Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Indonesia - Burning Hot "Winter" Break with 90% chance of rain

First of all, I'd like to wish you readers a wonderful Christmas and a joyful New Year. I had skipped 2 weeks worth of winter break not posting anything because I fell sick almost the moment I landed in my home city Jakarta. Consecutive sleep deprivation studying for the last exam in the Netherlands (and watching 6 episodes Big Bang Theory season 6 on the plane), sudden living temperature change of about 30 degrees and sudden long-distance family trip were most likely the culprits.

Something that almost everyone asked me: how was your holiday? Well, I had a fun time back at home, most of the time meeting my big family whom I haven't seen for quite some time, and also catching up with my friends whom I met during high school and college. Something a little bit special? For the first time in many years I went to a game arcade with someone who is not from my big family. I didn't go out that often because being stuck in traffic jam for at least 2 hours every time I need to go out of my housing complex was more terrible than getting constipation. And you can get haemmorhoid for sitting down in the car for too long.

While complaining non-stop about how slow the internet connection in Indonesia is, the only updates I ever posted on my Facebook were the amazing foods I could find in Indonesia. Those pictures most of the time caught the attention of my Indonesians abroad, and I received both pleasant and somewhat unpleasant reactions (Jealousy? Bch please, I'm also jealous looking at pictures of you guys playing with the snow and travelling around Europe during winter break).

That being said, I indeed spent most of my free (and healthy) time eating good food. I guess it's true that when you live in a place for too long, you don't feel like taking photos which, to a lot of outsiders' interest, are interesting. Here are some of good stuffs I had while in Jakarta:

Bandar Jakarta 
Bandar Jakarta sells a great variety of fresh seafood. Pick the one you like from the tank, they'll take it out for you and cook it right away.

One of my dad's favorite, lemongrass dessert with lemon jelly dessert, is one of the highlights of this restaurant. Its presentation is certainly refreshing and a little unique, with naturally colorful ingredients and a good mix of texture. I personally don't like the jelly because it's very sweet (to me), and I know, despite the refreshing concept, it has a lot of hidden sugars in there.

They also serve coconut pudding served in coconut shells. This dessert has become popular in the recent years, after being popularized by one restaurant in Jakarta. It may even went way back then, but it wasn't as popular as it is today. It's a good dessert to try if you like coconuts.

Ramen 38 (Sanpachi) 
Ramen 38 is a chain of ramen in Indonesia. Japanese-style ramen is currently the new food craze in a lot of Asian countries. When I told my friend I kind of miss eating from Ajisen Ramen, he said "that's not a real ramen". I guess in order to be called ramen it has to follow the traditional Japanese recipe using traditional type of noodles.

He recommended me the Jigoku Ramen, which has spiciness level from 1-10. I just came back from the Netherlands so I didn't dare trying anything above his limit, level 3. It's kind of spicy, and the spiciness comes mainly from local chili species which burns your mouth and stomach, unlike Sichuan peppers that make your mouth go numb.

This is not the best ramen shop available in Indonesia, but it's widely available almost everywhere, making it kind of popular. Nonetheless, each shop has different standards. I had been to Ramen 38 in Gandaria City that serves no pork. I know the reason why, but "chicken chashu" is just not up to my standard.

Magnum Cafe
If you love Magnum ice cream, then this is your heaven. They serve all kinds of desserts and drinks using Magnum ice cream, presented in a fancy way. I'd say that this cafe is rather innovative: turning a mere ice cream stick into something worth paying equivalent to a main dish meal.

Anything "penyet" (smashed/squashed into flat?) used to be the food craze about slightly more than a couple of years ago. You'll see traditional Indonesian restaurants almost everywhere trying to come up with this dish, with a different touch. When "penyet" dishes first came out, the type of meat used was beef ribs. Now, you can find chicken, fish, tofu, tempe and even duck in this style of cooking. Aside from the meat being slightly flattened, they will serve the meat on top of a plate of ground chili paste.

Leko is a restaurant chain serving these "penyet" dishes, and the reason why I keep coming back to this restaurant is because over the years they keep the standards high (by giving you a lot of chili paste on the plate despite the chili pepper price hike), and it is very close to my house.

One thing that you shouldn't miss, and must never miss, if you are a foodie, is Padang food. Padang is the capital city of West Sumatra, and that is also my dad's hometown, and Padang food is one of the most flavorful and spiciest food in Indonesia. If you want something crazy hot and spicy until you cry tears and blood, eat Manado food.

Oh, by the way, we didn't order all these dishes. When you enter a Padang restaurant, you sit down on the table, and the waitress will start putting a lot of dishes on the table. EAT ONLY WHAT YOU WANT TO EAT. They will not charge you for what you don't eat. Some naughty people will take a tiny piece of the dish and didn't pay for it. But very few people do that :)

There are still many foods to list like the Indonesian meatball soup and soto. Seriously, there are just way too many kinds of traditional food in Indonesia, and adding more cuisines from all over the world makes it more confusing choosing what to eat within 2 weeks.

My prediction for the next food craze in Indonesia? Milk tea. Why? Because bubble tea craze is on-going, and the original bubble tea is served with milk tea. The flavor of milk tea was foreign until recently, and by the time Indonesians' taste buds have been accustomed to milk tea flavor, this will be a boom.

And a bottled tea company just launched its first ready-to-go milk tea. Smart move, I'd say.


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