Indonesian Food Goes VEGAN
Jakarta Vegan Guide talks to Burgreens founder Max Mandias.
GROWING UP in Jakarta, Max Mandias was born to a well to do family that ate well. During our conversation, he said that although he was raised in a Chinese family, where meat was commonly used as the staple, his mother always ensured that they had enough vegetables and fruits to so that everybody had enough balanced nutrition on a daily basis. He had good memories of food, his grandfather’s Chinese-style beef steak, deep fried thin slices of beef coated in rice flour and cooked with traditional ingredients and spices, and eating childhood foods such as doughnuts and pizza.
At the age of eighteen, Max went to Europe to complete his studies in international finance and control at Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen in Arnhem, Netherlands. He worked part time at a restaurant as a kitchen assistant to earn some money and this was where his journey began to discover his passion for cooking. After graduating, Max worked in Amsterdam as a junior data analyst for two years. During this period, Max met his then future wife Helga who is also from Jakarta who was at that time already a vegetarian. While working, Max started to experience some health issues which were caused by the nature of his job and his food choices. He was constantly feeling sick, unhealthy and lethargic. To improve his health, Max decided to alter his diet to raw vegan and experienced such a drastic change and healing within his body without any medical intervention. After this experience, Max decided to learn more about raw vegan and veganism by working as a volunteer at a raw food restaurant in Amsterdam called Alchemist Garden for two months before he coming back to Jakarta.
In August 2013 Max returned to Jakarta and immediately started working on his first vegan and vegetarian café together with his wife Helga, a dream they had both had. Burgreens opened in December 2013, in Bintaro, South Jakarta. The café now offers vegan Indonesian dishes, hoping that more people would be attracted to eat plant-based foods as a good alternative to meat and animal based food due to the culture and tradition.
When we asked Max about tradition especially about Indonesian food, Max said “that Indonesian food because of the flavor and spices, has a very good opportunity to seize the world’s attention, it only needs good exposure. Unfortunately, most of the time, the exposure has been limited to only certain well known dishes like rendang. As we know, there are many more underrated Indonesian dishes that actually taste good as rendang such as sotos or karedok.”
Being a plant-based cook who cherishes Indonesian food, Max decided to create vegan or vegetarian versions Indonesian meat dishes since most of the basic seasonings as well as ingredients are plant-based. He discovered the secret to Indonesian cuisine is not the meat (protein) but the great blend of spices and all other ingredients like fresh herbs and coconut milk as a substitution for dairy products. Max explained: “surprisingly, we can create similar textures and tastes of meat from plant-based ingredients.” Max said creating Indonesian food with 100% plant-based ingredients is not difficult, it just needs some adjustments especially when it comes to cooking time.
Max wants to change peoples habits and to encourage them to eat healthier. Max feels that many people, especially children, these days eat very few vegetables which is very crucial to their health. His drive to put Indonesian food on the menu at Burgreens is because these foods are more familiar to guests and he hopes with this addition of his menu, people will eat more plant-based food on a more regular basis.
Burgreens’ new Indonesian menu must-try are the Vegan Rendang Platter, Green Batavia Platter, Karedok and Soto “Ayam” which is 100% made from plant-based ingredients. When we asked Max what his prediction would be of the Jakarta food scene 10 years from now, Max answered: “I think at the moment there are still a lot of junk food out there, but when you look through a microscope, you can also see that healthy food options are growing and plant-based food are more accepted compared to four or five years ago when we started Burgreens. Eating plant-based is going to be a long-term trend and will become more mainstream in the next coming years since more people are more conscious about their health.”
Jalan Wijaya II. No 37
T: +62 878 8989 2010
Burgreens Pacific Place
Pacific Place LG #18
Jalan Jendral Sudirman Kav. 52-53
T: +62 21 5797 3815
Burgreens Plaza Indonesia
(The Healthy Affairs)
Plaza Indonesia Lt. 5
Jalan M.H Thamrin Kav. 28 – 30
T: +62 859 5966 2888
Burgreens Pondok Indah Mall
Pondok Indah Mall
Street Gallery Lt. 1
Jalan Metro Pondok Indah
T: +62 878 7522 2230