[Penang] Indonesian Food Bazaar at the Consulate-General of Indonesia

It was the third edition of the Indonesian Food Bazaar by the Consulate-General of Indonesia in Penang, but the first to be held post-2020-2022 COVID lockdown. The grounds of the Consulate-General of Indonesia in Penang were scattered with an eclectic collection of food stalls selling various regional Indonesian dishes from the vast Indonesian archipelago: with a population of 270 million people speaking over 700 ethnic dialects, inhabiting 17,500 islands.

The various food stalls provided a minute glimpse into the myriad of Indonesian dishes available out there, but rarely seen in Penang, where “Indonesian food” is often equated with Sumatera’s Nasi Padang, as Sumaterans (besides the Javanese) have been emigrating to Malaysia and Singapore in large numbers for centuries.

Some of what we had at this year’s food bazaar:

  1. Soto Betawi - a thick, savoury soup from West Java. “Betawi” is the old name of Jakarta, then known as Batavia. There are three defining characteristics of soto Betawi: (1) It’s coconut milk-rich, giving the soup a milky-buttery taste; (2) It’s replete with beef offal: spleen, liver, tripe, all chopped up into small bits; and (3) Clarified butter (ghee) is used to saute the herbs & spices, before beef stock is added to the cooking pot, thus giving the soup an even richer flavour.

  2. Nasi Gudeg - a classic Central Javanese rice dish. “Gudeg” is a dish comprising of young jackfruit, cooked with buah kluwek, coconut milk and dried teak leaves, giving the dish its trademark brown hue.
    A plate of Nasi Gudeg will consist of steamed white rice, accompanied by the “gudeg” (stewed young jackfruit), braised tofu, tempe, hard-boiled egg, sambal krecek (chili’ed ox-skin), and opor ayam (spiced chicken in coconut milk).

  1. Gado gado - the quintessential Javanese salad with spiced peanut dressing.

  1. Sate Lilit- Balinese-style sate skewers, with spiced, finely-ground chicken meat moulded around lemongrass stalks and grilled.

  2. Arem arem - banana leaf-wrapped cylindrical parcels of compressed rice cakes, with spiced coconut shreds-dried fish-vegetable filling. The version here was tasty, except for the Javanese predilection for using sand ginger - my least favourite herb - in their cooking.

  1. Bakso bakar - a selection of meatballs and fishballs, of Chinese origin, but very Javanese with its gluey, tapioca starch-heavy texture. The meatballs were BBQ’ed then topped with chili paste, sweet soy sauce, caramel sauce, shallots and peanut sauce.

  1. Ayam goreng penyet - crisp, batter-fried chicken. The version here was underwhelming, and worlds away from the amazing versions one gets in Yogyakarta in Central Java, where this dish originate from.

There was a classic piece of write-up on this dish by Robyn Eckhardt for the Wall Street Journal in 2009 - still the best article ever:

  1. Cwie mie Malang - Malang town in East Java is known as a gourmet getaway for denizens of nearby metropolis, Surabaya - and for good reason. The elegant, highland town is replete with good eats. One of its most popular dishes is the salty-savoury cwie mie - crinkly wheat noodles, similar to Chinese wantan noodles, topped with minced chicken, crisp-fried wafers of wantan-skin, fresh cucumber, scallions, lettuce leaves and golden-crisp shallots.

  1. Martabak telor - this filled pancake is similar to Malaysian/Singapore murtabak. Two varieties were on offer here: chicken or beef. We opted for the beef version - very nice crispy crust on the outside, but the egg-beef-scallion filling was a tad blander than we’d expected.

  1. Nasi bakar - this is a fairly “recent” food item which came out of West Java: rice with side-dishes, gravies and condiments, all wrapped up in banana leaf parcels, then barbecued over open flames. Unwrapped, the whole food package would be fragrant from the blend of spices and meats, plus the aromas from the banana leaves and the barbecuing.

  1. Pukis - a Javanese crumpet, topped with Indonesia’s favourite dessert blend of flavours: chocolate and cheese! The version here was “meh” - produced by home-cooks for this bazaar, rather than by professional bakers. Pukis is said to originate from Central Java, but was introduced by Chinese emigres about a century ago.

  2. Es Teler - Indonesian shaved ice dessert, with toppings of avocado, jackfruit strips, fresh coconut flesh, coconut milk and rose syrup.

Too much to try, and not enough tummy capacity.


That looks like it was great fun.

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It was, John, because, despite the proximity of Indonesia to Malaysia, we rarely get to see many of their food items here.

The “downside” is, most of the stalls at the bazaar were run by Indonesian expats living in Penang - home cooks, amateur cooks - call them what you will. They were very enthusiastic and threw everything they had into this event, but there really is no substitute for experience and genuine professional cooking skills: everything could’ve tasted better.

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Excellent point. I regularly go to a couple of nearby farmers markets where many of the producers are, effectively, home cooks . And I think it often shows.

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There is really no substitute for formal culinary training, even if it’s learning under a mentor instead going to a cooking school.

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Darn, Peter, I was planning to fast today but after looking at all these glorious food photos, I have to break it, just 18 hours in.


Like they say - Diet starts tomorrow! :joy:


Slight edit -

The diet starts again tomorrow. (and again, and again, and again… LoL)

Love your stuff, man.

I was just thinking up dates, and it’s now been 10 full years since I’ve been to Penang.

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Come, come, and call me when you do.

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Would love to visit, but life seems to have a way of getting in the way. Thanks very much!

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