Indonesia from a Filipino’s Eyes Part 4: The Food Trip

My brother and his family was so kind enough to bring us to Bandung. Bandung is around 218 km from Jakarta one way. It’s one of Indonesia’s shopping havens, especially for those shopaholics out there who are out to get great brands and huge bargains.

Going to Bandung took us around 3 hours one way. It used to be a 6-hour drive but after the government made a road cutting through the mountains, the trip was cut into half. I was amazed that despite the infrastructure milestone, the government was responsible enough to reforest the affected areas of the mountains and you will see small trees growing on the mountainside. Impressive if you ask me.

And what better way to enjoy that trip would be to be in a car with my nieces, Priyanka and Alea. They just so love being in front of the camera.

We arrived in Bandung just in time for lunch. Kuya René and Muna brought us to a Sudanese restaurant. They call the place Bancakan which means feast in Sudanese. It had a variety of food items ranging from seafoods, fish, beef and chicken. I tried their grilled squid and the fried fish. Good enough for me!

We tasted their famous drinks called gorobok and cincau hijau. Gorobok is a drink made of coconut milk and gelatin that’s made of glutinous rice. It’s colored pink. Cincau hijau is made almost the same except that the gelatin is colored green as it’s made from cincau leaves soaked in water. Both drinks can be compared to our samalamig. They’re refreshing and it’s sweet. I give 2 thumbs up for both drinks.

We also got to taste the village cake which is similar to the Japanese cakes sold here in Manila. It’s made of flour and sugar and is a good dessert treat after having a sumptuous lunch.

We headed to the hotel after lunch and rested for about half an hour before checking out the outlet stores in town. In between our shopping trips, we had snacks at the Just Sosis, a sausage stand and at De’risol. We tried out the different homemade sausages being sold and there were not spicy, somewhat spicy and very spicy ones. The sausages were really good. Risol is traditional snack in Indonesia. It’s sort of a pastry dish deep fried and covered in bread crumbs. The one I ate had cream and potatoes inside and was really very good. Coke Zero and risol was actually a good combination for me. YUMMY!

It was my first time to see a Coke Zero 250ml can that was sold for IDR 6000 (roughly US$0.60). It was pretty cute I should say.

The kids had dinner at Riung Sari where they had their favorite Nasi Goreng. Riung means together and sari means variety so I would like to think that the name means together for variety. They do carry a variety of meals but we didn’t get to taste them since we’re still too full from the snacks we had. The place was pretty cozy and had a very traditional feel. I actually liked it.

We went back to the hotel so the kids can rest. Then the 4 of us went to a nearby Italian restaurant where we had spaghetti and pizza. I love Italian food and their spaghetti was just perfect for my palate. Of course, more than the food, we had a great conversation over dinner. It was also the perfect time to thank my brother and his wonderful wife for everything.

More food tripping on the next installment.

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Indonesia from a Filipino’s Eyes Part 3: The Food Trip

Here’s the second part of our food tripping adventure in Jakarta.

Another best breakfast bet
Before going to my brother’s early morning radio program, we went to see the house of former Indonesian President Suharto’s son where the famous bubur tanjung, or what we know from here as lugaw, is being sold every morning and sells like hotcakes. The stall has been there for around 25 years already and is the only food stall allowed to sell in front of this famous house located in one of Jakarta’s posh areas. We were told that the former President also loved this food item very much.

Bubur tanjung is cooked similarly like our own arroz caldo or lugaw, except that it’s less watery. It is served as it is or with the usual chili sauce. I like mine plain without the chili sauce. Mine was served with a lot of chicken bits and veggies – YUM!The people who come over to savor this dish eat along the sidewalk or in their cars. Cool isn’t it?

Familiar Food Outlets in Jakarta
Finding familiar places in an unfamiliar territory is bliss. We went to Grand Indonesia Shopping Town and found Krispy Kreme, Burger King and Red Mango.

We didn’t want to eat doughnuts but we couldn’t resist taking photos of that green, red and white logo of a doughnut. We decided to try out Burger King instead. I got a beefacon sandwich with onion rings. Beef bacon – a first for me. I have to say that it’s good but I still prefer the bacon that we’re all familiar with. Bethel asked for ketchup but was instead pointed to a chili sauce dispenser. LOL! She still got her ketchup anyway.

Sour Sally is Indonesia’s answer to Red Mango. We didn’t get to try Sour Sally though but since I’ve been recommended to try Red Mango, we tried it out and was smiling after. Red Mango is available here in Manila but I got my first taste of it in Jakarta. Lucky me, I guess? LOL! I had a blackberry mix with M&M’s and it was just soooooo yummy! Hopefully, next time, I’ll get to try Sour Sally for comparison.

The World’s Most Expensive Coffee
Kopi Luwak or civet coffee is touted as the world’s most expensive coffee with its price per pound ranging from US$100-600. Why is this coffee expensive and famous?

Who would have thought that the coffee beans used to make this richly-flavored coffee comes from the civet’s poop? Oh yeah it does come from there. According to Wikipedia, the civet actually eats the coffee beans and is just able to digest the outer covering leaving the actual beans intact. The Asian palm civet feeds on pulpy fruits and berries and small insects. In the Philippines, it is called kapeng alamid.

We only had the 2% variant at the Kopi Luwak shop and boy oh boy – the coffee tastes better than my favorite Starbucks flavor. I actually wondered how the 100% one would taste like. It would probably shoot my senses up to the heavens.

I was told that Kopi Luwak is available in Tagaytay. I’m bound to get this blissful caffeine fix real soon!

Lunch at Alun-Alun
Meeting my brother’s Mom, Aunt Rini, over lunch was one of the highlights of my Jakarta trip. Getting together over food makes a seemingly awkward moment not-so-awkward anymore. I felt giddy, excited and nervous all at the same time because although I have previously spoken to her on the phone a couple of times, it’s still a different feeling seeing my brother’s Mom in person for the first time. I had all these thoughts running in my head like: “How will she greet me?” “What would be our initial reactions?” “What would be our topics over lunch?” etc.

The meeting was actually great. There was no air of awkwardness whatsoever. In fact, I felt so at home around Aunt Rini. She’s just so adorable!

Lunch was set at the Alun-Alun Restaurant inside the Grand Indonesia. I tried out their famous Tamarind Punch that met my expectations in terms of taste and being a thirst-quencher.

Bethel ordered something very safe (read: not spicy) – Nasi Goreng Ayam and I had a little bit of spice in the Nasi Goreng Komplit that I ordered. Of course, my brother ordered something very spicy (as always). Gathering around food makes every meeting really worth the wait and the while.

Méradelima Experience
Another day was capped with a sumptuous dinner courtesy of Wina and Doni Hananto whom we met earlier during the day in Menteng. Wina and Dondi are very close friends of my brother and sister-in-law.

Méradelima serves a fusion of Chinese and Betawinese cuisine. The place used to be a house in the posh location of Kebayoran Baru. Everything we ordered, from the appetizer, which was comparable to chicken kebabs, the veggies, beef dish and fried fish were all delicious and filling! We really felt so lucky and blessed to have been welcomed by two people who are not just smart but are also warm and very friendly. There was never a dull moment with these 2 couples. It’s great to be in the company of warm and very happy people.

I will be talking about our Bandung food tripping experience in my next update. Hang in there for more 🙂

Indonesia from a Filipino’s Eyes Part 2: The Food Trip

4 days = 4 pounds.

That was the weight I regained during my Indonesia getaway. I’m not an avid fan of spicy food but with all the eating that we did, I would really need an effective weight loss exercise program to lose the weight I gained. But still, nothing will erase the fact that I actually enjoyed Indonesian cuisine.

I had to eat rice again to appreciate Indonesian cuisine better. Honestly, I cannot imagine eating all those spicy stuff with bread. Indonesian dishes are definitely cut out to be eaten with rice that’s for sure.

Our Favorite Indonesian Breakfast
Eating mie ayam for breakfast was our first taste of Indonesian cuisine. Mie Ayam is chicken noodles. It is served dry and you have the option to add soup to it or just add chili and you’re ready to go. Pangsit is their dumplings and it was served separately. I tried mie ayam dry with a little bit of chili and it was the most awesome and most delicious noodles I’ve ever tasted! Indeed, yummy is an understatement.

We also got to taste their number one bottled iced tea called Tehbotol. It was a little different from the iced tea that we’re accustomed to. I’m not really a big fan of tea so I’ll be neutral about that.

The Restoran Padang Experience
Papa repeatedly reminded me about not missing out on eating at Restoran Padang so I could affirm what he’s been telling me for the longest time. It was his favorite restaurant during the time he was living in Indonesia.

Restoran Padang is now called Natrabu after it was refurbished. I actually forgot what brought about the discussion (it’s probably where the restaurant got its name) but we were told during the olden times, the people of West Sumatra measured wealth by the number of ox that a family has. The ox is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. As you enter the restaurant, you will notice that you will be greeted by servers who were head dresses designed with ox horns. It may look weird but it’s really unique.

We were surprised to see that the viands were already laid down on the table as soon as we got in. We thought that we would need to finish everything. Apparently, you only pay for what you eat so that was a sigh of relief.

The best dish for me amongst all those on the table was the Rendang. It’s a beef dish where beef is cooked slowly until tender, almost melts in your mouth, and then mixed with spices and coconut. A little mole told me that this was my father’s favorite dish.

We also liked their fried chicken and the fish that’s sweet and spicy. The fish dish is probably comparable to that of our own “dilis” since it’s very small and crunchy.

Great food mixed with the meeting of one of my brother’s friend, Donny, is wonderful. Too bad I forgot to take a snap of his photo. Well, maybe next time.

Starbucks in Jakarta
We finally had a taste of something familiar when we were dropped off to Senayan City for our first taste of Jakarta malling. Since we couldn’t afford in that place (we were greeted with high-end designer fashion lines as soon as we entered the place), we looked for something we could afford. Starbucks was it!

We spent a good IDR135,000 for our preferred drinks and a tiramisu. Not bad as their pricing is almost the same from here. The only drawback? They don’t put as much as whipped cream as they do here on their drinks.

Chinese Food in Jakarta
We were treated to a sumptuous Chinese dinner at the nearby Plaza Senayan after meeting up with my brother’s cousin, Liesna. My sister-in-law’s sister, Rizke, joined us a few minutes after. Too bad I forgot to get the name of the restaurant but I found the fusion of Chinese and Indonesian cooking in this place as acceptable and quite good. We ordered familiar stuff like sauteed string beans with beef, noodles, dumplings, etc. I got caught by surprise when I had chicken that was super spicy. That was really something. LOL!

We were too full by the end of dinner but they still ordered dessert that tasted very good. Too bad we couldn’t finish it 😦

More about our food trippin’ in Jakarta in the next installment 🙂

Indonesia From a Filipino’s Eyes Part 1

Indonesia is not a favorite tourist destination unlike Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan or even the Philippines. Except for Bali, which is the haven of beach lovers from both the east and the west, you really wouldn’t hear travelers say or recommend Indonesia as a favorite destination. Indonesia’s always in the news because of the bad stuff: the bombings, the 2004 tsunami, earthquakes, etc. Indonesia has practically been a big question mark for me. And although Papa would share stories about his life when he lived in Indonesia more than 30 years ago, I constantly thought and imagined what it would be like to go to there and experience the country’s culture myself.

It was more than 10 years ago when I first learned that I have an older brother who’s Indonesian. Probably, other people would have looked at it negatively because our own culture is indifferent upon families with extended members (i.e., having half siblings or step siblings) but not me. I was more excited to meet him and get to know the family member I missed out while growing up.

On my brother’s end, he had a different story to tell. He looked for our father and he eventually found him when he was 28. Somehow, through the exchange of e-mails and on rare occasions when I get to talk to him after he first met our father, I was surprised that there was neither bitterness nor the feeling of hatred on his part – something that’s quite normal here in the Philippines for situations such as ours. Instead, he looked forward and started to touch base with his Filipino roots while I wondered and became more curious about his Indonesian lineage.

November 2006 was memorable for me because that was the very first time I got to see and meet him in person. The guy I just used to speak with on the phone and get to e-mail every once in a while was there in front of me in the flesh. It was also the time when I told myself that I would really like to go to Indonesia and get to see the environment that my long lost brother grew up in. I knew very little about him and since then we were constantly in touch – at least on a more regular basis than before.

When I started Plurking about my vacation, several of my friends asked me where I was going. My response was not welcomed by some of them. In fact, these were the following questions they asked me: (1) “Why Indonesia?” (2) “What’s there to see in Indonesia?” and (3) “Isn’t it dangerous to go to Indonesia?”

I didn’t bother to defend my choice. Why should I as I didn’t see a need for it in the first place? All I know is that, Indonesia is special not only to me but to the whole family.

And three and a half years later, I was able to strike off something from my bucket list – VISIT INDONESIA!

Day 1 – The Flight to Indonesia

As most of you knew, I had a very bad neck injury due to the car accident I got into two weeks before the trip. I went to my therapist in the morning to make sure that I can travel with the precaution of bringing my neck brace just in case I’ll experience intense pain and strain during the flight and the trip. It was my first time to take a flight out of Manila through the new terminal. Except for the fact that we were not advised that we should have paid the Philippine Travel Tax beforehand, everything else during the check in process was okay.

Cebu Pacific didn’t offer inflight meals or entertainment for the 3.5-hour flight. If you wanted something to munch on, you would need to pay for the food items that were priced at 50-100 pesos which isn’t really bad if you feel the need to fill your tummy during the flight. The flight wasn’t that boring as Bethel and I were talking to each other most of the time. We even got ourselves some items from the inflight duty free shop. Proof that girls will always be girls wherever they may be.

I felt giddier and more excited as the pilot announced that the plane has already touched down at the Soekarno-Hatta International airport, 15 minutes past midnight of February 2nd. Finally, I am in Indonesia!