Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Favorite Place To Eat...

One of the best things about traveling to another country is trying all the different types of food. This is especially true with Indonesia because it's such a wonderfully diverse nation. Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands, and the distance from one end of the country to the other is about the same as the distance from New York City to Los Angeles! (1). And much like the United States, within this country there is an incredible amount of cultural diversity. This means that there are all sorts of different types of foods to try. It's worth coming here just for the food!

Today I want to tell you about my favorite place to eat here in Jogja. Every time I come here I have to eat at this place (usually several times!), and when I'm back in Hawai'i I miss the food. I took a picture of the "restaurant" so you can see it. Dining out in Indonesia is a bit different than in Hawai'i....while there are many restaurants like you're probably used to, there are other options as well. These include warungs (food stalls) and pushcarts, like the one you see in the picture. These pushcarts are called "PKLs" or "pedagang kaki lima" (five-legged traders) in Indonesia. Can you figure out where this name comes from?

My favorite place serves a delicious entry called bakso. This is a meatball and noodle stew that is very popular here. I've sampled bakso from pkls, warungs, and restaurants all over Jogja, and this place is my favorite. And it's a local favorite as well; the woman that makes the bakso has been serving her specialty at this same place for 25 YEARS! People come from all over to eat at this pkl, and she dishes out hundreds of bowls a day. Her whole family is involved in the operation as well...her nephew generally works the cart, and her sons prepare the meatballs and other ingredients from scratch everyday. To make the meatballs, Juni (my friend and one of the sons) starts with 25 kilograms of beef (2) which he buys at a local market. He then takes the beef to another shop where they grind it up with a special industrial grinder. During this process he adds special spices that give the meatballs their distinctive taste. Back at home he makes all the meatballs by hand, which generally takes 2-3 hours. The other ingredients are made by hand from fresh ingredients each day as well. You can enjoy your bakso with a nice refreshing glass of jus jeruk (citrus juice) and for desert have a bowl of iced fruit. In the picture you can see how the iced fruit is made.

Dining at the PKL is not just about the food. Every time I sit down for a bowl (usually 2) of bakso I meet someone new and always have an interesting conversation. It's a good way to practice the language and make new friends. The people here are always curious as to what I'm doing in Indonesia and are always eager to teach me something new about the country or some words in the local language (do you remember from the previous posts what the local language around Jogja is?).

Of course there are other options as well. You can try masakkan Padang (Padang cuisine, named for the city from which it originates), soto (another delicious soup), rendang (a famous beef dish), and many others. One thing you know when you come to Indonesia is that you'll never go hungry.

If you're not the adventurous type you can find many familiar foods as well. Indonesians love fried chicken, and the pizza is pretty good as well. And if your in a hurry you can try Mister Burger, but I haven't quite figured out what the burgers are made of...

1. Can you use a map in the classroom to figure out the distance from New York City to Los Angeles?

2. A kilogram equals 2.2 pounds. "Kilograms" are used in most of the world for mass. Can you figure out how many pounds 25 kilograms equals? Can you figure out how much you weigh in kilograms?


  1. So do you know why it's called PKL? it has such a unique history :) but I guess from your amazingly vast knowledge about Indonesia, you know already.
    Great blog! I've been reading everything..

  2. Hi Tantri! Thanks for the comment. PKL=Pedagang Kaki Lima, or "5-legged trader", if I'm not mistaken.
    I'm glad you are enjoying the blog and thanks for the kind words. I'll be starting it up again soon, as I'm finalizing plans to head back to Indonesia to do some more fieldwork.