Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kitchen Bytes: Yogyakarta

Like a true-blue foodie, I'm all up for trying out food that is special to that particular area on my travels. In fact, I make it a point to google up and visit the travel forum boards on that topic to plan it into my trip schedule! (Cue my mom exasperatedly rolling her eyes as she recalls the rather out of the way "obsessive" search for a particular delicacy in the freezing early hours of the morning on our Amsterdam pitstop last winter - which I ended up taking only a few bites...). But that's what I love and remember most about the foodie travels in the end - they all have a story and experience behind them!

As far as my online searches went, Yogya's food was mainly Javanese style - which is quite like Malay food. I was also having meals provided as part of the guided tour - which means bland, safe, touristy stuff. The verdict - many misses (for some reason, there is this thing with KFC batter fried chicken/seafood at bfast, lunch and dinner as well as super salty or super sweet extremes) but there were one or two definite hits which I'd do over again.

Kopi Jaws a.k.a Charcoal Coffee
It's a good thing I'm a part of Rotaract and therefore can find a "friend" in almost any country. We met up with Budi, a rotaractor from Malioboro who clued us in that his fave local foodstuff was this intriguing thing called Kopi Jaws or Kopi Arang. Now this isn't a specialty of Yogyakarta but just innovated at one particular stall - located in a makeshift shack next to the train station in Malioboro. The stall is open only from 5pm-1am. We were the only tourists there which is a shame (or good) because it is really an experience - patrons sit on mats placed right on the pavement of a busy street. Sitting crossed legged with only the light from passing traffic, we were served piping hot sweetened black coffee - with a huge chunk of burning charcoal dunked on top. To drink the coffee, you need to skillfully use the spoon provided to push back and hold the charcoal while you drink the coffee or else your lips could get burned! The funniest part, this alien looking group of "tourists" drew attention alrite - including that of a radio deejay who was doing voxpop interviews!

Nasi Padang
Number one - they didn't even ask us what we wanted to eat, just what drinks we wanted. Number two - When after the fifth little plate of curry was brought and the waiter was still bringing more, we started to get a little worried. Could it be one of those tourist trap scams? Then we looked around and noticed all the other tables piled full of these little plates. Thankfully when the plates finally stopped (at a whopping variety of about 12 or so different types of vege, meat, chicken, seafood), the waiter informed us that we only had to pay for the plates we ate and could return the rest after our meal. I liked the sambal (made out of pounded chilli, anchovies, tomatoe, onions and garlic) that coated the chicken and young eggplant (i think it's called sambal Balado) and Empel Daging (beef meat flattened and roasted kind of like jerky) while my companions loved the huge fish roe pieces cooked in thick creamy coconut milk. The veggies served were just blanched and simple too - i suppose to not overpower the curries. There's also a Yogya delicacy dish called Gudeg - jackfruit stewed in dark sweet soy sauce. I wasn't a big fan of it though.

Sugar, sugar, sugar
Did I mention that the dishes here were really really sweet? And I discovered why on a trip across the road of our hotel to grab some late night snacks at Alfa supermarket. We were fascinated by all the different types of sugar piled high, most in huge crystallized chunks. And couldn't help but click away! hehe...

Pisang Goreng a.k.a Fried Banana
Okay, so this is like, sold at every corner in Malaysia but this is the first time I've had it served this way. My little last day treat from the room service menu at Jayakarta Hotel. Instead of single pieces of banana dipped in batter, they had smushed together 3-4 pieces and battered it into one huge piece, then rolled it in crispy fried batter for extra crunch. A large mound of grated cheese - me thinks its cheddar topped it off. The bottom bits of the cheese had melted down, making it truly good especially with a nice cup of cappucino and snuggled up under the covers! :)

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