Masakan Padang

On Saturday night we ate at a restaurant that serves Masakan Padang (MAH-sah-kahn pah-DAHNG; Padang-style food). This is the closest thing to the national food style of Indonesia, a country with thousands of islands and hundreds of distinct cultures. Padang is the capital of the province of West Sumatra.

Masakan Padang is neat because of the way they serve it. When you get to the restaurant, you just sit down, and the waiters swarm you. First, they bring a big mug of hot water (the hotness is supposed to be a sign that they boiled it) and a little pan of cold water to wash your hands in. Then the food comes. Every dish that the restaurant makes–usually between 10 and 15 dishes, comes out in a small portion on a little plate, along with rice, sambal (SAHM-bahl; chili spice paste), and sometimes fruit. We counted 12 dishes plus a bowl of soup for the two of us, and this does not include extra rice or fruit. You eat only the dishes that you like, and you pay only for what you eat. If you touch it, though, you bought it. It is good, and the food is nice and spicy.

Our dinner the other night consisted of the following:

1. Fried chicken. Traditional Indonesian deep-fried chicken, leg and thigh only.
2. Some other type of fried chicken. This type had a sort of coating on it.
3. Boiled chicken. Again, leg and thigh, but it seemed to have been boiled in stock.
4. Chicken curry. This dish had a thick coconut-based curry sauce and was absolutely fabulous.
5. Rendang daging. This is a type of Indonesian pot roast, with an unidentified meat (beef, lamb, or mutton, or maybe goat) slow-cooked in coconut, spices, and herbs until it almost falls apart. There is a heavy use of spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. This is my favorite (TP).
6. Dendeng daging. Again, an unidentified red meat, but this time sliced thin, boiled, dried, pounded, and then deep-fried like a potato chip. No, really.
7. Fish blocks in red sauce. Don’t really know much more than that, but they were good.
8. Steamed cingkong. These are just steamed greens, sort of like spinach.
9. Pickle/stew of chili, okra, and something else. Very good, but oily.
10. Hard-boiled eggs in curry sauce. This is very common in Indonesia.
11. Shrimp and clam stew. We didn’t try this because I’m allergic to shrimp.
12. Indonesian latkes. These are Julie’s favorite. They are little, fried potato-shallot-garlic-scallion patties that are heavenly. They are like latkes, but thicker and with a smaller diameter.

We ate numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12. For dessert we had sliced papaya, watermelon, and pineapple. You mainly eat with your hands so you get really messy, plus you get really hot because everything is spicy and there’s no AC, but it’s great. Plus, you feel like a king cause you have all these dishes stacked in front of you.