This holiday season, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to travel to Singapore to see family, as well as Indonesia with friends, and Korea for work!
So BBITES is back with some more overseas posts before returning to Hong Kong after over a month!
Part 1: Indonesia
Warung is the Indonesian word for a street food vendor. Wow, have I ever had such inexpensive and delicious food! For example, 10 HKD can buy you a hearty bowl of fried rice or noodles, a big dessert pancake extraordinare, or a spicy goodie-filled salad (more on all of these later…).
For a bule (foreigner) like me, the experience of eating at warungs was irresistible! Cooked right in front of you after your order is placed with the chef, you get to enjoy a hot and spicy set meal alongside talkative and friendly locals. Warung stands are almost always alongside roads bustling with crowds of people, rushing cars and motorbikes.
Every savory meal is served with chips (predominantly prawn flavoured “kerupuk”, as well as pickled vegetables and cucumber to offset the chili (sambal)).
There is simply nothing like this in Hong Kong: the chef’s station is a kitchen on wheels (literally!) which they pull to their workspot each day from home. On the glass windows of every warung you can read the menu items, sometimes painted very elegantly and usually in combinations of red and yellow. You can also find warungs without wheels, in buildings and shop-houses.
Other warung delights included…
Martabak Manis (sweet Indonesian pancake):
This is every dieter’s worst nightmare and ultimate fantasy – it’s a super oily fried pancake. We ordered ours with chocolate and cheese (a strange yet delightful combination).
I watched in awe as the chef prepared our martabak… first he slathered on a thick layer of butter. Next, obscene amounts of processed cheese, chocolate sprinkles, and condensed milk were poured all over it. He then cut the pancake up into bite-size sandwich pieces and proceeded to add all of the above ON TOP of the remaining bare bread/pancake.
WOW! Oh it tasted so good… and I could hardly believe it when my companion and I had managed to finish all of it!! Every bite is an oozing mush of pure fat and sugar… yummy!
Gado Gado (salad served with peanut dressing):
Before leaving the capital city, Jakarta, to make a side trip to Bandung by train, we were looking for food at Gambir, the main train station. Nearly all of the food options in the station itself were either local or foreign chains or Western-style restaurants. Having been entranced by warungs in the preceding days, a chain restaurant didn’t seem too appealing.
Luckily for us, there was a food hall just outside the station in the carpark area which housed local warungs. It was definitely the right choice! I got to enjoy a pretty spicy Gado Gado, which is unlike most I’ve tried before that had little or no chili. Doesn’t that hard-boiled egg look delicious? It was… (see video)
The final food experience I want to share is a local delicacy just outside of Bandung, in a small town called Lembang. Some of you may be a bit horrified, but the local delicacy I’m talking about is sate kelinci. What is sate? Sate is a style of cooking meat on a skewer by grilling it to a smokey finish. It’s then served with a special peanut sauce. I’ve been a fan of sate ever since I can remember, but this was my first time trying sate kelinci.
Now, what is kelinci? You probably know by now from the photos – it’s rabbit! I’m no stranger to eating rabbit, as it is quite popular in France, where my family used to live… but what makes some people feel a bit guilty is that there are dozens of rabbit stalls all along the winding roads leading up to Lembang, reminding you of what you’re about to put in your mouth.
Out front are super cute baby rabbits, but in the cages behind are the biggest rabbits I’ve ever seen! Quite monster-like… I’m assuming those are the ones that are ready for eating.
Anyway, enough about the rabbits alive, let me share with you how they tasted in the afterlife (hehehe, am I evil?). It was the culinary highlight of my trip! With a juicy and tender texture, it was reminiscent of beef that’s been cooked a little bit rare, which I love. For the other x-factor, you’ll have to find out for yourself one day because it does have a unique flavor that you can’t find in other meats…
In fact, all the experiences I had with the Indonesian people made it a unique trip for me: the level of hospitality, generosity and goodwill I was shown there by helpful (and seriously fun!) strangers really opened my eyes and humbled me. If not for the amazing food that is virtually everywhere, Indonesia is a place to visit for the Indonesians themselves…
p.s. Part 2: Korea coming soon!