[Penang, Malaysia] Indonesian lunch options at ๐—”๐˜†๐—ฎ๐—บ ๐—๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ธ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ธ ๐— ๐—ฏ๐—ฎ๐˜… ๐—”๐—ฟ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—น๐—น๐—ฎ

Jalan Rumbia is Penangโ€™s โ€œLittle Indonesiaโ€ district. Itโ€™s only 15 minutesโ€™ drive from my place here, but the last time I was in that area was back in 2005, during a business trip to Penang from Singapore.

Somehow, because there is always so much to see or do elsewhere in Penang, it never occurred to me to back there to explore the genuine Indonesian cuisine there ever since I moved to Penang 3 years ago. Until today, that is, when a friend suggested we have a look at what โ€œLittle Indonesiaโ€ has to offer in terms of dining options.

The whole place โ€œfeelsโ€ Indonesian the moment we stepped out of our car. Indonesians who work in the manufacturing and logistics hubs here in Bayan Baru, one of Penangโ€™s industrial free trade zones, live in this area, so there are numerous regional Indonesian eateries catering to their food preferences. Local Malay cuisine, although it โ€œlookedโ€ rather similar to Indonesian, tastes very different, so Indonesians tend to gravitate towards their own types of eating places, if given the choice.

Minang cuisine from Nasi Padang Uni Sari. Minang or Padang food is usually rice, served with a plethora of curried dishes.

Batak cuisine from Lince Br Simamora Toba Food.

Besides restaurants, there are also kerb-side food stands where customers queue up to pick-and-choose their lunch options. The whole place gets busy at lunch-time as factory workers streamed out to get their sustenance.

We opted to eat at the the popular Medan eatery, ๐—”๐˜†๐—ฎ๐—บ ๐—๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ธ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ธ ๐— ๐—ฏ๐—ฎ๐˜… ๐—”๐—ฟ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—น๐—น๐—ฎ. The busy eatery offers a good choice of rice and noodle dishes, paired with either Indonesian-style batter-fried chicken or beef meatballs (โ€œbaksoโ€).

Our lunch options today consisted of:

  1. ๐—”๐˜†๐—ฎ๐—บ ๐—๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ธ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ธ - crisp-fried chicken, with tempe and eggplant. A really explosively-spicy traditional chili dip, prepared using Mbak Ardillaโ€™s family recipe, was served on the side.
    The Medanese are not too big into greens, or raw salads, so a lunch plate here would typically look like this - fried morsels, steamed white rice, and a dollop of immolate-your-own-tongue chili paste.
    The fried chicken was okay (Iโ€™d had better in a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet!)

  1. ๐—”๐˜†๐—ฎ๐—บ ๐—š๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ธ ๐—ž๐—ฒ๐—ท๐˜‚ - shredded chicken, slathered with extra-spicy chili paste and melted cheese. Served with rice and fresh cucumber.

If we thought the chili dip served on the side for our Ayam Jingkrak dish was Hellishly-hot, that same dip mustโ€™ve been ladled into the Ayam Geprek (in copious amounts) when the shredded chicken was griddle-cooked, then topped with shredded cheese, which would then be tossed into the whole ensemble until the whole thing looked like some lava flow from a volcanic eruption.
Then, they served it to us with white rice, and a token serving of exactly two cucumber slices. The dish was so spicy, we left most of it uneaten.

  1. ๐—•๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐˜€๐—ผ ๐—š๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐˜ - giant beef meatball with hard-boiled egg filling, with small beef-balls and โ€œsemur ayamโ€ (soy-braised chicken pieces) in a spiced chicken broth.
    The large meatball was typical of Indonesian cooking - very toothsome texture. The Indonesians adopted the meatball concept from early Chinese emigrants, hence the name โ€œbaksoโ€, which is Fujianese for โ€œround meatballsโ€. The Chinese have been settling places like Java for 700 years, so many of Indonesiaโ€™s dishes have Chinese origins.

The bakso geranat - I think โ€œgeranatโ€ is a reference to the meatballโ€™s โ€œgrenadeโ€ size! I Googled, but thereโ€™s nothing on the Web, except this restaurantโ€™s menu listing, which used that term. But there are lots of Indonesian eateries with โ€œbakso bola tenisโ€ (โ€œtennis-ballโ€ meatballs).

The โ€œBakso geranatโ€ here, or any of those โ€œbakso bola tenisโ€, are essentially Indonesian Scotch eggs, with hard-boiled egg centres, but inadvertently served in a lightly-spiced (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) broth.

The version here is very tasty, and intense beef-chicken broth. The bowl also contained smaller beef balls on the side, a tofu puff stuffed with minced beef, and small, bony pieces of chopped soy-braised chicken, then topped off with chopped scallions & shallots.

The eatery is halal, as their clientele would be mostly Muslims, so no beer or any alcoholic drinks. W ordered the ๐—˜๐˜€ ๐—”๐—น๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐—ธ๐—ฎ๐˜ (avocado-chocolate shake), ๐—˜๐˜€ ๐—Ÿ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ถ (iced lychee juice), and ๐—˜๐˜€ ๐—ฆ๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ ๐—Ÿ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜‚ (iced rose syrup with lime).

Dishing out the meatball soup options:

Meatballs of various shapes and sizes. Indonesian meatballs tend to be rather hard & chewy, as their recipes called for tendon & other parts of the animals to be minced with the meat, and with copious amounts of cornstarch added to the mix. If your meatballs donโ€™t turn out tough and rubbery/bouncy, then itโ€™s NOT authentically-Indonesian!

I had a culture shock when I had my first Indonesian โ€œbaksoโ€ - in Jakarta back in 1997. Iโ€™d sworn itโ€™ll be the last time I am having one. Turned out, Iโ€™d gotten used to it, but wonโ€™t order it out of choice. I want my meatballs to actually taste of meat!

Ayam Jingkrak Mbax Ardilla
6L-G, Jalan Rumbia, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 11am to 8pm daily
Tel: +60 17-891 3404


Iโ€™m usually envious of your meals, Peter, but this one just didnt do it for me.


I can understand that. :joy: :joy: :joy:
Itโ€™s a sort of once in a lifetime meal for me, too.

That is a hilarious and frightening description.


I had to think of something which aptly describe that moment when you realised how bad it was, and you had to force yourself to swallow it.

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The chilli in Indonesian food is perhaps the hottest Iโ€™ve ever come across.

I recall my first rijstaffel in Amsterdam. We were advised on the order in which to eat the various dishes - โ€œStart here and eat clockwise. The last one is very hotโ€.

โ€œVery hotโ€ was an understatement. It was a good hour later, back at the hotel, when feeling returned to my mouth.


Koreans love their spice, but for me, Thai food takes the cake. And I gladly submit to the pain. :exploding_head:

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