Indonesian Nasi Bali

#FoodFri Glutton in Jakarta

It’s lunchtime here in Singapore so I thought it’s an appropriate time to launch this week’s #FoodFri.

I was in Jakarta last weekend and was quite disappointed by the food there.

But I only have myself to blame. Despite all the research on food in Glodok, I didn’t really jot down the locations nor print out a Google Map of Chinatown.

Well, not everything was terrible so here’s a less hunger-inducing version of the Glutton series.

The Good

Indonesian Nasi Bali

Indonesian Nasi Bali

The restaurant/cafe at our hotel served quite tasty nasi (rice dishes). Since I’ve never been to Bali, I ordered the Nasi Bali.

The portion that came was quite small but D reminded me that what we have back home are actually supersized.

The whole dish was slightly spicy but tasty. I even had a fish paste on a lemongrass stick which was cute.

Seafood Kempinski Hotel buffet

Cold seafood

We did a very un-budget traveller thing in Jakarta and splurged at the buffet restaurant of a 5-star hotel. Hotel K. Our handbags needed to be checked and we had to pass a metal detector before we could go in.

The main mean spread was alright. The sushi counter a bit too stingy–salmon was gone and never to appear after one hour. The cold seafood was fine, although I would love to have raw oysters instead.

The redeeming feature were the desserts. My favorite was the sticky toffee pudding.

What I enjoyed most at the restaurant was gawking at the lifestyles (and hairdos) of the rich and famous.

Blueberry pancake house

A toast at Blueberry Pancake House

When we were walking in search of the illusive Jalan Jaksa, we passed by this little restaurant. (If it’s in Lonely Planet, I’m not sure how little it is.)

They had a buffet breakfast spread so we got that. They served fried rice, fried eggs, fried chicken, fried potato patty, non-fried fruits. I had a lot of the coffee and tea as well.

Indonesian food stall

Pre-buka puasa set up

While we were at Blok M, the hawkers were preparing to operate after the fasting period. The stuff looked tasty but we had more important food to tend to. Maybe we can come back next time.

Bread Papa creampuff

Creampuff and strawberries

Not quite an originally Indonesian dish but I enjoyed my cheaper-than-Singapore Bread Papa creampuff at the airport. The organic strawberries I got from the supermarket were a bit too sour.


Teh botol, less sugar

Teh Botol, less sugar

A colleague of mine introduced me to Teh Botol (literally “bottled tea”) before I went to Jogjakarta. The full sugared Teh Botol is too sweet for our liking but the Less Sugar version is like Goldilock’s last porridge. Just right.

Iced coffee at Tomodachi Cafe

Ice coffee

Also from our hotel cafe/restaurant. The ice cream and coffee went really well.

Kopitiam Oei

Kopitiam Oei

While walking aimlessly after finding Jalan Jaksa, we stumbled upon this faux-vintage kopitiam. It has a 1960’s feel to everything.

The menu was a fake newsletter, telling people the origins of the place. (“No, it did not really exist in olden days. The coffeeshop is a recent creation”.)

I had two coffees there. The kopi jawa was a really “manly” drink with its dark liquid and coffee grounds while the Vietnamese-styled coffee lack the buttery taste.

I had one too many cups of coffes, as I found out an hour later. I was feeling nauseous for a long time after that.

The Ugly: Why is Bakmi GM popular?

Bakmi GM

Horrible food at Bakmi GM

I was looking forward to bouncy bakmi and huge meaty siowmay which I had in Jogjakarta. The flavor, the chewiness of everything!

Unfortunately, we visited Bakmi GM. It was the only visible (meaning a HUGE sign) bakmi place around and we thought the quality would be good.

When we reached the first floor of the building, we found ourselves with plenty of other Indonesians. This must mean that the food is good.

Our order was taken and paid on the spot. However, it took a really long time for our change to come back. In fact, our food arrived before the change did.

The avocado juice was incredibly good (as expected of Indonesia). However, the main dishes were not as tasty. D liked her veggie with oyster sauce but the rest were a joke.

My noodles were limp and all stuck together when I poked them with my chopsticks. It was not a good sign. I nibbled on it and discovered it tasted exactly like the terrible noodles I had as a kid.

Flashback of terrible noodles: It was a road trip and mom’s friends drove us to Kinabalu Park. We stopped by a shop for noodles. The dish was too disgusting that we children didn’t have much of it. Mom’s friend (Auntie L) insisted that the noodles were packed and brought along with us to eat later. In the end, I “accidentally” left the gross bad of soggy dough in the changing room. End of flashback.

Our fried siowmay followed. Instead of a fried meatball, it tasted like turnip cake. I felt like sobbing over the meal (mostly caused by caffeine induced overdrive of emotions).

We had to order another glass of avocado juice and pangsit or fried wonton to get the taste of noodles out of our mouths. The pangsit was ok with the meat as sidekick to the fried dough.

Overall, it was not a good meal. I’m sorry for being disappointed.

Can you share locations of good eating places in Jakarta? I promise to write them down when I visit next time.

30 hours in Jakarta

It feels like only yesterday that we took a taxi to the airport [to fly to Jakarta]. Wait a minute… It was yesterday.
-inner monologue

I just came back from a weekend trip in Jakarta. It wasn’t our (D and I) best planned trip but getting out of SIN and smell another country’s air (whether it is fresh or not is up for debate)

I bought the tickets to Jakarta on a whim. AirAsia was having a sale and the tickets to the capital of Indonesia was around S$100 for a return trip.

While we did read up on interesting things to do, we didn’t achieve much. One reason was that there were no tourist maps to figure out where we were. The other was that we didn’t take enough notes. The weather was also too hot.

Enough excuses, here’s a run down of our 30 hours in Jakarta. While I wish it looked like something from the NYT, it’s really just a journal of two people getting lost and eating a lot.

Day 1, Saturday

11.10am Plane arrives on time. Take the airport grounds shuttle to airport. Find counter for pre-booked cab into the city.

AirAsia’s 2 minute bus

11.30am-1pm Stuck in traffic from airport to hotel.

1.30pm Hotel system down so cannot check in. Have lunch at hotel restaurant.

2pm Finished lunch. Check in.

3pm Freshen up. Get out. Take Trans Jakarta bus to Glodok, slightly worried about one hour (according to Google Maps) bus ride.

They see me rollin’

3.30pm Thanks for bus lane, reach Glodok earlier than expected. Walk aimlessly because of no maps. End up in electronics shopping mall and clothes/phone/lots of stuff mall.

4pm End up in Kota (one bus stop away.) Cannot find entrance to Kota Station, climb like monkeys to get onto platform. Take bus to other end of terminal at Blok M. Stare at Jakarta’s enormous malls while bus zips past. See Pizza Man Statue.

Pizza Man!

5pm Reach terminal. Lose way at terminal, walking past interesting pre-buka puasa stalls. Find right terminal.

6pm Reach Hotel K for dinner buffet. Food so so but patrons are very interesting. Rich ladies here are dressed to the nines while there husbands look rich (aka well-fed). Children deck out in kid’s wear section of branded clothing lines.


8.30pm Leave restaurant. Spend time at bookstore. Buy two Sharpies, a kid’s guide to Arabic alphabets and some stickers for name card.

Le shopping

10pm Take cab back. Cabbie almost take wrong direction, directed him to right way.

12.15am Sleep.

Day 2 Sunday

~6.30am Wake up, do morning routine.

7:00 am Go in search of a breakfast place. End up at BlueBerry Pancake House, have its buffet breakfast. Load up stomach with fried rice, toast and coffee.

Bread and butter

8.30am Take a stroll on Jalan Jaksa, trying to look for the illusive Tourist Information Center to get a map of the city. Find a shack with “Jaksa Tourist Information Center”.
Man at shack does not have maps but asks if we want a city tour in his car. Decline, continue walking.

9.30am Find retro kopitiam. Have two coffees while enjoying its Wi-Fi–Java coffee with grounds and Vietnamese coffee.


10.30am Take cab back to hotel. Finish packing everything.

12noon Leave hotel for lunch and grocery shopping. End up at Bakmi GM which has the most horrible tasting noodles–how on earth can anyone swallow that thing?

Head to McCafe for a Mango Frappe. Read. Head back to hotel before 3pm.

3pm Leave on pre-booked car to airport. Napped on airport, waking up at times to answer driver’s questions.

4pm to 6.50pm Reach the airport with a lot of time to spare. Check in. Ate a cream puff and strawberries. Had a half-hour foot massage which left my feet feeling very light. Fly back

First thoughts of Jakarta

My first thoughts about Jakarata were: OMG why is everything so freaking big here.

I swear, the buildings (except residential areas) are all at least five storeys high! All the shopping malls are like gigantic pyramids (if pyramids were cubes or rectangular-shapes).

The traffic is crazy but if your routes are along the Trans Jogja stops, it’s a literal breeze since the bus company has its exclusive “busway”.

Bakmi GM’s noodles were disgusting. How is it possible when Yogyakarta’s Mie Nusantara was so good we visited twice? Do Jakartarians not know what is good noodles?

Most disappointing noodles

To end this post on a good note, here’s a photo of a snoozing kitty. <3

#FoodFri: Fried duck + rice in Yogyakarta

The first time I’ve ever tried deep fried duck was in Indonesia.

Compared to the fat (injection induced) friend chicken I’ve eaten, fried duck (especially in Indonesia) is very skinny. Imagine roasted duck but drier and tougher. Yes, that’s how it tastes like. Not that it’s not tasty that way, but it’s just special.

Unlike back home where meat or vegetable play the main role in a meal, the rice is the leading character here. (Let’s ignore the raw veg, I don’t eat raw veg.)

There’s a special chilli that comes along with the dish. Unfortunately, I don’t eat chilli too so I can’t tell if it’s any good.

#FoodFri is a post up on each Friday featuring a dish or meals I’ve had when travelling (or staying put). Happy eating!

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Read: The Naked Traveler

The Naked Traveler and I on the train to Solo

I can’t believe I forgot to mentioned bookstores in my “10 things I love about central Java, Indonesia” post.

The bookstore, along with the supermarket, was one of the unspoken “Must Visit” sites for us. On the first day, we visited the Gramedia bookstore in Malioboro Mall. It looked like a regular Popular but inside it is 50 times more awesome because there was 49 times less assessment books.

The bookstore is part of the Kompas Gramedia Group conglomerate which also has a publishing division churning out volumes of out translated works such as The Hunger Games.

I decided that I should checkout the travel section to find out what sort of travel non-fiction is popular in other countries.

At the travel section, I found a dizzying array of travel guide books and literature. Most of them were money-saving indie travel guides with strangely similar topics: “Travel XX country with YYY rupiah!” Replace XX with a country with YYY the amount of money and you have a new book. Continue reading

Can art be a crime? #freestickerlady

On Tuesday, reports about the Singapore police arresting a 25-year-old “vandal” trended on Twitter and my Facebook wall. I’m not sure what the exact cause of arrest was, I think she was taken in for spray painting “MY GRANDFATHER BUILDING” on a pristine white wall and “MY GRANDFATHER ROAD” on a pristine gray asphalt.

Her works can be seen on Tumblr.

Besides spray painting, she was believed to have pasted stickers at on top of the button of pedestrian crossing lights. I find the stickers whimsical, something Zooey Deschanel would do after she checks the directions with Siri:

in Singapore

According to the Singapore Vandalism Act, enacted in 1966, those who are found guilty of vandalism “shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, and shall also, subject to sections 325(1) and 330(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code 2010, be punished with caning with not less than 3 strokes and not more than 8 strokes”. (TL;DR version.)

It’s strange that we’re still using a law enacted in 1966 for the arrest. Back then, gloves were still a hit among the ladies.

Street art overseas

Discussing this with D, she said the point of argument should focus on “how art cannot be a crime?”

I remember being impressed by graffiti during my travels so I scoured my photo collection for some street art/acts of vandalism.

In Nantes, this caught my attention because of Darth Vader and Little Miss Vadar.

in Nantes

Make love, not arrests.

in Barcelona

The city of Yogyakarta is famous for its graffiti.

in Yogyakarta

in Yogyakarta

The Mission in San Francisco is famous for its murals. There’s even an app for that.

in San Francisco

in San Francisco

I suspect the graffiti in KL were city-sanctioned and even sponsored by a paint company.

in KL

I hope Sticker Lady would be given a lighter sentence instead of prison time.

S$11 to S$100, rooming in Java

For the Indonesia trip, we did a daring thing and booked only one hotel for the whole trip. This worked well for Indonesia but I don’t recommend you do this for expensive cities where cheap rooms run out really quick.

We stayed in different types of accomodation–five different places to be exact. The ones which we booked on the spot was done after much consultation with the Internet and Lonely Planet (most of it was LP’s help, take that guidebook scorners).

Among the room, two of them had resident cockroaches which I killed with a shoe and a water scoop respectively. One was extra posh, another reasonably comfortable. Only three had hot water while the other two were cold showers. Continue reading

Lesson from Kraton Surakarta: We were born to die


April 5. Solo.

On our last morning in Solo, we planned to visit the two palaces.

We took two motor-trishaws (becak) to Surakarta Kraton on a lovely morning. The drivers passed by batik shops but did not stop. I suspect they deliberately drive by to prove that they made an effort to turn into the street.

After paying for the palace entrance, an older man volunteered to be our tour guide. (Later he hinted for the guide tips but that’s just part of the protocol.)

We did the tour in Indonesian since that’s probably a better way to learn about the place than an English tour, although I think he’s able to do both.
Continue reading

A few Indonesian TV gems

Although I haven’t had a TV set since moving to Singapore, TVs hold a really special place inside my heart. I grew up in front of the TV set, watching cartoons like Mighty Mouse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tom & Jerry, Flintstone and all that crazy stuff.

Sure having the Internet and its videos-on-demand now is convenient since I’m able to watch anything I want. But I still like TV programs because it forces you to watch things that they want you to watch, not what you choose. (Well, you can choose what you want to watch but that’s an illusion of choice.)

So while we were in Indonesia, I watched more TV than I did the entire first quarter of the year. On nights when we weren’t out watching live-action plays, we were cooped up in the room with the stupid box because the public transport stops quite early.

From those few nights (and sometimes day) of TV, I had a glimpse of the wonderful world of Indonesian TV.

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Nasi gudeg Jogja

Glutton in Yogyakarta and Solo

Subtitle: Makan-makan in Indonesia

I love eating and food in Indonesia sure was good. I’m not sure how much weight I’ve gained during this trip. Hopefully, all the calorie intake has been canceled out by all the walking with my heavy backpack.

While we spent two nights in Solo, most of the eating was done in Yogyakarta. Here are some of the highlights of the food we ate.

Nasi Gudeg

Yogyakarta is famous for nasi gudeg which has cooked young jackfruit inside. (I had thought that the dark cubes of jackfruit was meat. I’m easy to bluff when it comes to food.)

We only had gudeg twice during this trip. The first was not as good as the last I had. The last dish was right before our plane back in a shop just around the corner of the road leading out of the airport. The dish was fragrant with coconut milk and the sides were really flavorful. Yummy!
Continue reading