Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where to have high tea in Jakarta?

Jakarta is a multicultural city where different customs are adopted. Javanese people may have Manadonese as next-door neighbour. An American who lives with his Balinese husband, may work at the same office with a Bataknese who lives with her Chinese husband. A German who lives in Jakarta with his Timorese wife may be in the same football team with a French man who opens a restaurant with his Vietnamese husband. Basically, it is where a culture assimilation takes place. There are no more original traditions as all are mixed with the new ones.

Including the tea drinking tradition.

When I was a lot smaller, I wasn't living in Jakarta. I spent several years of my childhood in Yogyakarta. While my dad worked in Jakarta, me and my mom and my younger sister stayed in my grandparents' house. I was used to the sight of my Mbah Kakung --grandfather drinking tea in the morning. When he woke up, he would sit on his chair next to the kitchen table, where his cup of hot black tea served by my Simbok --grandmother, awaited. Sometimes he would roll two or three cigarettes while he sat there. And I was just looking. Not everyday that he would add sugar to his tea. Sometimes he liked it without sugar. Sometimes with white sugar. Meanwhile on rare occassions, he had his tea with one or two small pieces of palm sugar. Now this was a unique habit. Instead of add the palm sugar to his tea, he had a small bite of the palm sugar, let it melted in his mouth before he drank his cup of tea. I used to imitate this method of enjoying tea and I have liked it since. My grandfather and grandmother have passed away now. But sometimes when we receive a package of palm sugar from our relatives in Yogyakarta, I would repeat the old ritual in the memory of my grandpa --having a cup of hot black tea with pieces of palm sugar, not in the morning, but depends on when i like to have it.

For me, that's tradition.
High tea, is a foreign tradition that I knew later.

When I was still at school, I didn't think much about the international community in this city and how much Western culture has grown here. Now in my adult years, as I have the chance to have a broader look at the city as well as its inhabitants, I've learned how Western-oriented Jakarta and the Jakartans have become. Of course, I don't have problems with that. With the cultural assimilation, we have enjoyed learning about how good Western food can be, how efficient Western management style can be when implemented in modern companies, how simple and elegant Western fashion style can be, how fascinating Western movies can be and a lot more of other great things we have discovered.

Including how enjoyable high tea can be.

Everytime I think about high tea, I can't help but imagine a group of European ladies in their victorian dresses, sitting around a small table, having a friendly chat or gossiping while enjoying tea with some cakes or cookies. I know the tradition is still upheld today in the Western countries, minus the victorian dresses. What I didn't realise that it has also been widely adopted here in Jakarta.

Almost every five star hotel and up class restaurant in Jakarta offers high tea. People in this city have started to adopt it as a lifestyle. An afternoon meeting with friends, colleagues or business partners would be best to do while enjoying an afternoon tea.

Various types of tea would be offered for you to choose. There are Earl Grey, Chamomile, Darjeeling, Peppermint, Jasmine, green tea as well as the fruit-flavoured tea among others. Finger sandwiches, pastries, scones, carrot cake, fruit tarlet are some of the many items offered to you to accompany the tea you are having.

I still have several photos from my visit to The Marmalade Pantry, a restaurant in Plaza Indonesia. The afternoon tea package here is offered at lower prices than at five-star hotels in Jakarta, yet the tea is great as well as the mini cakes and pastries. However, as well as many other things in Jakarta which could change rapidly, you might as well need to call the restaurant first to find out if they still offer the afternoon tea package.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wijilan: The Centre of Yogyakarta's Gudeg Vendors

For many Javanese including me, gudeg is more than just a traditional food that we love. It's our signature. It's a creation that points out our cultural wealth. It is something that we are proud of. Although actually the dish is not as fancy as mille-feuilles de foie gras, as it only made of young jackfruit stewed in coconut milk. Hehe...but still.

Unlike most western food which is must be eaten right after its cooked, gudeg is commonly served after being 'aged' for days. It's more delicious that way. After it's cooked, the dish will be reheated for several days and sometimes for weeks (!) in order to let the spices absorbed into the jackfruit to create stronger flavours. A gudeg dish which has been aged is more savoury, creamy, taste sweeter and the texture of the coconut milk is thicker. Most Javanese like these.

However, which is most people are not aware of, although gudeg can taste so good, it's actually not  the kind of food that we can eat on a daily basis. It's not a nutritious food. According to Kompas newspaper, the daily reheating is the cause. So unless you wish to suffer from malnourishment, one should only eat gudeg once in a while. Don't visit an Indonesian restaurant and order for gudeg too often or don't let yourself eat the gudeg that your mother has cooked for you more than twice, eventhough that dish is the only dish which is available at your home for days.

In my last trip to Yogyakarta, when I was trying to figure out where I can find good gudeg dish, I ignored completely the acclaimed 'Gudeg Bu Citro'. This gudeg restaurant is no longer a treat exclusive to Jogja in my opinion. It has branches all over Indonesia, including in Jakarta. I found a street however, that is the Wijilan which located near the Keraton area. I think it's a unique street that can add more character to Yogyakarta.

The Wijilan street boasts numerous gudeg vendors which are lining along the street, open their doors for the many amused customers who confuse on choosing which vendor offers better gudeg and service compare to the others.

After a while scanning the street, I chose a gudeg vendor which offered the cleaneast seating area. Cleanliness always serves as a good clue in searching for good food as well as a good man. Hahaha!!! Clean and smells good, that's it.

Many humble food vendors in Yogyakarta offer 'lesehan' style seating, where guests sit on the floor --which is covered by a bamboo mat-- around a low-legged table where the dishes are served. The gudeg vendor that I chose also offered a lesehan area next to its regular dining area (with tall tables and chairs). Honestly, the idea of sitting on the floor to eat outside my own house is not something that I would find convenient. But what I like about the lesehan area in the gudeg vendor is that it wasn't actually a floor where I sat on. It was some sort of a stage made of wood which is set about 30cm taller from the actual floor. So the guests can leave their shoes on the floor and sit on the stage where the low table is being put.

The gudeg vendors in Wijilan are mostly serving the authentic version of Yogyakarta style gudeg. An authentic gudeg dish is supposed to be cooked using kendil (read as kuhn-deal), a round jar made of baked clay and a wood-fired clay stove. So you can taste the delightful smokey flavour from the dish, which you won't get from a gudeg dish which is cooked using pan and a modern stove.

As you can see, the dish plating is very simple. A banana leaf covers the plate. The rice, the gudeg and the side dish are arranged on it. The brown thing is the aged jackfruit stew and chicken stew covered with sweet brown areh sauce (made of coconut milk). Meanwhile the orange coloured thing is the side dish namely the sambal goreng krecek which is actually a beef rind chili stew.

It's a completely delicious dish. And if you like, you can have a cassava starch cracker from the tin cans, which the locals called as 'kerupuk kampung' (read as kuh-rub-puck kum-pong).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

PIA Apple Pie

To be honest I've never heard of PIA apple-pie before. Me and my friends came to PIA’s outlet in a chill afternoon only because we needed a place to have hot drinks after got soaked at The Jungle, and one of our friends had come here and recommend this place to us. I was thinking, "Having a slice of apple-pie fresh from the oven seems okay right now…" But I did not think this place is one of people’s favorite spot for hangout in Bogor.

Looking into the menu, the pie options are quite diverse. In addition to the apple pie of course, there were some other pies that I remember included in the menu such as the black coffee pie, cheese pie, and blueberry cheese pie. I ordered apple pie and blueberry cheese pie, which seemed to be the most expensive compared to the other pies.

It did not take long for me to find out what has attracted many visitors to PIA. Just after a mouthful, I can say here that PIA’s is one of the best apple pies I’ve tasted. It taste good, really, and in my case, addictive.

PIA apple pie has this gorgeous, golden surface. The crust has a dry texture and crumbly. In the mouth, with only two to three times of chewing, the crust will instantly melt on the tongue. It feels right for me (I hate chewing food).

Something which distinguishes PIA’s to those of typical apple pie is the filling. When I heard of apple pie, I immediately think of small cuts of apple that still feel crunchy when chewed, as the filling. Meanwhile, PIA makes the filling from small cuts of apple that has been processed so that it becomes very soft almost like apple jam. Smooth, and sweet and sour all together, it simply pleases my palate. And at that time, I did not mind to eat up to two pieces and had a bit of difficulty to resist the urge to get one more slice.

PIA apple pie is fairly cheap. The size, such as the one that I bought, which can be cut into 6 slices for 6 people - is only Rp 37,000, while the very big is at Rp 80,000.

In addition to apple pie, I also tasted a blueberry cheese pie at PIA. I did not expect much in terms of taste at first. I ordered it for its diamond shape. It’s pretty. At first bite, it felt like eating a cheese cookie with blueberry jam on top. The crust is cheesy for sure and the blueberry, from how it looks and taste, almost as if it’s taken directly from a jar. I did not ask them about this of course. And the pie is super thin (only 1 centimeter thick!). But in terms of flavor, this pie is okay, although the price is a little too expensive for the ‘adventure for the palate’ that it’s offered. That is Rp 32,000 to half the size of apple pie that I purchased.

PIA pie shop and café is at Pangrango 10, Bogor, T: +62-251 832 4169.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chocolate Milk Pudding with Vanilla Rum sauce

This is my first time to make pudding with its sauce. I used to make gelatin dessert with Swallow Globe Agar-agar Powder which hugely popular in Indonesia. It's very easy. But few hours ago, when i browsed an Alfamart, a minimart near my friend's house (where i stay over the weekend) for some snacks to nibble, I catched a sight of 'AR Pudding Susu' which has a yummy picture of chocolate pudding with whipped cream and a curled thin dark chocolate on top. I instantly grabbed the packaging and check the serving direction at the back. It seems easy to make.

Serving Direction:
1. Mix well Pudding Susu chocolate powder and 500ml of water (i don't use the measuring glass. As I want to make thick pudding, I add not much water onto the pudding powder and stir it. i add some more water when i think it's too thick while maintain the level of sweetness from the mixture. eventually i add more sugar to it, just to make sure that the pudding will taste sweet)

2. cook until it's boiled and stir frequently
3. Pour into a mould and chill it in the refrigerator
4. ready to serve

Vanilla sauce:
i don't follow the direction at the packaging to make the sauce. i browse the internet instead. i found the easiest recipe in one of the blogs out there that says:

* 500ml sweetened condensed milk (i use Frisian Flag Gold Full Cream)
* 1 tablespoon corn flour
* 50 grams of sugar.
* 2 egg yolks, beat them with spoon (in my case, i don't have any whisk or any proper tools to beat egg yolks)
* 1 tablespoon of rum.

1. Melt the corn flour with some milk, set aside.
2. Mix the egg yolks with some milk, stir, set aside.
3. Cook the milk with sugar set to a low heat. When it's warm, add the corn flour mixture.
4. Immediately add the egg yolks mixture, stir constantly until it's well blended and smooth.
5. Turn off the heat, and continue to stir the sauce until it's cold, then add the rum.

The result is amazing for me. The sauce has the taste that I'm aiming for. It's sweet, thick, without the smell and obvious taste of milk nor the egg yolks, which replaced by the mild aroma and flavour from the rum. Perfect. Although next time I want a sauce that would look less yellow than this. More of, white. Meanwhile, the pudding has this 'marble' look. So I cut it into square shapes (they ended look like brownies) and drown them in vanilla sauce when I serve them. My friend adds grated chocolate (Silver Queen) and sprinkled them on top of the pudding and the sauce.