A Taste of Indonesia

[A]side from Bali, Indonesia has something else to boast about: its cuisine. Indonesia takes pride in being one of the top countries that use the most number of spices per dish, which shows the unique flavour. Have a taste of Indonesian food and expect to come out of Western restaurants thinking everything is bland.

Unluckily for Indonesian foodies, there aren’t that many options —or any— of Indonesian restaurants in Toronto. You might find similar dishes, but even that would be a fusion with Malaysian, Filipino and Singaporean. Some places run home-based catering services but they don’t come close to the mouthwatering traditional dishes.

Ayam Penyet

Take for example, Beef Rendang. This famous local dish, emblematic to West Sumatera, takes four to five hours to cook. The long list of ingredients runs from turmeric, garlic to kaffir lime leaves. The beef chunks are simmered until they are tender and rather dry. It might be a challenge for those who can’t stand spicy food because Rendang has a strong taste with a twang of spiciness. Ideally, Indonesians feast on Rendang with steam rice.

The gist about eating Indonesian food lies in steam rice. It goes with just about anything. It goes with Ayam Penyet, which literally translates to flat chicken. Basically it’s flattened fried chicken served atop of sambal (chili sauce) and sometimes if you’re lucky, it will be served with crunchy flakes all over it.

If it’s not steam rice, it’s rice cakes.

Lontong, or rice cakes, are usually cut into the size of a chip and served in saucy dishes. Lontong Cap Go Meh, a Chinese-inspired curry dish, is a mixture of rice cakes, beef, beef liver in sambal, chicken and some vegetables. All the different flavors on one plate make it a colorful dish for festive events in Indonesia.

While most of these dishes are very common, one of the underrated dishes that would be a challenge to find is Sambal Udang Pete.

Sambal Udang Pete
It remains as a home-cooked dish because only some can stand pete, a type of bean vegetable that has a piquant taste and strong smell. The shrimps are first slathered with chili sauce and then fried with pete. The final dish looks really hot, overwhelmed with all the chili filling the plate, but it’s actually deliciously bearable.

To cool off the spiciness, Es Campur steps in for the finale.

Es Campur
Es Campur is a dessert with shaved ice and various condiments, depending on which type of Es Campur. With some coconut meat, basil seeds, shredded avocado, jackfruit, and a generous amount of fruity syrup, you’ll have a typical Indonesian dessert.

Hopefully in the near future, Toronto welcomes a cuisine from halfway across the world to expand its already multicultural food scene.