Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Flavors Stacked High: A Taste of Padang in Jakarta


It's late at night, we just landed in Jakarta, totally starved. We want loads of local tasty food and we want 'em NOW. There are plenty of places which open late, meeting the demands of the-always-hungry, Jakarta's nocturnal community. Should we go for noodles? Sate? Fried rice? Ahhh, decisions...decisions...

College days nostalgia made me crave Nasi Padang. Back then, my bad habit of going to small Nasi Padang joints, ordered loads of rice, almost no meat, shamelessly requested for an obnoxious amount of the free extras such as curry sauce, green chilli sauce, and fried shallots, ignoring the shop owner's obvious angry looks, sailed me through college with minimum food expenditure, and maximum amount of shoes. Hah!


Our local companions, your average young Jakartaners who don't really call themselves foodies, although I know they do loveeee their food and won't blink an eye seeing the huge amount of food I was about to consume (as they can pretty much eat as much as me), brought us to one of Jakarta's popular nasi Padang joints at Gajah Mada Street, Restoran Garuda. It is not exactly the same dingy Nasi Padang joint I frequented in my college days, but the food is great, the people are friendly, the place is clean (so it wouldn't scare our foreign guest, sous chef) and it opens 24 hours. Yay!


Nasi Padang, a West Sumatran cuisine, is a part of Minangkabau culture. The dishes are normally tasty and spicy (that's why we could eat a lot of rice with just a few spoonfuls of sauce. haha!), flavored with loads of ingredients and spices, such as coconut milk, chilli, turmeric, and galangal. The tasty green chilli and cassava leaves are two of my favorites, a must have for every visit.

The service staff at the restaurant were super friendly. Upon the sight of my camera, they immediately gave me really cool poses with huge smiles plastered on their happy faces. This shocked the heck outta sous chef. This kind of friendliness is really rarely found in Hong Kong.

At nasi padang joints, dishes are stacked by the window display, and they are stacked on the server's arm to be carried to your table, where they will be...well, stacked. :)


Carrying a huge stack of dishes and still manage to smile? Mas (this is how we address a young gentleman in Indonesia), you're a star!


These dishes of deliciousness are stacked on your table, and you could get whichever dish you fancy, and you will only have to pay for the dishes you ate. My eyes were on that gloriously golden pieces of fish, braised in coconut milk and spices, the spicy beef jerky, the spicy fried anchovies, and the...yes. I have no self control.


We heard many horror stories where guests of honor drank straight from the bowl of water intended for hand washing. We didn't intend to brief our foreign guest (sous chef). In fact, we told him that the bowl of water was for drinking, setting him up for a night of embarrassment. Unfortunately, sous chef was no fool. He kinda smelt something fishy when he saw the people at the next table dipping their dirty hands into the bowl. Bah!


The chickens they used in local places like this are different from the ones we find in global fast food joints such as KFC. They are significantly smaller. Small enough to evoke pity from our sous chef, who felt so sorry about eating this chicken braised in spicy coconut milk. Boy, never saw him feeling sorry gnawing at some huge breasts from KFC before!


These are ayam pop. This is a relatively new dish, which I hadn't seen in my college days. I was really skeptic when I first saw those skinless, pale chicken. How could they be any good? They look kinda sad to me. But after my first try, I was hooked. The meat was absolutely tender, juicy, and very flavorful. They are cooked in coconut juice. Wow! No wonder! The spicy red chilli sauce served on the side perfected the dish.


Here comes the tiny fried chicken. Don't be fooled by the chicken' dry, overcooked appearance. They are absolutely delicious!..and those crispy bits? Heavenly!


Nothing made nasi padang tastier than eating the food with your hands. Just the way we do it. It's an art! Always using the right hand, grab a bit of rice and any dish, with your four fingers, and use your thumb to fold and shape everything in.....


...and enjoy! We don't gnaw and bite meat off our chickens. Chicken meat is supposed to be daintily ripped of their bones gently, before being savagely shoved into our mouths. Bones and fingers are to be licked clean (...or is it just my another bad habit? Perhaps! Hehe).


Peep into all the juicy goodness inside this jumbo prawn (udang galah). The sight of this made me weak. It's every bit as tasty as it looks, and the prawn's meat was gorgeously springy, simply succulent.

There was one particular dish, which I've missed as they were sold out by the time we got there. Cow's brain cooked in coconut milk and spices! Man, I miss that creamy goodness!


I ended my tasty meal with something sweet, a tall glass of broken coconut dessert. The meat of this coconut is different from others. Deliciously smashed and delightfully broken. This kind of coconut is harder to find than the normal coconuts. I was told that there are generally just one of two of them out of a whole coconut tree.

At the end of the meal, the servers would clear the dishes which were untouched, and then he will calculate what you've consumed from the remnants of the dishes you had. As we licked some of the dishes clean, our server had difficulties concluding his crime scene investigation (thanks to Mang Hemat, who gave me this brilliant CSI idea) and had to rely on us to tell what those dishes were.

I was tempted to post the aftermath pictures, but decided otherwise as the scene might scare you.

What happens to the other dishes on our table, which weren't consumed? Will they serve those to other patrons? Had the chickens we ate been touched by others?...

...let's just say...what you don't know won't hurt you. :)

39 comments:

Lidia Sianturi said...

Rita........how dare you posted this? I am literally drooling all over d keyboard...

Retno Prihadana said...

Tegaaaaaaa...dikau ya Rit, iiihhh pengen njiwitttt. Sukses bikin orang ngelap ilerrrrr :))

Peter M said...

Lydia, you're certainly putting Indonesia on the food map...eclectic and delicious foods indeed!

Congrats on your 24 event.

FFichiban said...

Hahahaha this is soo cool! All those great chicken dishes and coconut/coconut milk yummmmm ^^! Those jumbo prawns are soo juicy too! Soooo good but.. yeh what you mentioned at the end seems quite suss haha

Cakelaw said...

Sounds fab! I am in for everything 'cept the cow's brain (sorry, can't convince myself to try that one).

I have also given you an award here:

http://kitchenlaw.blogspot.com/2009/01/australians-all-let-us-rejoice-vanilla.html

Elsye said...

udah pulkammm iki rit...asikk tenannn

Jescel said...

another job well done for 24! and another feast. wow, what a job you have! all dishes look tasty.. good thing they didn't have the cow brains, it would have been too much for me. :o)

Nate-n-Annie said...

Happy Niu Year! We also did a 24, 24, 24 dinner for CNY, but nowhere near as many dishes. Those udang look so mouthwateringly good.

we are never full said...

i want that chicken in spicy coconut milk. now. also, as they often say - suck the head! that shrimp head goodness looks delectable.

Dwiana P said...

Hiya, Rita posting kek beginian gimana seehh bikin gw iri.
Happy Chinese New Year yah say. happy and enjoy vacationnya.

btw, round up slf udah keluar. Berhubung dirimu gk kirim email foto2 mana aja yg buat round up jadi gw ambil 3 foto dari site mu yah.

Anonymous said...

Too bad, i'm too far away to meet you half way! ;)

--Ly

mpwh said...

yum yum yum... great post,.. can't wait for lunch :p

Zen Chef said...

Woa! How many bowls this guy is carrying? sheesh.. If it was me, you would be eating off the floor Rita. What about that for extra seasoning? :-)

Looks fantastic, you have to take me there! I want to be the abused foreigner for a while. :-)

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

Ooh, thanks for posting this and taking me to this yummy place in Jakarta! I love eating with my hands. . .

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. This is what "real" Indonesian food looks like. No wonder you're always appalled at what passes for it here. Everything looks so good. And is it silly of me to be amazed at how the waiters stack and stack? :P Hehe, you should have done a video of you eating with your fingers to show us. :)

Rurie said...

Arrrrgh tidak...........mangan2 pol wes nang Indo......

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

That looks great! So much food!! : )

Dragon said...

What a feast! I would kill some spicy beef jerky. :)

Ning said...

Delicious dishes! I would have pigged out and finished everything! :)

SIG said...

Nothing quite beats the taste of home. :)

_ts of [eatingclub] vancouver said...

"What happens to the other dishes on our table, which weren't consumed? Will they serve those to other patrons? Had the chickens we ate been touched by others?..."

LOL!

And wow! We also have NO SELF-CONTROL WHATSOEVER, so this would be perfect!!! And eating with hands is great too -- makes the food taste better!!!

Wow.

duodishes said...

This was an awesome glimpse into Indonesian food. Looks like you had your fill and then some. Great 24 post!

tigerfish said...

OMG! The padang so deadly delicious!

Indonesia-Eats said...

I only can say... Damn... Damn...
You're making drool. Udang galah, ayam pop, gulai ikan, samba lado mudo, blanched cassava leaves, ohh goshhh...

therry said...

LOL I love that cow's brain dish too, it was one of my favorite, but I'm restricting myself to just poultry for now.

Great photography, as always, Rita! You made me want Padang food so bad and I only had it a week ago!

southernoise said...

I'm drooling all over my keyboard. Oh and your last line... I've been wondering about that for the longest time too!

KC said...

I want to visit Jakarta. Right away! The food looks so good!

babe_kl said...

i loved the ayam pop at padang restaurants in KL, can't get enough of them

Tuty said...

OMG....you're killing me, Rita!!! I miss Padang food soooo much. Thanks for the Indonesian food porn ;-)

Nurit "1 family. friendly. food." said...

Congratulations on your 24 post (I’m there too this month).
Everything looks so great. And so much food.
Look at that waiter with all those plates… wow.

pixen said...

dang! my son's bibs are in the washing! Habis Enak banget! Wished I was there! yummm yummmm...

Anonymous said...

I found this site using [url=http://google.com]google.com[/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you!

Sorry for offtopic

M said...

I regret that I did not get to eat at Garuda when I was in Indo last year. It was because my mom and sis kept telling me that Garuda is very expensive compared to other 'nasi padang' joints.

Now I wish that I ate there because I really liked it when I ate there 2 years ago, and I don't care about the price coz I can't have authentic Padang food in Oz!

Bayu Amus said...

Funny how the similar question arisen from our Australian business partner upon eating Nasi Padang here in Bali, he was surprised to know that people here are so trusty with a dish that other people perhaps has attended before; what if some other customers messed with the food before you eat them? To this I just said that it's sort like a common sense/consensus here that in such eateries, we would not temper the food we'll not eat. Wouldn't you?

Mochachocolata Rita said...

^_^ We respect our food and proud of it, right? ^_^

Bayu Amus said...

I think Garuda is indeed one of the priciest Padang Restaurant in Jakarta; but I have to agree with Rita though, the quality is amazing.

And beside, compared to Sari Ratu or Natrabu with similar price range, Garuda would still stands out.

Mochachocolata Rita said...

Actually I wanted to visit "Sederhana" or even non branded, more ghetto Padang food for this post...but unfortunately, we landed at night and most places have closed :(

So we went for the obvious choice...

Bayu Amus said...

I think Sederhana has some of their branches open 24 hours Rita, one of them is in Fatmawati; quite a long journey though from the Airport :)

Caitlin said...

The food looks very good here. I wish i could live nearby to come try them. Tasty!