Indofood: The Perfect Bun?

The day began early and by the time I got to the airport, I was ready for a coffee.

This looked more local than Starbucks so I decided to give it a shot. One has to disregard calories when trying the coffee bun. It was rather oily, containing both butter AND margerine. Why it needed both, I doubt I will ever find out but it was perfectly baked with a slightly crunchy sweet layer of sugared coffee on the bread.

I have tried a similar bun in Malaysia but that chain seems to have closed down. This coffee bun is one of the better offerings I have tried in this region. They seem to have gotten the perfect bun.

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Roti Boy, International Departures, Juanda Airport, Surabaya, Indonesia.

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Indofood: Hawking satay

Within minutes the smell of satay being grilled filled the air. It was the fragrance that alerted me to his presence. A quick shot of his setup and before long, he was gone. The satay has to be ordered as he runs out by the late evening. We ordered only lean meat which resulted in the satay being a little dry, and lontong or rice cake. But satay at one’s doorstep was something I used to grow up with and it was nice to experience it again. Unlike satay in Malaysia or Singapore, there were not a lot of peanuts in the sauce and the gravy was not spicy enough either. The satay I had in Malaysia tasted a lot better to me. The novelty hence, was being able to enjoy it at one’s doorstep. This was the only satay I tasted in Indonesia, hence I was not sure if the sauce was supposed to be different. But for the convenience of having satay at one’s doorstep, I have no complaints.

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Indofood: Coffee time

One cannot come to Indonesia and not try their coffee. After all, Sumatra Mandheling is known the world over. But today I settled for Kopi-O’s blend of roasted coffee. It was fragrant and made with condensed milk as is common for local coffee in this region. This was my only cup of local coffee and I savored it. Even the sweet biscuit tasted good with the coffee.

A friend ordered iced lemon tea which came with a stick of lemongrass. It was nice to look at but the taste did not seem to have gone into the tea.

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Kopi-O, Mx Mall, Malang, Jawa Timur.

Indofood: Muzium Angkut

This is a place to see vintage vehicles and against the backdrop of England, Germany, Italy, Broadway (US) and Hollywood. And vintage it was. Not only were there vehicles which I would probably never ever see in my life had I not come here, I also saw silent Charlie Chaplin movies here. There was no lack of photo opportunities and a walk could easily last two hours.

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The food was not too bad if one could get over the flies that were attracted to the seafood here. I did not expect the fish I ordered to be deep-fried again to reheat it. I was not sure how many times the oil had been used so I generally try not to eat deep fried food when I’m eating out. One consolation however, was that the heat would have killed any germs from the flies. The better choices of food were probably the grilled chicken and the satay which were devoured pretty quickly as we were hungry from all the walking.

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Muzium Angkut is located at Batu, Eastern Java.

Indofood series: family time

We came here for dinner. This was the closest I came to having Chinese food.

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Kung pao chicken with peanuts instead of cashew nuts

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Claypot vegetables

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Hotplate kangkung

This was almost like quick Chinese food. It was also the first time I tried Kung Pao chicken with peanuts in it instead of cashew nuts. The restaurant tries to keep costs down in this way.

Overall, this place was reasonably priced with good service for Chinese food. Many families come here for dinner on the weekend. They even had an option for no-MSG, which was great. We didn’t make a beeline for water after the meal.

Kopitiam is located at Jl Bondowoso, Malang, Jawa Timur.

Indofood series: Hawker fare

I woke up before the morning prayers, at 4a.m. Bindy was still asleep and I did not call her to say goodbye. My transport was coming to pick me up at 4.30a.m. for the ride to Surabaya and a flight back to Singapore. It had been a pleasant three-day holiday, catching up with an old friend from university.

The transport came as scheduled and we went on to pick up several other passengers. Though it was still dark, the streets were already stirring. The little shops selling food were already open and in business by 5a.m. Early for me, but clearly the norm for them. I thought I saw a homeless man in the wee hours of the morning. Indonesia may be seen as a poor third world country, but I do not recall seeing a homeless person before – not once during the few times I visited. Hmm… interesting. A poor country without the ‘visible’ poor. Yet so many other ‘first world’ countries have those who are visibly poor.

The streets were soon roaring to life, with motorbikes scooting, cars and larger vehicles tooting and honking. The odd horse-drawn cart seemed so out-of-place in the busy streets. But it is still a dependable mode of transport that leaves no carbon footprint.

The economy of Indonesia seems to lie as much with the little entrepreneurs — who line the streets or any available space where they set up shop in an instant, sometimes with gas cylinders, woks, tables, stools and all — as much as those who own large businesses who employ the hundreds and thousands. But the life of Indonesia must surely lie with these hawkers. They add a novelty to the country; unique to the country, yet commonplace for a developing nation.

On this trip, I had the chance to try the food from two such folks. One had set up shop in a van that is parked at a location that did not obstruct traffic — she sells out her nasi kuning just after noon. I loved the chilli. I had the nasi kuning (yellow rice) with a piece of beef. It was homemade goodness, affordably priced. The other was a young man who grilled satay off the side of his motorbike and sold them to-order door-to-door. I’ll talk about him another day. Both foods were well-prepared; no concerns about hygiene.

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Fused but not enough

We decided to try this place as we have not been here before. The place was new. It seems to be an Indonesian fusion food place where they try to put a twist on traditional food.

We ordered satay chicken which looked more like teriyaki chicken with peanut sauce. The spaghetti laksa sauce was not strong enough to flavour the spaghetti. Tahu telor was not soft enough on the inside. The tahu or tofu was simply too hard. Tahu telor is not easy to make to begin with. But in what we were served, only the crispiness and the black kicap (sweet soy sauce) saved the dish.

For dessert, we had chendol with jackfruit. The jackfruit has a strong flavour of its own and the gula melaka was not strong enough unless that was done on purpose. Even my root beer float did not have enough root beer in it and because of that it tasted more like ice-cream with root beer! I expected my root beer in a mug, with enough root beer in it, definitely not in a plastic cup.

There seems to be a trend where young foodiepreneurs are putting a twist on traditional foods. This is interesting as food evolves and there is a following among the younger generation for such food. Niched properly, such places can succeed and sustain themselves. The challenge however lay in how much of a twist they can spin on the traditional recipes whereby the link is still noticeable but the dish is really a new dish in its own right. For the dishes we tried here, they just did not seem to have gone far enough. I have reviewed two other places in two other posts, Fusion seems to be In and Local Fusion Food. The challenge truly lay in moving sufficiently away from the old without losing the link completely.

The place was quiet, hip and it had free wi-fi. It’s the kind of place that I would go to again because it was nice and quiet and there were a couple of tables outside that were probably for smokers but were also conducive for quiet conversation or reflection. They do not charge 10% service charge as the food is ordered at the counter so price-wise, they are affordable and this works a lot in their favour.

This location has many other good eateries so one can be spoilt for choice. I applaud the attempt as I think that every generation will have its own kind of food that they like and am game enough to come back and try their nasi lemak spin-off the next time.

RS Deli, 224R Upper Thomson Road 574369. Tel: 6455 1242.

I expected this in a glass and not a disposable cup. I also expected it to be root beer float and not ice-cream in root beer. It needed more root beer to fit the name.

Tahu telor is not easy to cook. Here the tofu was simply too hard. I liked the crispy bits but the tofu was lacking.

This looked good but lacked one thing. The laksa sauce did not get into the spaghetti enough. It needed a bit more time for the flavour to get into the pasta, unlike rice noodles which tended to absorb flavours immediately and would get soggy easily as well.

This tasted more like teriyaki chicken instead of satay chicken. I expected peanut bits in the sauce as well but there were none unless Indonesian satay is only served with smooth peanut sauce. The ketupat (rice cake) was a little dry but the peanut gravy would have countered the dryness easily. Cucumber pieces were fine.

This dessert confused me a little. Was this an attempt to mix chendol (the green stuff) with gula melaka (though a lesser amount) and jackfruit? The other surprise was that it was not served in the same way as it was pictured though that was not so critical but it affected the presentation. I don’t think that chendol and gula melaka mixes well with jackfruit unless they reduce the chendol and gula melaka so that the focus is on the jackfruit which may be what they were trying to do here. The challenge then is in how much to reduce or add.