Simon Raven said "life is short and the world is wide" ... and may I add,
"there's so much to taste"
I arrived back from Paris before the New Year and left the day after for a business trip to Jakarta.
As I dragged my jet lagged and sleepy self off to the airport at dawn, I vowed that I would enjoy this trip, client meetings and all, and that I would make sure to try the local cuisine.
This was just my second time in Indonesia and I didn't see nor eat much the last time I was there.
When my colleagues asked me what I wanted to have for lunch, I said "Nasi Padang".
They all heartily agreed ... it was a popular choice!
However, you don't need the menu at all because the minute you sit down at the table, the waiters come and place all these small plates of all the dishes available in front of you.
This is what nasi padang is all about -- nasi or rice, with a wide assortment of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, mostly cooked with chili, spices and coconut cream.
Nasi Padang originates from Padang, the capital of Sumatra.
Without even having to think of what you want to eat, you get all these yummy makan -- from fried chicken to curried squid, assorted satay, stir fried veggies, pickled hot hot hot chili -- it's your own personal buffet on the table!
Since they knew I don't eat meat, this big casserole of fish head curry was deemed as my "own" and hardly anyone took a bite. I must tell you, this was very good, spicy fish head curry made of red snapper and very fresh and flavorful.
Fat fish cheeks too! So good, I had two of those fish heads!
According to my colleagues, I missed tasting this juicy fried chicken. They call it "pop chicken" and it's steamed first then very quickly and lightly fried in boiling oil. That oil dip makes it slightly crisp and locks in the juice.
We had exotic things on the table too like this piece of fried beef lung. I'm not a stranger to this since is also an ingredient used in our very own bopis.
Dishes are placed on top of each other, to maximize table space since there are about 15 to 17 viands served at a time.
The small dish on top is stewed cow's brain which according to my Indonesian colleagues is buttery, creamy, delicious and extremely high in cholesterol.
They call it "dangerous" food and laughingly admit to eating it just once a month.
I also got a small dish of ikan bilis or dilis to us -- crisp fried with lots of hot chili, it was so good!
This would go well with beer but Sari Ratu is a strict Muslim establishment so no alcohol on the premises.
Besides, it was just lunchtime.
Here's what my plate looked like -- I had squid, the fish head curry, vegetables, the ikan bilis or dilis and heaps and heaps of rice -- which you won't see because I had seconds and thirds after I took this relatively innocuous looking photo!