I wrote a little bit earlier about Aceh’s absolutely delicious coffee shop snacks and some delicious Aceh food that I ate in Jakarta. But I ate even more Acehnese food in Aceh (derrrr obviously) and WOW ZOMFG it truly is one of my favourite cuisines in Indonesia.
The top picture shows a serving of ayam tangkap (which literally means “caught chicken,” conjuring up delightful images of someone running around a yard chasing the night’s dinner…). This dish is an Aceh specialty, which is had at a restaurant called Rumah Makan Aceh Specific (you can’t get much more specific than that, right? This resto had a couple of outlets around Banda Aceh) and is just delicious.
The seasoned caught chicken is deep fried along with bay leaves, curry leaves, green chilis, shallots and a type of local leaf called temurui. The crispy crunchy fried leaves are served with the chicken pieces, and a splash of the leaf-seasoned oil is served as a dressing. The texture of the fried leaves is really unique and the chicken is infused with the flavor. Just fantastic. It was served with a side of vegetables (including a huge piece of okra… yum) cooked in a coconut milk curry, as well as Aceh’s special soy-sauce based sambal, that has a very slight vinegar hit to it too? Mmm.
At first the dining room went quiet when I arrived and I ordered with everyone looking at me and serving me with the deference of waiters at a five-star hotel mixed with a dash of nervousness. But after the meal, I sat down and started chatting to the guys who were working, telling them about how I loved the local cuisine, and everyone warmed up and calmed down! The conversation eventually moved on to the usual topics… “not yet married” etc.
“Maybe you can find a husband in Aceh!” the older manager said.
“Maybe!” I replied. “But only if he can cook well!”
Before I knew it, the baby-faced and totally embarassed chef was being reluctantly pulled out of the kitchen…
“He’s single!” the waiters laughed as they tried to pull him into the dining room.
Oh dear… the best response I could come up with was to laugh and say that my bags to go back to Australia were already full and that I didn’t have enough room for him. That seemed to be enough and I managed to leave the restaurant without an engagement but hearing a trail of guffaws as I wandered back to the hotel.
I also ate the best crab of my life in Aceh, but that will get its own post. But all of the day-to-day food was just divine. I went to “just another regular Acehnese restaurant” near my hotel called Selera Kita and it was also fantastic.
In Aceh restaurants, they usually just bring loads of little dishes to the table and you pay for what you eat. So yes, that thing that looks like a brain on the left of the picture is actually a brain. I didn’t try that one.
I did eat a beautiful mutton curry, some beans cooked in chili sauce and some sprouts and it was all so tasty. I took some of the sauces from the other dishes as well to try, including off the fish, and the sauces were divine.
Mmm. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.