Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Penang food in Jakarta

Plaza Indonesia is a spanking new shopping centre in the heart of Jakarta. It is also the location of the hotel I stayed in during a working visit to Indonesia recently. I walked out of my hotel lobby, pass a security check point, and I was on the 3rd floor of the shopping complex. On this same floor is a restaurant called Penang Place.

The place offered Penang food. I was immensely curious. I wasn't exactly hungry for Penang makan, being in Indonesia only the first day. But I wanted to find out what this place was all about, and I also wanted something for this blog. So I went in, sat down and before even ordering anything, started on my photography.

The place was quite deserted. Perhaps it was still early for dinner.

The menu was a mixture of Indonesian and Penang fares. The first few pages of it were all Indonesian. I thought - what the heck, was this place Penang only in name? It was the second half of the menu that the Penang flavors started to appear. And it was very comprehensively Penang too. They offer char koay teow, nasi lemak, curry mee, prawn mee, nasi kandar, roti canai and many others.

I was tempted to try everything. I finally settled for the nasi lemak. My option was partly because it was a kind of package offer, with a spring roll and dessert (ABC) thrown in. The drink, iced lemon tea, was not included.

The nasi lemak was really quite good. It was pleasingly presented, on a nice big plate adorned with a banana and 2 pandan leaves. It was served with a piece of rendang chicken, slice of omelet, keropok, some sambal on slices of cucumber, and peanut and ikan bilis. A bowl of curry sauce was served separately. The rice was very aromatic with santan flavor. The chicken was rather dry and the peanuts and ikan bilis were different. The curry sauce was totally alien in the context of Malaysian nasi lemak. Still, I enjoyed it.

The spring roll was so so. It was served piping hot - just out of the wok. The skin was nice and crispy, but the filling was weird. I didn't know what it was inside. It certainly was not the usual filling we have in Malaysia and it did taste strange.

The air batu campur (ABC) was also different. On the surface, it looked like the typical bowl of ABC we have in Malaysia - a hill of shaved ice with red rose syrup and evaporated milk.

Digging in, the ingredients were very different. The only ingredient common to Malaysian ABC was the leong fun (涼粉, cincau). The other stuffs in it were some sago-like gelatin, pieces of lychee and pieces of avocado. Avocado in ABC! It was interesting and good. Except that it was too sweet, the bowl of ABC was very nice.

Penang food in Jakarta, like the island, was a charming experience even though it was somewhat different. I wished I had company that evening so that we could order and sample a bigger variety of what they had to offer. But being alone, I perhaps had to wait for my next trip. The restaurant was still quite empty when I paid my bill. And as I walked out, I couldn't help wondering if people in Jakarta are aware of the fame of Penang food.


  1. my only question is why on earth would u look for malaysian food when u visit indonesia?

  2. Malaysian food are almost the same as Indonesian food (from the Sumatra region), in terms of ingredients being used and spicy flavours. I am trying to find Nasi Kandar in Jakarta, but still haven't found one.