One of greatest pleasure in life, especially one that's lived slowly, is food!
I think it's quite astonishing that whilst Indonesia is Australia's largest neighbouring country and with only ~3k km apart, Indonesian cuisine is not as well known or popular as, let's say Thai or Vietnamese here. A quick search on Zomato revealed 3 pages long for a list of Indonesian restaurants compared to 33 pages for Thai and 38 for Vietnamese! I wonder what will be the reason for this as (yes, I know I'm biased) with more than 600 ethnic groups in the country, Indonesia is home to a plethora of cuisines, each with rich and mouth-watering dishes.
So my call out for you this week is to venture out and try nearby Indo restaurants. If you're in Melbourne and need some recommendations, here are our top fave eating spots in Melbourne, stamp-approved by an Indonesian =D.
Go for their: nasi goreng babi (non-halal)
Nasi goreng is the most common and standard Indo dish, known by everyone. That makes it the one thing that an Indo restaurant has to nail. It needs to have the right balance of flavour, protein, spiciness and of course the wok-hei, that charred aroma that's a must in most stir-fry carbs in Asian cooking. Whilst slightly under for the wok-hei (I know this is hard to do!), Warung Kartini nasgor (shorten slang for the dish name) ticks all other boxes. They also do awesome mie ayam (chicken noodle) with their soft noodle and great seasoning and generous family-shared meals.
Go for their: ayam penyet (deep fried smashed chicken) of course
A quick google search revealed that this brand started in 1998 in Batam and now has branches across Singapore and Australia though I can't vouch if they're run by the same brand? Any culinary expert can maybe chime in?
What I love from this place is the complete meal they have and nail with each component; the crispy yet still juicy-on-the-inside chicken with tasty fried tofu and tempeh accompanied with the crunchy kremesan (that glorious golden bit you put on top of the rice). To top it all, the incredibly tasty and spicy sambel. My dare to you is to eat them by hands, they're automatically 100% tastier!
They also do yummy dessert drink of es cendol durian.
Go for their:....
Ok, I haven't been. I did try brazing the Melbourne rain one day last week to find out they were close! Silly me of not calling first knowing that some places would be close for the new year break.
Recent-ish addition to Indo food scene, they provide a fusion and dishes that are currently on trend. Case in point: salted egg yolk chicken and Indomie burger, both had crazy buzz back in homeland. They also do all these snacks that make me think of home like avocado juice with a dash of coffee and robak (roti bakar or grilled bread with toppings). Guess where you'll find me this weekend!
Go for their: umm, everything?
Hands down imo, the best Indo restaurant I've had to date! Disclaimer: I haven't been to all Indo places here). They do really well-balanced and refined Indo food here. Have you ever had an experience eating Indo and you just felt everything was too...overpowering and intense? We use lots of herbs and spices and to locals, the more flavoursome a dish is, the better. Unfortunately at times this means the freshness and quality of the main ingredients themselves are lost amongst the richness. This is what I love about Makan. When they do chicken satay, they make sure the chicken is the hero with other elements elevating it as opposed to competing with each other.
With well-thought menu, great food, instagram-worthy dessert and amazing ambience, no wonder this place is a favourite amongst my office colleauges for special celebration, you know, like getting through Monday.
Go for their: nasi kapau with kikil (beef knuckle)
I always feel Minang (closely related to Padang and as such for simplicity will use Padang from here onwards) food is one of the hardest Indo cuisine to cook. A birthplace to beef rendang, the most famous Indo dish ever, we're talking not only how good the food needs to be but also how many dishes it must have. A good nasi Padang takes at least 4-5 different dishes, with a minimum of 1 coconut curry so the rice can soak it in plus a really damn good sambal. This is where Tambo Ciek comes in.
Started with delivering nasi bungkus (wrapped in banana leaf and paper for take away consumption) to be sold in Indonesian grocery store, Grand Laguna, it's so popular that they now have their on outlet in Carlton! Buyers' beware to consume the sambel at pace though because Padang sambel is at a different ball game altogether!
Lastly no 6, my house for a mean nasi uduk and manado dishes =D. Any other recommendations on Indo restaurant we should feast on? Let us know!