Unlike my friend Lou who’s a confessed foodie and finds the beauty – part of it – of a place through its cuisine, it takes me a while to notice the cuisine of a local place, as, you might have guessed, I’m far from being a foodie. Couscous mixed with vegetables, tofu, boiled egg and drizzled with lime is my idea of a gastronomic fare although I am partial to sandwiches and Italian and Japanese food when the mood strikes.

My exposure to Indonesian cuisine has always been centered on nasi champur – a meal I had in Manado; ayam pengyet – a Singaporean-Indonesian friend of mine introduced me to this dish, which roughly translates to ‘smashed chicken’, as the deep-fried batter-coated chicken is hammered a few times before being served, when we had dinner at this little restaurant in Lucky Plaza; and the ubiquitous gado-gado, Indonesia’s version of vegetable salad topped with boiled egg and swirled with peanut sauce.

In Bekasi, Indonesia, couscous is still my main repast, but my palate has dared to taste some of the local dishes that have proven to be mouthwatering.  My top picks for local fare for now are:

Ayam Bakar Madu – This is grilled chicken marinated in honey and served with nasi (rice), grilled tofu and tempeh (soybean cake). The dipping sauce is soy sauce mixed with chili, chopped tomatoes and onions. Choices of chicken parts are wings and breast. I am greatly distrustful of grilled chicken because, more often than not, I end up getting served pieces that are over grilled (read: dry) and absolutely bland. This time I was digging into juicy chicken thigh with a sweet honey taste. I had this dish at Warung Bakar, a little restaurant at Jln Tebet Barat Dalam No. 153. It’s the restaurant’s house specialty.

Gurame Bakar – This is grilled Gurame fish served with nasi and dipping sauce of sambal (roughly translated as ground chili shrimp paste). This dish, like the Ayam Bakar Madu, is on the menu of Warung Bakar, a little restaurant at Jln Tebet Barat Dalam No. 153. My friend ordered it and I tasted a bit of the fish. Fresh and sweet!

Tempeh (or tempe in Javanese) – This slab of soybean, which is often referred to as “Javanese meat”, is wrapped in banana leaf and readily sold in wet markets. It’s usually cut into strips and fried while some dishes feature the tempeh with chili sauce for that added kick to the taste buds. It’s said to have a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and vitamins vis-à-vis its popular counterpart, the tofu. I prefer this fried and dipped in kecap manis (sweet sauce) or blended with vegetables.

Traditional Tofu – It’s wrapped in cheese cloth and is available at the wet market for Rupiah3, 000 a square. Called kampong tauhu (village tofu) and unlike the ones that are sold in the supermarket, this one has a soft, creamy texture and is smooth to the palate. I normally place it in the steamer, dice it into cubes and blend the cubed tofu into the waiting bowl of couscous. Drizzle it with lime for a tangy flavor.

Risoles – These Indonesian croquettes are stuffed with various fillings such as ayam (chicken), keju (cheese), sapi (beef), telor (egg) and tuna. There’s this tiny risoles kiosk outside of SuperIndo supermarket that I frequent; it’s only a 15-minute walk from Global Prestasi National Plus School. Risoles is a favorite snack of the locals and is said to taste better when eaten with a piece of green chili. I prefer it minus the chili.

Martabak ManisThis is Indonesia’s version of the American pancakes that resemble thick sandwiches with various fillings such as coklat (chocolate), keju, kacang (peanuts), durian, pisang (banana) and a combination of the fillings. I just discovered another flavor in a stall next to the supermarket I frequent. It’s caramel with grated cheese and chocolate sprinkles. Sizes available are single slice, mini and jumbo. An old Indonesian flat mate told me that putting it in the steamer is the best way to warm it up especially after it’s been in the refrigerator.

Pisang goreng (banana fritters) are sold virtually in every corner of Bekasi by the roving food vendors and their make-shift trolleys together with tauhu goreng (fried tofu), ube goreng (fried yam) and tempeh goreng (fried soybean cake). My friend is crazy over the tempeh goreng and ube goreng. I prefer to make my own banana fritters just like the way my late grand aunt used to make them – smothered with batter and fried until golden brown. For extra sweetness, my dad and I dip the fritters into brown sugar. Woo-hoo!


5 responses to this post.

  1. Yummm! I love your descriptions. It’s almost as good as being there and tucking in!


  2. Posted by I_am_aoisoba on September 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Una, nagutom ako…deadly ka magsulat about food, matindi ka magdescribe eh …nakakagutom 😀

    ikalawa, am so proud to say may naspot ako na typo!!! yeheeeeeeeey!!

    “friend tofu” kaibigang tokwa! 😀


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