Eric Khoo-helmed “Food Lore” aims to explore a number of social issues throughout Asia, by connecting them with local cuisines. Billy Christian handled the Indonesia entry, with permeating gusto.

Food Lore is available on HBO Asia and HBO

When a mysterious, rather sexy woman named Maria arrives on the shores of a small Indonesian village and sets up a food stall, the ripples she causes affect every aspect of local life. The men are mesmerized and fill her stall, but the food that Maria offers also seems to be much better than the flat tastes the women of the village offer. Her presence infuriates the local women, who feel jealous and neglected, with the exception of Ratih, a young wife whose husband seems to be tired of both her food and her presence. Ratih decides to ask advice from Maria on both occasions, with her effort resulting in a lesson about how food and life complement and mirror each other. Maria, however, harbors a secret.

Billy Christian directs a film where the most important ingredients are fun and entertainment. Starting from the overall, relatively sultry appearance of Maria, to the reaction of both men and women to her looks (her décolletage mainly) and her cooking, to Ratih’s-mother-in law and to the importance of cooking, all share the same, slightly flimsical but definitely amusing essence. Furthermore, the rather surprisingly plot twist adds even more to the entertainment the film offers, ending it with a rather unexpected note.

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This tactic, however, does not mean that the episode is devoid of context. On the contrary, Christian makes a number of comments regarding life in the rural areas of Indonesia, racism, the difficulties couples face nowadays (although the troubles here are more of a traditional nature), the need for change, and the importance of food for everyday life.  

Alexandra Gottardo highlights both the looks and the overall, partly naive, partly wise character of Maria in the best way. Putru Ayudya is also quite good as Ratih, depicting her struggle, jealousy and resolve with equal artistry.

Asep Khalila’s cinematography induces the film with an almost fairy-tale atmosphere, which is also implemented by the coloring, while the scene with the red peppers is truly impressive. Kelvin Nugroho’s editing allows the episode to unfold in a fast pace, with frequent cuts that also add to the overall atmosphere.

“Maria’s Secret Recipe” is funny, easy to watch, and overall, extremely entertaining.

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia. Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute. In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.