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A taste of the Big Durian

“Indonesia huh? You going there to eat?”

The hairdresser chuckled at the thought.

I smiled and mentioned Mount Bromo, but not before admitting my excitement about the spicy cuisine. Nasi – rice – was perhaps the first word I learned in Bahasa Indonesia. This was followed by ayam and sapi – chicken and beef, cumi (squid), udang (shrimp), timun (cucumber) and eventually, terong (eggplant). Months ahead of the trip, Bama had told me about sambal, traditional chilli sauce with an untold number of variations.

I learn (albeit the hard way) that a tall glass of es kelapa – coconut water, with slivers of the fruit and shaved ice – is the perfect antidote for a mouth on fire. Then there’s jus alpukat, avocado juice paired with condensed milk, a smooth and subtle blend with a dash of chocolate syrup.

Bama introduces me to sate ayam Blora, tender chicken skewers in a fragrant peanut sauce with sambal, a recipe from a town in Central Java. Tahu telor, native to Semarang, is one of my favourite Indonesian dishes. I would describe it as a crispy tofu omelette, with a topping of beansprouts, shredded cabbage and chopped scallion, all served in a liberal helping of sweet soy sauce – kecap manis – and peanuts.

Before the six-hour journey to Bromo, we fill up on nasi uduk for breakfast, a bargain at only 7,000 rupiah (less than one US dollar). Over a bed of white rice, it’s an assortment of chilli egg, peanut sambal bihun (rice vermicelli), and tempe bacem – fermented soybean braised in kecap manis.

For those with a sweet tooth, Yogyakarta specialty nasi gudeg features young jackfruit, slow-cooked in coconut milk and sprinkled with shreds of fried garlic. The one I tried also had tofu, egg, spicy krecek (beef skin) and tender pieces of chicken in coconut milk.

Javanese dish nasi rames is a feast in itself – it includes spicy tofu, crispy fried chicken, sambal goreng (chilli potato), chunks of beef, krecek, and slivers of tempe cooked in kecap manis, rounded off with Indonesia’s ubiquitous shrimp crackers – kerupuk udang.

Tahu telor

Sate ayam Blora

Nasi gudeg

Nasi uduk

Nasi rames

Lunch, Padang-style

Bottoms up

33 Comments Post a comment
  1. It all looks delicious! Fortunately in Australia we get great Indonesian food, possibly not as good as the real thing, but not bad. Here in Italy it is very difficult to find anything but Italian.

    October 14, 2012
    • It was fabulous, Debra – I don’t think the photos even do them justice!

      October 14, 2012
  2. It was such a pleasure to take you to try the real thing, James! But those are only the introduction to the wide selection of Indonesian dishes, from Aceh to Papua. I’ll make sure you try more the next time you come!

    October 14, 2012
    • Thanks Bama, I loved tasting all those different dishes! I’m really looking forward to coming back in December – will be interesting to compare Sundanese food with the Javanese ones I’ve had so far!

      October 14, 2012
  3. Now I’m hungry! Great post, thanks for sharing. My wife was able to travel to Bali in 1998 and she absolutely loved it. She spent 3 weeks there with friends and by the time she returned she was speaking some Balinese and had travelled all over the island.

    October 14, 2012
    • Glad you enjoyed it! Indonesian food seems to be very underrated – out of all the Southeast Asian cuisines, Thai gets the most attention by far. Your wife is very lucky, 3 weeks in Bali would be an absolute dream! I haven’t made it there yet, but I’m planning to go within the next two years.

      October 14, 2012
  4. I miss paying a couple of dollars for an amazing Indonesian meal. A restaurant not far from us charges $13 for Nasi Goreng, and while it’s pretty good, I couldn’t get the overpriced taste out of my mouth.

    October 15, 2012
    • I’m finding the same problem in Hong Kong – there are a couple of good Indonesian restaurants but the prices are often exorbitant in comparison. Still, $13 Canadian for a Nasi Goreng is just ridiculous!

      October 15, 2012
  5. Your post has me excited to be heading back to Indonesia for only the second time next April. This time I will def be asking for the Tahu Telor, looks delish! Like the food pics….tantalizing!!!

    October 15, 2012
    • I think I could have easily ordered another Tahu Telor, it was that good!

      October 15, 2012
  6. This food looks stunningly delicious! I’ve heard that Indonesian food is some of the best in the world. Now you are making me so hungry! And it looks very healthy and fresh unlike what we normally get here in the US.

    October 15, 2012
    • Oh, it really was Nicole! I’m not surprised about that claim – there are just so many flavours and spices in each dish! I think you would love the variety and also the sheer number of tropical fruits.

      October 15, 2012
  7. Food and Food haha.. Do you like it?

    October 15, 2012
    • Of course Danny, I loved it!

      October 15, 2012
  8. it all looked pretty delicious! hope you enjoyed every dish! mmmh, still have my mouth water at the very thought!

    October 16, 2012
    • Absolutely Julie, I enjoyed every single one… 😀

      October 16, 2012
  9. Aah, they all sound wonderful! Hope I will be as fortunate to have Bama guide me around the culinary delights of Indonesia, if and when I do get there 🙂

    October 22, 2012
    • I think you would love it, Madhu! Even here in Hong Kong I find myself missing the rich flavours and spices of Indonesia. I had to train myself for the spiciness weeks in advance (with a bottle of sambal), but the effort paid off and Bama was very much surprised. You should have seen him laugh when I broke out into a sweat over Lao food!

      October 22, 2012
  10. carolinalaya #

    All the dishes seem delicious!!

    October 23, 2012
    • They were all amazing. 🙂

      October 24, 2012
  11. Hungry 😦

    November 23, 2012
    • Sorry about that. 😛

      November 23, 2012
  12. wow, you learn so much and quickly 😀

    May 31, 2013
    • Makasih Yuna, sorry for not getting back to your comment till now!

      July 26, 2013
      • Sama-sama James,
        no worries, i’ve never thought deeply about getting any reply. just speak out my mind 🙂

        July 27, 2013
  13. Never thought that tahu telor will be depicted so nice and make mouth watering like this one 😀

    July 23, 2013
    • Ha, I did have it at one of the best places in town – Sate Khas Senayan!

      July 26, 2013
      • Indeed, Sate Khas Senayan is a good place.

        July 29, 2013
  14. Lina #

    Glad to know that u like Indonesian food and Sate Senayan is the easiest place to taste some of the food… Come back and enjoy some more food ….

    November 19, 2013
    • Yes Lina, I can’t get enough makanan Indonesia – so much flavour and wonderful spices! I’ll be back in about a month, this time in Bali. Enggak sabar ya!

      November 21, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Travel Ideas: Food and Lifestyle in Indonesia « The Sand Beneath My Toes
  2. TravelAsiaCities » Travel Ideas: Food and Lifestyle in Indonesia
  3. 2012: a year in review | Plus Ultra

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