Tonight I finally went to a Padang restaurant.
For the Indonesia-illiterate, Padang is one of the main towns on the island of Sumatra. So Padang food is food from that area.
There are loads of Padang restaurants in Jakarta. You can tell not only by the word “Padang” painted on the window, but also by the bowls stacked up in the window… blue, red and yellow window paint also seems to be a common trait.
Padang restaurants are pretty unique because there is no menu. You simply waltz on in, plonk yourself down at a table and then the food comes to you. The waiters bring out lots of little bowls of food, along with some rice, and then you simply tuck in. You only pay for the dishes you eat, so all the ones that look really weird or consist solely of little dried fish that look like the ones in cat food, or just bowls of chilis, you can leave alone and they stay on the table for decoration, but you don’t pay for them.
It’s like a buffet, but instead of having to get up and shuffle along behind people to get your serve of wilted salad, the buffet comes right to you, with no croutons in sight!
Food safety is a bit of a worry though, cos the bits you don't eat can then be served to someone else. The food is cooked up once a day, and served at room temperature.
I didn’t take any photos, because I am lame! I was already feeling the eyes of the waiters and other diners trying to not stare too much at me, being a bule woman on her own in a Padang restaurant trying to read a book while gracefully stuffing her face, so I chickened out on pulling out my camera. I will take pics next time.
But since there was no menu, I really have no idea what I ate. There was a yummy dish of green stuff (I think it was something from the Pak Choy family) in curry that I loved, plus some spicy chicken. And some spicy other thing. It wasn’t duck, chicken or red meat… I actually think it might have been some sort of insides of some animal. It was squishy… hmm. But it just tasted like curry.
I also ate something that I first thought was a tiny potato, but when I bit into it I realised it was a tiny hard boiled egg from some creature. Not sure what sort of creature. Something smaller than a chicken but bigger than a sparrow. Spatchcock? Snake? Magpie? No idea.
There was also some sort of fried tofu with chilli and shallots type thing.
It all tasted pretty good.
I also had the world’s sweetest orange juice. I need to remember to say “bukan gula” (no sugar!) when I order fresh juice. There’s always surprise additional sugar/
I didn’t go to a super hardcore streetside Padang eatery though. This one, near my apartment, had chairs and airconditioning and no milkcrate furnishings in sight. Next time I might go warung style. Hardcore.