Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Roadside Spoils of Jakarta

Photo credit: Weigy Widyanputra

Today's post comes from Weigy Widyanputra, who's currently vacationing/being completely pampered by such culinary blessings in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thanks so much for sharing, Weigy!

In South East Asia, luxuries come in big, small, humble and extravagant situations, one simply has to be ready to eat his way accordingly. I came very prepared.

I got off the plane at approximately 10.30 p.m. Jakarta time, got out of the airport by midnight. The time excludes the extravagant settings but the luxuries of great tasting food is still around. I relied on Char Kway Teow and Martabak Keju to fill my jet-lagged stomach.

Char Kway Teow is known better as Kway Tiao Goreng. The word "Char" means "Goreng" means "Fried". The words "Kway Tiao" means "Ricecake Strips". It's a dish you will encounter served at almost any hawker center in South East Asia and as an overpriced alternative in fusion restaurants. Personally, I have never found one from a fusion restaurant that can beat the roadside options I've had here in Jakarta. You will be most welcome to prove me wrong.

What is interesting is the choice of protein included in this dish. Jakarta style means getting beef and tripe as your main protein, other South East Asian territories such as Malaysia and Singapore serves it with shrimp and clams. The Jakarta one leans more towards a salty-kind of savory while the Singaporean one is noted for leaning towards the sweeter-kind of savory. The vegetables generally are left up to the preference of individual hawkers. The Char Kway Teow isn't a light contender, it's cooked in animal fat: pork, beef or both. Each bite is packed with flavor yet trails off quietly, never too heavy. How they do this with such a high fat content is a mystery and a quality I appreciate.

Photo credit: Weigy Widyanputra

The other guest we have here is Martabak Keju. "Keju" means "Cheese". The word "Martabak" I can't translate, but I guess it would be somewhere along the line of "Pancakes," only 100x better and 100x fattier. I simply have accepted its glorious existence since I've been alive. Martabak comes in several variations, the most prominent: "Keju", "Coklat" and "Telur". That's "Cheese", "Chocolate" and "Egg". My personal favorite is the cheese option.

Martabak Keju is packed with cheese, condensed milk, butter and some kind of delicious crust I have also simply accepted as a fact of life. Each bite is a springy heaven that drowns you in intense flavors. If you've ever dreamed of how it feels like to drown in tasty, savory, springy cake, this is your chance. There is also no possible or humane way of eating a whole box of it by yourself.

If this were a boxing match, it was a fair fight. Both were certified heavyweights and knocked me straight to the dreamland.

Much love from Jakarta,

No comments:

Post a Comment