[Penang] Indonesian ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ช ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ lunch at Restoran Pusako

Had an Indonesian nasi padang lunch today with a couple of friends visiting from Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia.

Itโ€™s always difficult to find authentic Indonesian cooking in Malaysia, due to the close resemblance between Indonesian and Malaysian-Malay cooking styles.

Malaysiaโ€™s indigenous food is Malay cuisine, which share the same origins with quite a few regional Indonesian cuisines. However, due to its history, and the presence of significant Chinese (22% of the populace) and Indian (6%) communities, Malay cooking has absorbed and adapted some of those minoritiesโ€™ cooking styles and food items, plus influences from neighbouring Thailandโ€™s culinary tradition.

Over time, Malay cuisine diverged from its Sumateran and Javanese origins to become what it is today, although distinctive Indonesian influences can still be detected in various states of Malaysia: Minang cuisine in Negeri Sembilan and Selangor, North Sumateran/Medanese/Achehnese in Kedah, and Riau in Johore.

Recently, however, we kept hearing about ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฃ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ผ on Tamil Lane, next to George Townโ€™s Chowrasta Market, from several expat Indonesians living and working here. They talked about the authentic Minang flavours from the restaurant. Minang cuisine, which originated from Sumatera, is perhaps the most popular regional cuisine amongst the many in Indonesia.

So, when I had two friends visiting from Surabaya a couple of days ago, I decided to
bring them there, barely 24 hours after theyโ€™d arrived in Penang, to see if Restoran Pusakoโ€™s food is as authentic as the Indon expats say.

What we ordered:
:small_orange_diamond: ๐™๐™š๐™ฃ๐™™๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ - I found the โ€œrealโ€ stuff here: fork-tender, dark-as-night beef, with red chili oil oozing out to form a puddle around it. ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ was what Iโ€™d been looking for outside Indonesia, and rarely found. The one here was 100% the genuine thing.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™‚๐™ช๐™ก๐™–๐™ž ๐™ฃ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ๐™ ๐™– - young jackfruit, cooked Minang-style: coconut milk-rich, tinged yellow with fresh turmeric, spiked with fresh chilis.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™‹๐™š๐™˜๐™š๐™ก ๐™ก๐™š๐™ก๐™š (pan-fried catfish) - the version served here was actually the best one Iโ€™d ever had: lightly crisped on the outside, but with the fish-meat just cooked and still juicy inside.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™‚๐™ช๐™ก๐™–๐™ž ๐™ ๐™ž๐™ ๐™ž๐™ก (curried beef tendon) - this was delicious: Iโ€™d come back here just for this dish. The gelatinous tendon was slow-cooked, Minang-style: which meant the use of a piquant, turmeric-inflected spice mix, and rich coconut milk which gave a curry sauce a creamy delicacy. Explosive tiny habanero chilis (Indonesian: cabe rawit) perked up the curry and undercut the coconut milk richness.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐˜ฟ๐™–๐™ช๐™ฃ ๐™จ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ๐™ ๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™œ - cassava leaves, one of the must-haves for a Padang meal.

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™„๐™ ๐™–๐™ฃ ๐™œ๐™ค๐™ง๐™š๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™˜๐™–๐™—๐™š ๐™ž๐™Ÿ๐™ค - pan-fried fish steak with green chili relish;

:small_orange_diamond: ๐™๐™š๐™ก๐™ช๐™ง ๐™—๐™–๐™ก๐™–๐™™๐™ค (golden-fried hard-boiled egg with red chili paste), and ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™—๐™–๐™ก๐™–๐™™๐™ค (eggplant with red chili paste).

:small_orange_diamond: Unlike Singaporean-Malays or Malaysian-Malays who regarded fish, prawn or root vegetable crackers (Malay: ๐™ ๐™š๐™ง๐™ค๐™ฅ๐™ค๐™ , Indonesian: ๐™ ๐™ง๐™ช๐™ฅ๐™ช๐™ ) as a snack, Indonesians would treat ๐™ ๐™ง๐™ช๐™ฅ๐™ช๐™  as a garnish, to be eaten together with rice or noodles during a meal.

:small_orange_diamond: Left: ๐™Ž๐™–๐™ข๐™—๐™–๐™ก ๐™ž๐™Ÿ๐™ค (green chili relish), a staple and must-have in any Padang meal.
Right: ๐™Ž๐™–๐™ข๐™—๐™–๐™ก ๐™ข๐™š๐™ง๐™–๐™ (red chili relish), this one is invented to cater to the local Malay/Malaysian taste preferences.

The owner-chef is from Padang, but her chief cook-server, Hery, happens to come from Malang, a favourite weekend destination (for food) amongst Surabayans, and located only 95 km (60 miles) from Surabaya. Serendipity!

Modus operandi when eating in a nasi padang restaurant:

  1. Customers will simply choose and self-serve the dishes from the display cases upfront - ladling the food onto oneโ€™s lunch plate, or onto small saucers provided on the side counter;
  2. Bring oneโ€™s selection to the head server at the cash counter, who would tally up the cost of the meal. Sheโ€™ll write down the itemised costs on a chit and hand it over to the customer;
  3. Bring the food to oneโ€™s table. A waiter will come up to take oneโ€™s drink orders.
  4. Waiter will serve the drinks to oneโ€™s table, whilst informing the head server of the costs of the drink. She will come to the table and update the cost of the drinks to oneโ€™s bill;
  5. At the end of the meal, just bring the chit to the head server, who would then collect payment at the cash counter.

My lunch plate - this costed about RM10 (US$2.30).

Address
Restoran Nasi Padang Pusako
10, Lebuh Tamil (Tamil Lane), 10100 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6017-591 6083
Operating hours: 11am to 5pm daily, except Wed (closed).

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Looks like a great meal, and a great deal, Peter! I experienced that ordering system just once while I was in Indonesia this year and it was one of the better, less expensive locations I visited during my two weeks there.
I visited a Bangkok restaurant you recommended years ago, Kalpapruek, day before yesterday. Another very good meal there! I had an Esan Som Tom variant that was really good and a delicious green curry. I didnโ€™t get too deep into the menu. The staff are still kind and welcoming to a non-Thai visitor! The funny part is that it was busy, again, and I had 2 or 3 of the staff escorting me to the door so that I would not bang my head on the low over-head. You could just see their relief when I got past the last low part of the ceiling. That has not changed a bit since the last time I was there!
Thank you for all your reviews! They are the best I have seen!

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Please be aware how lucky you are to have all that wonderful food around you! Honestly, would rather eat here than at any 3 star michelin place in Parisโ€ฆ :slight_smile:

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You are most welcome! Kalpapruek is a childhood favourite.
My maternal grandparents were Bangkokians - Teochew-Chinese, so the city holds precious memories for me.

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I sat there for ten minutes just flipping through the menu, knowing that there was so much to enjoy there! I really enjoyed both dishes and the Som Tom really took me back to a version I enjoyed 30 years ago. It is funny how experiences, whether they are smells, tastes or sounds can take you back to an earlier time.

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Oh yes, and I do hope you can come visit us one day soon.

I felt the same way, actually! Somehow, little places like this exude some much more warmth.

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I remember you mentioning that a while back
I visited a coffee house in Bangkokโ€™s China Town you recommended. Great iced coffee and toast!

I stayed at the Atlanta Hotel this trip. What an experience!

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Oh yes, taste memories! Sometimes, even a scent can bring back that a certain feeling of nostalgia.

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Back to ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฃ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ผ at Chowrasta Market for the most authentic Padang food in Penang at lunch-time today.

Every Nasi Padang lunch plate ๐™ข๐™ช๐™จ๐™ฉ have the โ€œHoly Trinityโ€ of ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ช๐˜ซ๐˜ฐ (green chili relish), ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ (cassava leaves) and ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ (crispy beef topped with red chili relish).

Canโ€™t resist ordering the ๐˜Ž๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ช ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ญ (beef tendon curry) - very hard to find in Penang, and done superbly here!

Best lunch-plate Iโ€™d had in a while - at only MYR17.90 (US$4.20), including two glasses of iced lemon tea.

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I love beef tendon. I remember going to a dim sum place in Bayswater , that did it and someone other than me suggested ordering it . I knew them very well and realised they werenโ€™t quite sure what it was. I deliberately kept quiet. Sure enough it was declared too fatty by them and Mrs PB .so I had it all to myself . A bit naughty but no one would have agreed to it otherwise

If I had my way a lot more dishes should have ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ (crispy beef topped with red chili relish), as standard.

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Naughty, naughty indeed. But Iโ€™d have done exactly the same. :joy:

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Hahaha, Proust smelled a cake and wrote his magnum opus remembering times past โ€ฆ

An inadvertent translingual pun. Chowrasta (or Chaurasta) in Hindi/Urdu means crossroads or where 4 roads meet. But chow in English is food, and so Chowrasta can mean a foodie crossroads destination, which seems to be the case here. I think it would make a great name for a pan-Asian restaurant focusing on foods of the crossroads of Asia.

Your food reports and pictures are magnificent, thank you for sharing with us. Long may you enjoy these in good health.

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Thatโ€™s so cool! :joy:

Chowrasta Market, in the 19th-century, was more โ€œIndianโ€ than it is today - back then, Penang was The Fourth Presidency of India, and the governor of Penang reported directly to the Governor-General in Calcutta, India.

During that time, the spice ladies from Tenkasi and Kadayanallur (Tamil Nadu) were iconic features at the market. The Tamils came from the Coromandel Coast, whilst the Malayalees sailed forth from the Malabar Coast, to settle in George Town. At Chowrasta, there were communities of not just Tamils, Malayalees and Telugu, but also Bengalis, Gujeratis, Sindhis and Punjabis.

It was only in the early 20th-century that the market began to take on a more โ€œChineseโ€ persona, as the Chinese emigrants started outnumbering others, and the Indians chose to move nearer to the busy and more bustling port area, where Penangโ€™s Little India is today.

But there are still a few landmarks around Chowrasta Market, like the Sri Kunj Bihari Temple, which are reminders of the areaโ€™s old Indian heritage.

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