[Penang, Malaysia] Nasi Tumpeng lunch at ๐—ก๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฎ ๐—•๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ถ

We were at Nona Bali, Penangโ€™s premier Balinese dining spot, for lunch today. We pre-ordered the Nasi Tumpeng, a celebratory rice dish which the Javanese and Balinese normally serve during happy, auspicious occasions, e.g. birthdays, engagements/weddings, etc.

Nasi Tumpeng is a spectacular dish - itโ€™s meant to be โ€œbigโ€, as any centerpiece for a meal should be. Served on a large communal platter (known in Java as a โ€œtampahโ€), the Nasi Tumpeng consists of a huge conical-shaped mound of turmeric-tinted rice, gently-spiced with aromatics like cinnamon, cloves and pandan leaves, and enriched with coconut milk.

Yellow is an auspicious colour in Hinduism as it symbolizes not just wealth & knowledge, but also purity, peace & happiness. Even as the Javanese nowadays are mostly Muslims, they still observe the use of this traditional colour out of reverence for their heritage. Hence, Nasi Tumpeng will always be yellow-hued.

Arrayed around the rice would be the side-dishes: various curried or spiced meats and vegetables. Eggs are a must, as they symbolize fertility.

Nasi is Javanese for โ€œriceโ€, whereas Tumpeng is the acronym for โ€œMe๐˜๐˜‚ Kudu Sing Me๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ด, Mlebu Kudu Sing Kencengโ€, which translates as โ€œif you do go, do it with vigourโ€. The meaning of that phrase refers to life itself, where one is encouraged to face it with confidence & enthusiasm, from the moment one is born.

The conical shape of Nasi Tumpeng is meant to represent the sacred Mount Semeru, a volcano in East Java which was believed to be the abode of the gods in pre-Islamic Hindu Java.

The 7-alphabet acronym โ€œTumpengโ€ is also represented by 7 side-dishes arrayed around the rice cone. The 7 side-dishes in Nasi Tumpeng are also intended to symbolize the seven types of assistance that one can expect to receive from the gods, if one prays for them. The numeral โ€œ7โ€ is regarded as auspicious in Javanese culture: as โ€œpituโ€ (Javanese for โ€œ7โ€) sounds close to โ€œpitulunganโ€ (โ€œhelpโ€).

The dishes are also expected to represent the bounties from the land, and the sea.

Nona Bali is co-founded by two very enthusiastic restaurateurs: Penang-born Peter Tait, and 36-year-old Balinese chef, I Made Siduarta (everyone calls him Made, pronounced โ€œMah-dayโ€).

We also ordered the signature Balinese Sate Lilit - spiced fish-paste moulded around lemongrass stems and grilled. I first had these on my very first trip to Bali back in 1992, when I was a financial accountant with Singapore Airlines, and it was a business trip. I remembered spending 3 weeks in Bali - in office attire on week-days, sitting on my work-desk (SIAโ€™s office there was located in the Bali Beach Hotel on Sanur), facing the golden sandy beaches & azure blue waters. Everyone outside were in beachwear and frolicking in the surf or sunbathing. I was punching numbers on my calculator, helping my Balinese finance colleagues prepare their reports. It was sheer torture.
The sate lilit came with a thick, caramelly soy sauce (โ€œkicap manisโ€) dip. Give it a quick squeeze of lime - absolutely delicious.

We also ordered the Bebek Ijo - fried duck, smothered with a green chili-based sauce. We werenโ€™t really expecting a lunch-plate serving, or what the Javanese call Nasi Ambeng - it came with steamed white rice, a small fresh salad, and a scattering of prawn crackers.

The duck was first deep-fried, then braised till the meat has that fall-off-the-bone, but still toothsome, texture.

But the piece-de-resistance, of course, has to be the showy Nasi Tumpeng. We absolutely enjoyed digging into the miniature mountain, loaded with goodies on all sides. The 4 of us sat around its perimeter, and started gnawing into it simultaneously from different directions like a quartet of hungry beavers - if all goes to plan, we should meet at the centre of the platter.

Turned out, we couldnโ€™t finish the food, although I thought we did quite well. I also think Iโ€™m not going to eat again for the next 48 hours.

Of course, since I have 4 stomachs like a cow, being stuffed with a quarter of a mountain of rice and 7 types of meats & stuff is not going to stop me having my favourite part of any meal - the dessert!

Okay, admittedly, we were all pretty stuffed - so we ordered 3 types of desserts to share between the 4 of us:

Kukus Injin - this was, according to Chef Made, his signature dessert dish - black sticky rice with freshly-grated coconut, coconut milk sauce and palm sugar, garnished with sugar iced-lime peel. It was rich and delish. Absolutely worth the calories.

Biu Gulung - deep-fried spring rolls filled with cinnamon-scented bananas & raisins, drizzled with chocolate sauce and served with ice-cream.

Tapai pulut - fermented glutinous rice topped with fruits. This was my fave dessert - very traditional Indonesian/Malay.

Nona Bali has been operating in Penang for nearly 10 years now, but has only been in this location since August this year. I much prefer this new place - brighter and spiffier.

Co-owners, Made and Peter

Address
Nona Bali Restaurant
23, Lintang Burma, Pulau Tikus, 10350 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-228 1630
Opening hours: 11.30am to 9pm daily, except Wednesdays (closed).

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Man, what a feast!

I wish I could get good Indonesian food near me. Or even mediocre Indonesian food. But, apart from a couple of dishes at a pan-Asian place, thereโ€™s absolutely zilch.

Indonesian food was just as difficult to find even in London! I guess if Indonesians emigrate to your part of the world, theyโ€™d choose to settle in the Netherlands, due to their historical links with the Dutch.

A few years back, fellow Chowhound, Limster, took me to this wonky little place near London Chinatown called Indonesian Mini Market. It was on Charing Cross Road, I believe. Served Indonesian snacks and a couple of simple noodle dishes. That hole-in-the-wall was the best place for an authentic taste of Indonesia in the whole of London! And itโ€™s shut down since!

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Yes, Iโ€™m sure thatโ€™s the case. And the only two occasions when Iโ€™ve had an Indonesian meal, itโ€™s been in Amsterdam (although both times itโ€™s been rijstaffel which is a Dutch colonial meal, rather than traditional Indonesian food)

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I love your posts - all the colors and the food. Thank you for writing them.

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My pleasure! I do hope we all can travel again soon. I am raring to be able to fly and explore food places around the world again.
If you ever visit this part of the world - do call me. Always happy to catch up with fellow HOers. :grin:

You just hit a soft spot in my heart.

I wonder how touristy Bali is these days. It was tough to find the gems when we went. But honestly, we were intoxicated by the gorgeous environment. We could deal with the annoying tourists (wait, were we they - guilt by association?!).

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My last time in Bali was 2012! It was already so touristy then: bumper-to-bumper traffic to Ubud from Nusa Dua (where we stayed) - in fact, traffic jams everywhere! And we kept bumping into Paris Hilton and her posse hitting the night spots on Nusa Dua and Kuta.

My first time in Bali was 1992, when it was already a prime tourist destination, but you still see large swathes of greenery within the city, and life seemed to move at a more languid pace.

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Thanks - will do!

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:+1: We may be premature, but couldnโ€™t wait any longer and just booked a trip to Singapore ETD late January. With Singaporeโ€™s 88% vaccination rate, vaccination travel lanes and omicron fears abating, we are looking forward to making this trip.

@klyeoh What are your thoughts on the probability of SIN staying open for USA travelers in January? I understand the situation is very dynamic and subject to sudden changes. Would welcome your perspective as a person with boots on the ground on the Malay peninsula.

Cheers!

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Things are so very fluid, @Google_Gourmet . Singapore (and Malaysia) are doing their darnedest to try and return to normal, so you can be rest assured, they will let you in, if things keep improving like now, and barring any unforeseen new variants.

Like a medical doctor friend of mine said, the virus itself will eventually evolve to become a less deadly form of itself, as no virus would have a game plan of killing off any & all host bodies, as it would mean its own extinction.

Still, keep your fingers crossed. At the moment, even flying between Singapore and Penang (it takes only one hour pre-COVID days) is a massive challenge nowadays - sky-high ticket prices, and the need for Singaporeans to take swab tests before boarding their flight to Penang, and then daily swab tests for 10 days once they return to Singapore, reporting their results to the local quarantine authorities.

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Forgot to mention in my post that I miss Limster!

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@digga Me, too! We used to catch up every time I was in London, but Iโ€™d not been able to go there since March last year when the lockdowns began.

Limster still eats out regularly, but heโ€™s terribly busy with his work the past few years, so doesnโ€™t post on CH anymore.

Looks delicious, beautiful presentation. Great report as usual!

I like how the rice has a little hat.

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Yes, their presentation was pretty awesome.

Limster & I never seemed to get on with each other. Just very different attitudes towards restaurants.

@Harters Limsterโ€™s an awfully nice person and, if you two really get to know each other, youโ€™ll be able to find some middle ground.

I guess itโ€™s different for me since we are both from Singapore, so we always have a lot in common to talk about. And I also started off as a Chowhound on the San Francisco Bay Area board, like he was before he moved to the UK.

And donโ€™t forget he did a stint in Boston which is how I got to meet him. Heโ€™s an extremely nice person. And wickid smaht (in Bostonese).

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