Indonesian street food : Sate ayam (chicken satay)

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You can’t go very far without seeing the smoke of the sate seller in In Indonesia. Sate is everywhere, on every street corner a man, or woman will be busy cooking the skewered meat over hot coals and incessantly fanning to keep the heat high and the fat spitting.

Westernised satay, to use its alternative spelling is nothing compared to the rich flavours and tastes of Indonesian sate, the depth, spiciness and smokey flavours are intense and moreish.

Traditional sate is full of big hitting flavours including both a sauce and a marinade.

Sate ayam

Sate ayam

The marinade, is generally made with a combination of spices and Indonesian soy. kecap manis is one of two types of soy that appear on almost all Indonesian warung (a small, simple usually family run restaurant)  tables.

The meat is sliced into slithers, unlike westernised satay which is usually big chunks of breast, or lean meat, Indonesians will use thinner slices of fattier meat.

This ensures that when they are cooked over high heats the meat is flavoured by the fat which renders down and drips onto the coals – creating more smoke, which helps to flavour and cook the meat. The circle of life, illustrated in ‘meat on stick’ terms. The meat has had so much heat and smoke by this point that the cooking process is a combination of both methods.

Sate vendor fanning the sate coals. The green cylinders in the bottom left are lontong.

Sate vendor fanning the coals, the tray shows lontong, too.

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the original at the following links – Thanks,Gary Romanuk

The meat is served with a deep, spicy sauce. I once worked with a chef whose idea of satay sauce was blending coconut milk and peanuts together, I recall my complaints meant that he added a few dry chilli flakes and pressed the blitz button again. This is not satay.

The sauce will contain heaps of flavours and spices, lemongrass, garlic, coriander seed have all been noted in previous grazing tests, mixed with peanuts, sugar and shallots. The best Indonesian satay we had in Probolinggo, (at least something good came out of that town) the vendor chucked in a huge spoonful of sambal too. Amazing.

The meat doesn’t have to be chicken, it can be lamb, beef or pork and in Bali they have a type of sate (which is really just a word to define the skewer, not the meat) which is minced fish, often tuna and lemongrass moulded onto skewers called sate lilit bakar. This satay is not exclusive to fish, it just means that the meat has been ground and remoulded to a skewer. I’ve also read about, but not seen lemongrass being used in place of the skewer. This is also commonplace in central Vietnam for the dish nem lui.

Bakar, coincidentally is a good word to know when you’re looking at hawker stalls as it mean grilled, as opposed to goreng which is fried.

The skewers are often served from street vendors in a banana leaf with sliced up lontong – a type of compressed rice which is wrapped in banana leaf and boiled – and smothered in sauce. Satay is also a regular component of the popular Indonesian dish nasi campur.

expect to pay around 10 -15’000Rupiah for a serving (around ten sticks)

Phrases worth knowing
Satu
 – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
silakan (see luh kan) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people may respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Indonesian street food : Nasi Campur (mixed rice)

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“Nasi, Nasi!”

Nasi one of the most commonly heard words in Indonesia. We would be walking through a train or bus station, or just happily sitting on a train and women will be wandering around with wicker baskets full of banana leaf parcels, offering their foods to everyone.

“Nasi?” 

“Nasi Ayam?“  

Nasi campur is a meal you can get all over Indonesia – It literally translates as ‘mixed rice’ and is equivalent to an everyday meal as it is as simple as rice with side dishes.There is no definitive recipe for nasi campur as it can be a buffet style meal, or meze style with a selection of different dishes.

Meat, vegetables, egg, krupuk and rice.

Meat, vegetables, egg, krupuk and rice.

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the originals at the following link – Thanks,Todd Lappin

Traditionally, it will contain a selection of vegetable dishes, some Curried or stewed meat, or fish and/or fried tempe; a soy product similar to tofu. It just depends on what’s available.

From a street cart the rice might be wrapped up in a banana leaf, but in a warung it will usually be presented as rice in the centre of the plate, or banana leaf tray with sides scattered around it.

Warungs, especially in Bali will serve with a couple of sticks of sate ayam and krupuk, a type of Indonesian prawn cracker. Again, it depends on what’s available and how much the meal costs as to how elaborate the spread is. Malaysia has a similar dish called nasi kandar.

Commonly the dish will feature around four or five components with rice and is a cheap, filling meal.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
silakan (see luh kan) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people may respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Indonesian street food : Soto ayam (chicken soup)

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Soto ayam translates literally as chicken soup. That’s not very exciting, right? But like anything simple, done well it’s good.

The chicken is roasted and the meat shredded from the carcass, the stock like any other soup base is made from the leftovers and bones. Turmeric is added to turn the broth a mild yellow colour. Vermicelli noodles are, in our experience the regular carb ‘filler’ but  we have had it served with rice also, which transforms it slightly from a light soup to more of a congee.

Soto ayam

Soto ayam

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the originals at the following link – Thanks, Stijn Nieuwendijk

Google tells me it can also be served with lontong, or other compressed rice but I have not found this in our experience – Perhaps in other regions.

Depending on the price, extras can include hard boiled egg, fresh tomato and shredded greens.

Prices varied  from 7’000 to 20’000 rupiah in our experience from a street cart to a wurung in touristy Ubud. It’s a decent, hearty meal and a safe option if you’re new to Indonesian food, streetfood or warungs in general.

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Indonesian street food : Bakso (meatball soup)

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“Ding, Ding”
“Ding, Ding”

“What’s that noise?”

The first few days in Indonesia followed this pattern, at some point in the day until we saw the bakso cart parked outside our hostel. The seller either rings a bell or taps their spoons onto the plastic bowls to make their presence known!

Bakso is ‘meatball’. A type of processed ball, similar in size and texture to Chinese fish balls. They are made by mixing meat and spices in a food processor until a paste, then balling them up and boiling. When they are done, they float. Many street sellers will use flour to make the meat go further.

One of the best things about bakso is the variation, whether you’re in Bali, or Java there are temporary roadside restaurants selling chicken bakso, beef, shrimp and fish! The balls can be skewered and griddled to give it a crispy outside. Many stalls in Muslim Java offer halal bakso, too.

The stalls, like the meals can be any variation on street carts, a hand pulled cart, one of the strange contraptions where they carry it on foot with a pole over the shoulder or a modified motorbike with gas bottles and glass casing attached to the rear like some sort of volatile panniers. Just look for the hand daubed ‘bakso’ on the side.

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the originals at the following links – Thanks, lostmyway_0101 & khensiong

The dish is fairly simple, meatballs a beef stock made using the liquids the balls are cooked in and some soy to add saltiness and colour to the broth.

Fried tempe, a type of soy product similar to tofu but with less density is also added. Personally, I can take of leave the tempe because after a few minutes in the broth it breaks down a bit and has the texture of an old washing up sponge.

If you’re really lucky you might get a boiled egg, wrapped in bakso meat too. Kind of like an Indonesian scotch egg, I guess.

For me, the beauty of bakso is that you see all types of people eat it. Males, females, young and the old; Hindus, Muslims and anybody else. A bit like Phó in Vietnam, its food for everyone.

When we went diving in Amed, the bakso bike turned up and everyone from the dive shop went out to get a bowl.

“Bakso is good for you after diving, makes you strong!”  

Technically, I’ve read online that bakso is not really very good for you! The way the balls are made generates some sort of protein which can be harmful to your liver over a 5-10 year period if you consume a lot, however it’s not going to stop me having a couple of bowls here and there and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Don’t pay more than 10’000rp for a bowl!

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Indonesian street food : Kupat Tahu (tofu and ketupat salad)

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Kupat tahu wasn’t really something I had any intention of trying it just sort of happened one afternoon, sitting around on the beach with a Jaja, a local surfer we hung out with.

It’s a pretty simple meal,  like a lot of street cart recipes, it doesn’t involve hundreds of ingredients. Cubes of fried of tofu are mixed with ketupat, beansprouts peanut sauce and fried onions.

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the originals at the following links – Thanks,  fitri-agung  & Faniez.

Ketupat is one of several Indonesian (although, eaten across South East Asia) compressed rice products and is pretty similar to lontong, which is often served with sate.

The distinction between the products is that lontong is wrapped in a banana leaf, cylindrical and boiled. In my experience the green of the leaf can bleed onto the rice.

Ketupat is a made using a small woven box made from young coconut leaves which is steamed. Personally, I cannot really see too much difference between the two products, my untrained palate may have missed the subtle differences. It’s also kind of hard to pick these out when they are coated with sauce, which by the way in this instance was thick and packed full of flavour.

Flavourwise it all kind of works, it looks a bit seventies on the plate, all shades of brown & off white. In the nicest way possible, it’s a kind of mushy, cold mixture with peanut sauce smothered on top. Probably not for everyone, The fairer half of this eating tag-team has some issues with texture and wouldn’t go near it.  I would happily eat it again.

We paid 8’000 Rupiah from a street cart.

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Indonesian street food : Babi guling (slow roast pork & rice)

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Babi guling is one of the Balinese dishes. Historically, it’s a celebration dish but it’s now something that is readily available in warungs all over, possibly due to the demand created by tourism on this small, Indonesian Island. Think hog roast meets curry house, and you’re sort of there.

Indonesian food has the familiar South East Asian flavours; chilli, ginger, lemongrass, but with some differing flavors brought with merchants and traders from India. Coriander seed and turmeric are also used in the preparation of babi guling.

In the interests of fairness, we tried babi guling in two places. A roadside warung in Sanur and also at Ibu Oka in Ubud, famed as the go-to place after Anthony Bourdain visited for a TV show.

The warung was clean and filled with Indonesians tucking into their porky lunches. The cheerful lady just looked at us and said “Babi guling?” Enthusiastic nodding followed.

Part of the charm, for me is the usage of the whole animal for food. the plate includes a little bit of all different parts, including a blood sausage.  Personally, I appreciate the sacrifice and animal makes in dying for you to have dinner, so the least you can do is eat it all and not be picky.

The plate was an orchestra of flavour, my mouth was doing star jumps and backflips and coming back for more as quick as possible. It’s a bit hard, as a westerner with a terrible grasp of Bahasa to be able to accurately tell what was actually on the plate, but it seemed to be lacking in offal, which may be due to us being ‘bules’. Westerners in general seem to be fairly picky about which bits of animals we will will eat so it’s possible she was sparing us from spicy tripe.

The plate did however have wonderfully fatty crispy skin, a pork scratching which was a welcomed textural change and both roasted and fried pork meat and a little chunk of blood sausage, much like a more robust black pudding. The little plate of meat is served with a side of rice, punchy sambal, and a spicy side salad of greens, coconut and chilli, known throughout Bali as urap, or urap sayur.  It was fresh, but had clean spicy flavours and had a similar impact that a salsa or tabolueh would have.

Additional to all of this was a little bowl of soup, rich and flavoursome from the cooked down carcass, probably from the previous days roasting.

After I ate this magnificent feast, sweated my heart out and blew my nose constantly from the chili I wondered how the famous Ubud babi guling could top this.

Unfortunatley it couldnt. 

Ibu Oka, ( I believe there are more than one, and we went to the one behind the palace) had a vast, open dining area that would probably sit over a hundred; almost the opposite of many warungs and I don’t think i saw more than a couple of Indonesians eating, just lots and lots of Chinese tourists and a few western backpackers.

The menu was broken down and compartmentalised into the various pieces and cuts, I opted for the ‘special’ which seemed to have all the important bits.

The roasted meat was to be fair like the best roast pork joint you’ve ever eaten, it was smooth and the quality of meat was first class with a sort of marinade, or sauce brushed on top. The fried chunks were tasty and again, provided a nice variation on texture and the crispy skin was possibly better. It had a good snap, but had a little too much fat on the other side.

The quality of meat may have been better but it was, for me wholly lacking in flavour, spice and the same level of love and attention at the warung.

We also found Ibu Oka did not offer any sambal (although there was a marinade on the meat, it lacked spice) and the soup was an additional extra. The urap sayer was excellent at Ibu Oka, and they advertised it as just ‘sayur’ which directly translates as vegetable.

Overall, Ibu Oka was slightly more expensive with less flavour and substance to the meal. I wanted it to make me feel like i’d just done several rounds with Mike Tyson who laced his gloves with sambal like the other place did, but it didn’t.

Try it for yourself, but make sure you try a local warung too, the one in Sanur is opposite the big Macdonalds near Sanur Beach and will set you back around 40’000 Rupiah for the whole hog, excuse the pun.

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