If you are ever in Jakarta, the one local food you have to try is their Nasi Padang, a cuisine which originated from western Sumatra. Nasi Padang chains of restaurants have sprouted all over the country and in Jakarta alone, there are too many choices of different chains of the ubiquitous style of cooking.
Nasi Padang is so named after the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province. Nasi Padang (Padang-style rice) is a miniature banquet of meats, fish, vegetables, and spicy chilli pastes eaten with plain white rice. It is Sumatra’s great contribution to Indonesian Cuisine.
It is best to go for a meal in such restaurants with a few companions in order to order a variety of dishes. Most of these restaurants serve the dishes Hedan style. The waiter will bring to your table a dizzying array of different dishes, stack them into the centre of the table, and he will fetch whatever else you order specifically from him. He then leaves and you can choose to eat whatever you want. He comes back at the end of your meal and charges you only for the dishes you have touched.
Those seemingly untouched dishes are then retrieved and no doubt recycled to the next diner.
You are forced to have complete faith in humanity and trust that the last guy before you is not a pig and had not touched those dishes or made some discrete tastings with his used spoon!
Everyone has their favourite chain and outlet and the prospect of trying to find common consensus is like finding Kim Jong Un, Trump, and Xi Jin Pin in a onsen pool scrubbing each other’s back and popping the odd blackhead or two (ok so the only image I could find is Trump and Putin but you get the drift).
Yes a truly disturbing image. See – now you won’t order so much ?
I have tried the chains Sederhana and Natrabu and liked them. Not so crazy about Garuda. Want to try Pagi Sore which comes very highly recommended by a friend staying in Jakarta. Here is a useful article about the various chains available:
I had a small window for a late lunch yesterday and asked the hotel concierge which is the nearest branch available and was told there was a branch of Sederhana nearby.
Sederhana started life as a small kiosk in Bendungan Hilir, Jakarta, R.M Padang Sederhana in 1972. Currently, they have around 40 outlets in Jakarta alone and another around 30 more within the nations. Its trademark is serving the highest quality local food at affordable prices.
I walked in to a relatively empty restaurant at 245 pm. The server exhibited the usual warm and gracious Indonesian hospitality, meaning he let me wander gangster-like into the food counter area to take close up pictures of the dishes. Along the way, I pointed to those dishes I wanted since I was tragically solo and didn’t want him to bring a mountain of food to my table.
I must confess that the first time I was introduced to Ayam Pop, I was underwhelmed. Firstly, this is because all the chicken used in Padang restaurants in Jakarta are malnourished and bulimic, forced to run laps three times a day while being placed on a strict Keto diet.
And for Ayam Pop they are completely Skinless.
Which sick individual thought of this dish ? It’s like marrying the only Victoria Secrets model without boobs and during the marriage, she refused to eat and lost another shit load of weight.
And don’t get me started on the preparation. They gentle fry the aneroxic piece of chicken twig in oil which has been hardly heated up, so it comes out looking totally sheepish and naked with just a light sheen like an Englishman from Cornwall who had just applied coconut tanning oil and seeing the sun for the first time.
My inner wolf raged.
But tell you what, it is an acquired taste and the Ayam Pop is now one of my go to dishes in any Nasi Padang restaurant (not all chains have it). The taste is clean, the twiggy chicken is strangely tasty and the chilli sauce somehow brings out a different dimension to the chicken. I thoroughly enjoyed it today.
In my humble opinion, the beef rendang is the soul of every Padang restaurant. In Jakarta, all the rendang I have tasted were all intense, robust and extremely salty. If the Ayam Pop was the delicate dish to savour, the rendang is meant to fill your being with deep intense flavours, and assail your senses without apologies. The rendang in Sederhana was unapologetically aromatic, the grated coconut the beef has been slow fried in gives the dish a nice dense texture. The salt is a trifle over the top for me but it remains a delicious dish nevertheless.
Grilled Gurame Fish
The colours on this fish looked amazing so I ordered it. It was slathered with a sweet sauce that was tangy and aromatic. Unfortunately all Nasi Padang dishes are served at room temperature and cold grilled fish just didn’t work with me.
Some if not most Nasi Padang dishes are acceptable cold but not grilled fish. Pity.
Squid with green chilli padi
The crushed green chilli worked well with the squid which were largely plain in taste but offers a nice chewy texture. I could taste the salt and oil in which they were fried and this matched the plain rice one eats with it.
This dish comprises of green chill, salt and oil. A friend once taught me that the oil used to fry this chilli sambal should be old recycled oil that has been used to fry for eg fish or chicken. The savoury oil, together with salt, gives an umami kick to the dish. The sambal ijo at Sederhana was delicious and went extremely well with the white rice served.
I ordered sate or grilled meat skewers on a whim. Big mistake cos this is another dish which came completely cold. And they had drowned the skewers unceremoniously with a sick looking peanut sauce that looked like my dog had vomited over it, then invited the neighbourhood dogs and cats to defecate over it. Not cool at all.
And the damages for all this ? The princely sum of about the equivalent of S$14.
Now I feel less bad leaving the turd sate relatively untouched.
Apartemen Sudirman Park, Ruko A3 – A5
Jl. KH Mas Mansyur, Sudirman, Jakarta Pusat
Opening times: 9am to 10pm