Rahel Stephanie

From supper clubs to Sunday morning TV shows, Rahel Stephanie is on a quest to educate Londoners and the British public on Indonesian cuisine.

Tempe has started to really kick off in the UK. With plant-based lifestyles becoming the norm, the fermented soybean has become a go-to protein alternative. The irony? No one knows its origins. “I haven’t met a single non-Indonesian person in London that knows tempe is originally Indonesian!” exclaims Rahel Stephanie.

“There’s always a longing for Indonesian food. Such a classic diaspora story. We really take it for granted when we’re in Indonesia,” says Rahel, who experienced this when she moved to London for university back in 2013. What was once a daily luxury, suddenly stripped away, quickly becomes one of the first things Indonesians miss whilst abroad. What made it harder was that so little Indonesian food was available in the UK capital, and “Existing places would do diluted versions or inaccurate versions of dishes,” she adds.

Spoons Situation with Rahel Stephanie

One example she shares is ‘satay salads’, served without a single skewered meat in sight, as people think ‘satay’ refers to the peanut sauce. This lack of awareness of Indonesian cuisine is due to the fact that the Indonesian diaspora has been limited in history. Unlike the Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese communities who have rooted themselves in foreign countries and were able to be the representatives of their own food and dishes.

Still, the proud Batak couldn’t stand idly by as the foods of her home country were being so misrepresented. In 2019, Rahel founded Spoons, a London-based supper club serving authentic, regional Indonesian dishes. In her first two events she hosted up to 30 diners in a simple warehouse, but the venue matters not, as the focus was all on the glorious dishes in front of them. It was an instant hit: Spoons quickly became a sensation and Rahel was invited to do takeovers and pop-ups at top London venues, like Soho House, Carousel and ICA. Now the supper clubs host up to 120 people with reservations selling out in minutes. 

Spoons serves a plant-forward menu, which has been massively appealing to her London following: Orek tempe, gulai nangka (jackfruit), terong balado (aubergine), and special creations like her jantung pisang sambal matah (batter fried banana blossoms in fragrant Balinese raw relish). Though not opposed to meat dishes, Rahel’s approach is: “Here’s Indonesian food, and it happens to be plant-based”. This way she hopes to celebrate how effortlessly plant-based Indonesian dishes are, and how ubiquitous this is in the cuisine. “Spoons is Indonesian first and plant-based second,” she says.

Now, Rahel isn’t a formally-educated chef. Cooking began as a necessity, the only way she could have authentic Indonesian food was if she made it herself! With the help of Indonesian bunda-bunda (‘aunties’) on YouTube, cookbooks, as well as learning from family upon returns to the motherland, she was able to master a wide repertoire of dishes.

“The fun part of cooking Indonesian food is that there’s never an exact recipe, there’s some freedom and flexibility if you have the basics right,” shares Rahel, who scoured London’s Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Indian stores for ingredients.

However, Rahel also bakes, and has created some innovative Indonesian-inspired cakes, like her signature ‘Pandan Raspberry Blondie’ and ‘Black Sesame Wingko Babat’. “I have a bit of a sweet tooth,” she confesses cheekily. “I’m not against contemporary interpretation! As long as new dishes give credit to their cultural and historical context it’s okay, and accurately, otherwise this can lead to cultural erasure,” Rahel explains, referring back to the ignorance of tempe’s origins.

As a former DJ, many of her diners are London’s young and vibrant creative community, really spreading these flavours to new palates. She admits that during her time in London she hasn’t engaged with the Indonesian diaspora, but Spoons has changed this, connecting her to London’s Indonesian and other Asian communities.

This has led to her collaborating with Chef Petty Pandean-Elliott, who has been on the same mission for decades in the UK. Sri Owen, author of the first English-language recipe book, is another hero of Rahel’s and together they represent three generations of Indonesia’s food ambassadors in the UK.

Rahel’s mission has expanded beyond the Spoons supper club. She has become a regular on UK TV as well on a Channel 4 program called ‘Sunday Brunch’. On the show, she is invited to share the history and context of Indonesian food with a panel as they taste, savour and listen.

“I started doing this to share my cuisine with friends. That mission has simply grown in scale,” says Rahel, who sees the platform she’s been blessed with as a real opportunity to educate and inform people about Indonesian food. “It’s about communicating what I do and what I love, and doing so unapologetically.” 


Rahel continues to hold Spoons events for those interested in London, and occasionally holds events and collaborations in Indonesia as well. Make sure to follow her on Instagram @eatwithsp00ns to stay in the loop.