We’ll let McKay explain.
What is Dutch-Indonesian food?
MICHELLE MCKAY: What happened in the 16th century is the Dutch colonized Indonesia for the spice trade. Before the Dutch came back from Indonesia, Dutch food was mostly meat and potatoes. More vegetables, little meat. When the Dutch colonists returned to the Netherlands, they brought back all these different spices from Indonesia. Indonesian dishes became more popular in Holland in the 20th century.
The pop-up is named after your mother?
Yes, but my dad did most of the cooking in my household. I think he would be happy that I named it after my mother. Both my parents were Dutch-Indonesian and lived in Indonesia until the end of World War II. They left as refugees with three kids to Holland, where they lived for many years, having three more kids. They landed in Ellis Island on Aug. 10, 1962, where they made America their new permanent home. Having two more kids, I was the baby of eight. Being so young when my dad got sick and retired is why I learned to cook the way I do. I remember sitting with him and watching him cook.
Where is a good place for the uninitiated to start with your menu?
The one thing that I definitely always serve is the satay, because it’s an Indonesian-style satay, which is a lot different than Thai satay. It contains sweet soy sauce, rather than being curry- or coconut-based. But it is served with peanut butter sauce the same way, and rice and a cucumber salad usually. Another dish that is very popular is the bami goreng. When I do these things, when you order it, I make it on the fly. The smells of the spices emanate everywhere. Rissoles are another big one. The rissoles are ground beef and green onions, rolled in a homemade crepe rather than deep fried. That’s a really popular one. Those are my three biggest sellers. At the same time, I’m doing things like the Dutch stamppot, which is potatoes and sausage mixed with vegetables. It’s kind of like a little of both. I’m also doing fusion, because something I’ve noticed is some people come to my booth and they’re like, “I don’t know what that is.”