As mentioned earlier – people around the world love and crave Asian food. I’m not talking about your standard Chinese Restaurant. There is more to experience and taste out there. Let’s start to introduce some of the many delicious dishes you can find around this vast region.
Where to begin?
As I’m currently residing in Bali, Indonesia – naturally I have to start with food from Indonesia. Indonesia has a wide variety of tribes, religions, cultures and cuisines. The most dominant food you can find at almost every corner, street or restaurant is Javanese food – originally from Java – and for good reasons:
Javanese Food is the staple diet of most Indonesians, even if they don’t originate from Java.
Healthy ingredients – simply delicious!
The reason for that is simple. It’s basically a simple yet healthy diet, since its ingredients are easily available and relatively cheap. Still it allows for tasty and delicious meals which suit a wide range of taste buds and can be prepared in a short time without great cooking skills.
The basic ingredients are rice, garlic, coconut, eggs, vegetables, soy, salt & pepper. Only a few spice are used to give the meals their distinctive mild taste. Most Indonesians prefer to add some ‘heat’ though, by using either chopped Chili or Chili Sauce. Thick, sweet brown Soya Sauce (Kecap manis) is widely used as well to add sweetness.
In Javanese restaurants or food stalls (called “Warung”) it’s very common to chose from a wide variety of dishes ‘buffet-style’ and sit down with a filled table full of different dishes. You can eat with your hands only (only the right hand is used), but fork and spoon are more widespread now as well.
What I like most are the many dishes made with soya beans, either cooked (Tempe Rebus), fried (Tempe Goreng) or grilled with sweet soya sauce (Tempe Bacam). Those are mainly with the full Soya beans, while Tempe is fermented Soya Bean (Tofu), which can be either cooked or grilled as well. Both can almost taste like meat, which could even convert you to become Vegetarian, if you are into it.
There is this constant fear amongst Westerners to try local dishes, as they might not be hygienic or are prepared and sold the whole day under the boiling sun.
Try it out and find your favorites!
Just don’t be afraid to try out dishes at small food stalls or food carts!
Although sometimes those little eateries look anything but hygienic, they usually are. After all, everything is prepared fresh and either cooked, boiled, fried or grilled. Go where you see many people eat or what other travelers or locals recommend to you.
During my whole time traveling Asia and Indonesia, I can’t remember a single time that I had an upset stomach due to bad food.
What most likely will cause more problems to weakened western stomaches is the local tap water or the exotic spices used. So start slowly with a common Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice with vegetables), Mie Goreng (Fried Noodles), Gado-Gado (bean sprouts and various vegetables with tofu with spicy peanut sauce on top) Mie Ayam (Noodle soup with chicken) or Sate (mainly fried chicken sticks with peanut sauce).
Favorite Javanese Food places in Bali
If you happen to be in Bali, you must try out Warung Kolega. This is the best quality of Javanese Food for the best value I came across so far. It’s located in Jalan Petitenget and frequented by locals, expats and tourists alike. A while sets you back around Rp. 7.000 – 10.000 for a complete vegetarian dish, or Rp 10.000 – 20.000, if you add fish, chicken, or beef (for instance the delicious beef rendang in coconut sauce). Drinks start at Rp. 2.000 for an Ice Tea, Rp. 4.000 for ‘Es Jeruk’ (pressed Orange Juice on ice).
Be sure to come before 3pm though, as by then most dishes will be finished and only served fresh the next day again.
The story of Warung Kolega is this: the Muslim couple from Java who own it, run a furniture factory right behind the house and they used to cook for their employees (thus Kolega) to keep them fit and motivated. Soon word spread around about the true delicacy of the offered food and other people showed up for ‘feeding’. So they decided to open a restaurant next to the furniture factory and sell their food too. It was crowded in now time and is up today – every day! They can even allow themselves to close it one whole month in October for the Muslim Holiday Hari Raya and people still flock to it, once it reopens.
If you want a more touristy taste, Warung Ocha’s at the corner of Jalan Legian/Jalan Dhyana Pura, is a safe bet, although a bit more pricey.
In Jalan Double Six you have Warung Murah (although not that cheap as the name in Bahasa Indonesia suggests) and Warung Melati, serving both a great variety of quality dishes.
The more upper-market Warung Made in both Kuta and Seminyak are frequented mostly by tourists and higher-class Indonesians, as the meals can be quite pricey, but most patrons say well worth the money.
While in Singapore, you could try the excellent ‘Es Teler 77’ Restaurant in 5th floor Far East Plaza or that other restaurant (forgot the name) in 4th floor Lucky Plaza/Orchard Road. Both are frequented a lot by overseas Indonesians and most would probably agree that they sample a good selection for reasonable prices.
Where did you try Javanese Food and where are you favorite eating places in Bali or other parts of Indonesia?
Do you eat Javanese Food in other parts of our world?
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