Satay ayam, or grilled chicken on a stick, is the Indonesian (or Malay or Philippine) version of the barbecue that has become one of my favourite Indonesian dishes. It’s smaller in size compared to the Philippine version because each skewered chicken piece is bite size. Last night, amidst the sudden torrential, flood-inducing downpour in Bekasi, Indonesia, I discovered – it was my first time at the place – this wonderful satay ayam stall at Summarecon Mall manned by three people, a female cashier, a male “griller”, and a meal assembler.
Called Satay Ayam Madura, it’s at the food court of Summarecon Mall that caters to Indonesian cuisine from the various islands of the country. The food court is a sprawling area that has indoor and outdoor sitting that are ringed by trolleys and food counters. Satay Ayam Madura is situated to the left of the entrance toward the stage area where that night had a band performing local ditties with the simultaneous screening of a football match on a gargantuan screen. Follow the smoky trail and you’ll find Satay Ayam Madura. The smoke from its grill enveloped the sitting area making it hard to breathe and one’s eyes sting but the smoke eventually dissipated. There is a respite from the grilling if orders have slowed down a bit.
The satay ayam is grilled on the spot in this narrow trough-like griller. The sauces and rice are ready to be assembled on the plate, but one has to wait for about 15+ minutes for the satay ayam to be ready and have an order of nine satay ayam nestled in peanut sauce and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) ready for the taking. The grilled chicken is served either with lontong or the more commonplace steamed rice. I usually go with the lontong, cylindrical rice cake wrapped in banana leaf and boiled cut into bite-size pieces, because of a childhood predilection for sticky rice. I was a bit apprehensive the peanut sauce would be spicy as it is always the case, but it wasn’t so it was one happy meal for me. The satay was fresh and succulent, and the sauces were flavorful. Even the lontong had this fresh taste to it. At IDR29, 000 per plate (PhilP109.22), one is in for an economical yet very appetising dinner during a stormy Saturday night.
It has become a routine of some sort particularly after having worked on my legs with my personal trainer. Going home would have been my next move but my legs had a mind of its own. They would straight away head to this new cosy nook I discovered. Literally next Helio fitness centre at Bekasi Cyber Park, past the row of restaurants starting with Domino’s Pizza and ending with McDonald’s- or you might want to cut through the parking lot – is the newly built Aston Imperial Hotel and Conference Centre. On the left of its entrance is the lobby lounge, its comfortable sofa-like chairs surrounding either a square or circle tables, that has provided me with a quiet spot to get lost in my head. A corner near the counter is the spot I’ve selected to plonk down on the chair to collect my thoughts and rest my fatigued legs.
iced cappuccino and chicken sandwich from the lobby lounge of Aston Imperial in Bekasi
The view is hardly picturesque from my cosy nook, albeit it’s nowhere near the undulating rice crops against the lush foliage of Bali or the rolls of waves rushing to the shore and dissipating into traces of white foam, they offer a chance to observe the denizens of Bekasi. Zooming through the intersection on an ojek – motorcycle for hire – or their own Fortuner or Avanza, I wonder at their stories: Where are they heading to? How did their day start – on a good note or not? Are they happy with their lives? Do they like their jobs? Do they like living in Bekasi? I let those questions sashay through my mind which, thankfully, overwhelm the other wretched thoughts pressing consistently and heavily on my heart and soul for a few moments.
juicy chicken satay and lontong
Prompted out of my silent musings by hunger pangs, the menu at the lobby lounge – an extension of the Imperial Coffeeshop on the second floor – is a cornucopia of savoury, filling dishes from local to international dishes that would satisfy any gastronome. The chicken sandwich on wheat bread served with French fries is a light repast that goes well with either a drinking jar of iced cappuccino or freshly blended pineapple juice. When feeling particularly ravenous, I opt for the 10-piece chicken satay with lontong (or rice cake) and sweet-spicy peanut sauce. The servings for both orders are huge so I end up packing them to go and having them again while marking papers. Meanwhile, dessert was a special treat following a post-yoga class with my gal-pal, Theresia. We were extremely famished and after completing our meal we had a sweet coup de grace of three scoops of ice cream – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
ice cream – a sweet ending to a meal
Finding a cosy nook is like finding a needle in a haystack in the midst of the urban jungle where everything is packed with people. But lady luck seems to have noticed that I needed a respite from my heavy heart and led me to a cosy nook, a corner that lets me recover from my workout sessions and to stay the continual assault of the low-spirited thoughts.