Tag Archives: Indonesian food

a divine introduction to Indonesian cuisine

Despite Indonesia’s proximity to Australia, my exposure to Indonesian food is pretty slim. And no, packet mi goreng most certainly does not count! So one evening, Tristan organised to have dinner with some good friends L and K at one of their local restaurants, Warung Agus in North Melbourne. It’s on Victoria St on the opposite side of the road to the gorgeous Libertine.

Laugh if you like, but Bintang is the order of the day. It suits the food most excellently.

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We skipped entrees and ploughed straight into the mains. L and K were at hand to advise us of some of their favourite dishes. K is a vegetarian and seemed very fond of the toge Рa traditional Balinese gado gado comprising steamed vegetables, beancurd with peanut sauce and cassava crackers. The sauce really made this dish Рit was unbelievably tasty. The crackers were light and just like the prawn crackers that melt on your tongue, yep the ones you get with your Chinese takeaway.

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Another fab vegetarian dish is the Tuung Mebasa Santen Lalah Manis – sliced eggplant and tofu braised in coconut milk, sweet soy and spicy gravy. I’m not mad keen on eggplant so didn’t think I’d end up having much of this, but again, was blown away by how delicious it was. I tell you, it’s their sauce. There was quite the fight to mop up leftover sauce!

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Our other two dishes were of the omnivore persuasion. One being a seafood one: Campuran Be Pasih Mebasa Kental, seasonal seafood like prawns, calamari, mussels in spicy coconut sauce served with rice. It sure was spicy! This was the dish I recall going best with the Bintang, precisely because of the chilli heat.

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The last main was undoubtedly a carnivore delight. K graciously watched as three ravenous beasts, her dining companions wolfed down the Babi Guling, the¬†traditional Balinese roasted pork served with crackle and lemongrass, chilli and ginger sauce. Warung Agus actually allows you to book a suckling pig feast, similar to the Libertine one where you need to book in advance and have a minimum number of diners. It’s wonderful that two restaurants so close to each other offer such diverse versions of the humble suckling pig feast. This was actually the mildest of the dishes we chose and cooked to perfection: velvety soft meat and fat with super crunchy crackling.

Four mains even between four hungry folks will leave you full to the brim, especially if you have rice (which you should do). I loved that the rice was served sprinkled with dry shallots – they are so fragrant and add a touch of Asian pungency to an otherwise plain staple. Other condiments are also provided.

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There was absolutely no space whatsoever for dessert, but our adorably friendly waiter did manage to tempt us into trying out Indonesian coffee, which is sweet and rich. An excellent ending to a wonderful meal.

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Though mains start at $20, they are pretty big and unless you’ve got a gargantuan appetite, they are made for sharing. The restaurant is a little dark but is lavishly decorated – there’s even a special four-poster area you can request to dine in! Almost makes you believe you’re in the tropics, especially with the Gamelan music chiming gently in the background. Thanks L and K for showing us the ropes at a fab local haunt of yours!

Warung Agus on Urbanspoon

keeps the costs down

Birthday week is getting exhausting. If not my birthday week, then it’s Bit O’ Meat’s! Birthday weeks equals lots of dining. Gee, it’s a hard life, giggle.

Norsiah's Kitchen, interior

Not far from work, and also just round the corner from Chai – Eat Like Malaysian, I’d read some good things in the food blogosphere on Norsiah’s Kitchen. It’s good for late-night nosh, for supreme affordability (I paid just over twenty dollars for two mains and two drinks) and convenience. Don’t go in expecting any service, however. Perhaps this is how they keep costs down – it seemed to bother Bit O’ Meat more than me.

I was feeling like absolute shite with a headcold, so it was soup for me. Norsiah herself made sure I really wanted fish balls in my noodle soup. Erm, yes, I do. There were no thin rice noodles, so I got the thick, flat ones. There was a choice of yellow (egg) ones but years of being force-fed substandard ones have scarred me for life. I’m sure there’s a psychoanalytic reading in that somewhere.

mee sup bebola ikan

A tad salty, but pretty sure the MSG and the garlic combined to have me at three hearts’ full health again. Yep, that was a retro video game reference. I also think the thick, flat rice noodles were more suited than thin ones. Harder to grasp or scoop but they soak up the broth better.

curry ayam

Bit O’ Meat had plain ol’ chicken curry (curry ayam). Instead of cooked to order like my dish, this was served from the bain-maries at the main counter though they were cooking up a fresh batch when I ordered. I remarked that I was really coming around to Indo/Malay curries, that which I had not liked before. He asked me what the difference was (to Indian) and I couldn’t really provide a coherent response. I think Indian curries just have more spices, though Malay/Indian love their chilli. This might not be entirely accurate as the heat of an Indian curry will depend on what region has influenced it. Amusingly enough, I tolerate hotter (Indian) curry than my (Anglo-Indian) father.

Though I had to wait a while for it, I got the ‘teh tarik halia’ – ginger tea with condensed milk. Why isn’t this more commonplace? It’s wonderful! Very strong, sweet black tea laced with ginger.

With bellies full on the cheap, it was time to dash across to the Nova, and meet up with some mates for a very late session of a film.

There’s ample seating at Norsiah’s and there is also a steady stream of customers for takeaway. It’s not the sort of place I like to sit down and dine at, but beggars can’t be choosers, eh? However, don’t let that put you off. It’s busy for a reason.

Norsiah's Kitchen on Urbanspoon