My expectations for food? Fresh, tasty and healthy, regardless of cultural origin. There are no limitations.
My father taught me to be a mechanic, as he was, and to fix everything around the house. He told me, say yes when asked to do things and you will learn.
Linda Lieberman was born in Mataram, the capital of the island of Lombok in Indonesia. She grew up in a family of cooks and chefs, she learned to prepare food at home, on the job and with courses in a cooking school.
She dreamed of living in America, even though she never dreamed of converting to Judaism and becoming a kosher restaurateur!
Now with a blended family of 5 children, she prepares food at home, in local synagogues for Shabbat and celebrations, and for private clients.
Linda’s family in Indonesia comes from different places and cultures. Several great-grandparents on both sides were from China. With a colonial history and diverse immigration to Indonesia, it’s no surprise that she also has French and Portuguese ancestry.
Growing up in Muslim Indonesia, the only references Linda encountered to Jews and Judaism were negative. Judaism is not one of the six recognized religions in Indonesia. The Jewish population is small, struggling to gain government recognition and protect itself from anti-Semitic epidemics.
Linda did not accept local anti-Semitism. You have understood prejudice firsthand as a Chinese Indonesian minority. For centuries, prejudice against the Chinese has come from the government. New government reforms have mostly lifted the restrictions. Unfortunately, prejudice continues on the part of the majority of Muslims. Linda’s family was Buddhist, although little was observed due to government repression. We had to know how to survive. That’s why, as Chinese Indonesians, we relied on ourselves and needed to be more independent. My father told us to work harder. And we did.
When Linda met the man who is now her Orthodox American husband, she immersed herself in learning about Judaism from Rabbi Google and scoured the internet for information about the Jewish religion, holidays and kashrut. Linda is in the process of an Orthodox conversion, she formally studies and learns Hebrew. Her children and younger stepchildren are enrolled in the local Jewish day school.
Linda’s food philosophy is simple. My expectations are for the food to be fresh, tasty and healthy, regardless of cultural origin. I cook for my family, my children, my husband and my clients. They are my whole family.
Part of her planning includes healthy eating. Linda uses coconut palm sugar rather than granulated white sugar. She favors fruit for added sweetness and cuts back on sugar in recipes, a change for many Americans accustomed to fast, processed foods with substantial sugar content.
His degree in Marketing and Finance strengthens his skills in the restaurant sector. Many years of experience in the food industry, including several years as Food Director for an Indonesian school of 2,500 students, from early childhood through high school, have immersed her in food choices for different religious faiths and cultures.
Linda brings these culinary influences to Charleston along with her ability to discern spices and ingredients. Being cheaper, her tradition in Lombok was to mix the spices herself. She keeps doing it to ensure kashrut. Shopping at local Charleston supermarkets and Asian markets, she frequently checks to see what has been delivered and adjusts recipes accordingly.
Linda blends Indonesian (Chinese, Middle Eastern, Dutch, Portuguese, Indian and Western) and Jewish (Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Israeli) influences to create menus for her Charleston clientele. From soups to mains, sides to desserts, Linda has cooked it all and brings her culinary expertise to The Kosher Union, her catering business. Here are some of the literally hundreds of recipes she whips up.
- Cream cheese and lox on his homemade Japanese milk bread
- Chanukah Latkes with an Indonesian twist: eggless with cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, coriander, spring onions and flour
- Slow-cooked brisket seasoned with a mildly tangy and savory Asian flavor, including shallots, tamarind paste, and lemongrass
- Goulai and lamb curry with chicken instead of goat
- Sambal, a widely used Indonesian spice mix, is made into a kosher concoction, by omitting the shrimp and substituting the anchovies to add a fishy flavor, and grinding the spices by hand in a mortar and pestle. There are many varieties of sambal, cooked and raw, all usually spicy, which Linda tones down for American taste buds!
Charleston’s Jewish community loves its cuisine. One of Lindas regular customers said: Her food is always beyond your expectations. Whether it’s pizza or Asian fusion, her presentation is beautiful. She is very professional. Comparing Linda’s menus to Ashkenazi children’s cooking, another member of the congregation told me, “Her’s food tastes very savory, not our regular fare.” I like her food because I want food with flavor and spice.
For an upcoming Friday night dinner, Linda’s menu illustrates her Indonesian-Jewish culinary marriage. Fried Chicken and Yellow Rice is something that seems quite traditionally Southern and Jewish, but this chef’s version uses all fresh ingredients and hand-milled Indonesian spice blends, accompanied by a fusion of Indonesian-American side dishes, sauteed Japanese eggplant, sauteed cabbage , coconut cucumber Salad and corn fritters.
His goal for The Kosher Union is for people to join the table. Charleston has Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform synagogues, and Linda cooks for them all.
The former Indonesian chef, now a kosher restaurateur, mixes spices from Indonesia and different food cultures in her original recipes. She added the Jewish people to her cultural mix, bringing an idea of unity to them through her cooking. She told me, I cook with my heart and I love because food tastes better. I want people to enjoy food together; there are no limitations.
If you are local or visiting Charleston, reach out to Linda for delicious kosher meals.
What could be a more Jewish Friday night dinner than chicken and rice? Experience Linda Lieberman’s Indonesian-Jewish fusion for the best of both cultures.
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