Junifa Sundajana I Dewa Made is in love with cooking – for him, it’s not a job but a passion which he follows all around the world. He has worked as a chef in various countries, including Dubai and South Africa, as well as on cruise liners.
Junifa, 45, was born in Bali, Indonesia – he grew up in West Java, an hour away from Jakarta. Since a young age, he was inspired by the mix of cultures and foods in Indonesia. His mother was also a great inspiration.
“As a child, I was always playing in the kitchen and experimenting with ingredients,” he says. “I don’t have any sisters – we are four brothers – so I would help my mother in the kitchen. I learned a lot from my mother.”
Junifa left his family home when he was 21 years old to work in hotels. Then, when he was 32, he left Indonesia to work abroad.
“It’s hard to be away from my family,” he says. “But I had the opportunity to work with great chefs – in Dubai, for instance, I worked with Gordon Ramsay.”
When he was working in Dubai, he saw an advert for an Indonesian chef in Malta. “I applied and five minutes later, I received confirmation by SMS. I sent all my details and started doing some research on Malta. I found some information and photos online and was immediately attracted to the island.”
Junifa has now been in Malta for nine years and has integrated well. “I feel comfortable in Malta. I have improved my English and made a lot of Maltese friends. Some of them have even travelled to Indonesia with me.”
Jonathan Hampson has known Junifa since 2003. “Junifa is a very outgoing person and is fun to work with,” says Jonathan. “At first, there was the language barrier as his English wasn’t very good – we used to communicate using signals – but now we get on very well.”
Tarcisio Rapa, another of Junifa’s friends, agrees. “Junifa has taught me a lot about food – we work a lot together and I always enjoy my time with him in the kitchen.”
Junifa, a Muslim, believes that people from different cultures and religions can still integrate. “I come from a mixed family – my father is Hindu, my mother is Muslim and one of my brothers is Catholic. Such a mix of religions has never been a problem.”
Every year, Junifa travels back to his home country and spends a month there. “I am not running away from home. I travel a lot and spend months working abroad, but I always return home.”
Mung bean soup with pork – An Indonesian delicacy.
Ingredients: 1 ox tongue; 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, ginger, clove, nutmeg and pepper blended into a paste; Soy sauce; 125gr mung beans; 2 pork fillets, chopped; 2 spring onions, chopped; 2 carrots; 4 tomatoes, chopped; 1 onion, chopped; 50gr snow peas; Garlic; Soy and tapioca flour crackers; Ginger; Water; Rice; Salt.
Method: Make the soup. Fry the garlic. Add the pork, tomatoes, onion, and spring onions. Fry everything together. Add the mung beans and water. Simmer for one hour. In a separate pan, fry the paste then add the onion and tomatoes. Add the tongue, soy sauce, water and salt. Boil the snow peas and fry the crackers. Boil the carrots. Fry some ginger and garlic, then add the boiled snow peas, carrots, salt and sugar. Serve with jasmine rice.
This interview was included in the publication InterAct – A Portrait of Third-Country Nationals in Malta, published as part of the Media InterAct project (IF 2010 02) and distributed with The Times. They are based on the TV programme Minn Lenti Interkulturali, produced/presented by Maria Muscat (PBS), and directed/edited by Godfrey Smith (PBS) and broadcast on Education22/TVM2 and TVM between January and March, 2012 and on TVM between April and June, 2012. The project is co-financed through the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals. The project is led by SOS Malta, in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Services and the Institute of Maltese Journalists.