Ghetto Grub: Indonyaki Serves Authentic Indonesian in MaginhawaJuly 11, 2019
- Noni CabreraWords
My work has brought me to Indonesia twice this year, and during my travels, side trips to the busy Jakarta jalans (streets) to sample the street food were as inevitable as the capital’s horrendous rush hour traffic. Through late night food jaunts and incessant snacking, I have gotten acquainted with the dishes that the locals enjoy.
I came to love the food in Indonesia so much that I started wanting for it as soon as I got back.
These dishes constitute the Indonesian way of life to the extent that there is little room for exports and foreign cuisine to jockey for market share. In Jakarta, and in neighboring cities and towns, you will find a lot of fast food joints and Western food outlets, but the locals still prefer to eat in rumah makan, or restaurants that serve traditional Indonesian food. I came to love the food so much that I started wanting for it as soon as I got back, but the challenge is that there aren’t plenty of restaurants in Manila that serve Indonesian cuisine.
Lucky for me and for those who are craving for traditional and authentic Indonesian food, Indonyaki in Maginhawa Street serves up a number of favorites that are a close second to traveling all the way to Jakarta. Tucked in an unassuming space along Maginhawa’s famed Eat Street, Indonyaki is one of those you-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole-in-the-wall food outlets.
Indonyaki is one of those you-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole-in-the-wall food outlets along Maginhawa’s famed Eat Street.
Indonyaki looks exactly like the warungs that are ubiquitous in Indonesia’s city streets. Warungs are stalls that serve humble, hearty and inexpensive street food. They are casual and busy street side joints populated by the batik-wearing working class populace. Indonyaki has a small dining area inside, which also doubles as a prep area for their cooks. Most of their patrons prefer to sit on the al fresco tables set up on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
Run by two partners with experience in working for Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean restaurants and resorts (one of them even worked for Mahathir Mohammed, ex-Malaysian Prime Minister), Indonyaki is proud of its authentic Indonesian cuisine and close-to-the-real-thing flavors. They also serve shawarma and wraps. An Indonesian restaurant that serves kebab and shawarma is the kind of identity crisis I like.
A good place to start would be the Indonyaki Lumpia.
A good place to start would be the highly recommended Indonyaki lumpia, which has a light vegetable filling flavored with turmeric and other spices. It pairs well with their proprietary garlicky condiment that looks and tastes a lot like watered-down tahini. I love the crispy lumpia texture and the strong turmeric taste, coupled with the tang of the garlic sauce: a filling and savory snack that is not bad for PHP 75. Also, try the terong (talong, get it?), fried eggplants with peanut sauce, served with fiery red sambal.
I also sampled the sate ayam, chicken satay with peanut sauce. It had the right spice and kick as its authentic Indonesian counterparts, and I must say they got the flavors down to a T. Satay should have that complex herb and spice taste that is tempered with the sweetness of the peanut sauce. I wish their peanut sauce had been a little smoother (most of the peanut sauce that I had in Indonesia were the consistency of Mang Tomas), as there were coarse grits of peanuts in the sauce. It was also a little tame in the spice department, but the attentive waiters spoiled me with their sambal pedas (chili salsa) to heat things up a bit.
The star of the menu, however, is their ayam goreng (lit. fried chicken). What’s interesting about their ayam goreng is the kremes, or crispy batter flakes that they heap on top of the dish. The chicken is flavorful and substantial, with all the familiar tastes and spices that should be present in this simple yet filling dish. The combo meal is served with soto (broth), es teh manis (sweet iced tea) and nasi goreng (traditional Indonesian fried rice), which is omnipresent in Indonesian cuisine.
The star of the menu, however, is their ayam goreng .
The presentation of the ayam goreng looks appetizing, the taste of the chicken superb. The nasi goreng was pale and could use a little more kecap manis (sweet and sticky soy sauce), but I was told that the developers of the menu decided to tone down the dishes to suit the Filipino palate. Indeed, nasi goreng should be doused in kecap manis that it should have a hint of sweetness, something that Filipinos wouldn’t enjoy much with a savory and spicy viand. If the combo meal is bitin, you can order the half- and whole- chicken variants.
The menu also offers a lot of intriguing and familiar Indonesian dishes that are worth a try. The owners did the right thing by adjusting the taste profile to be more approachable and friendly to the Filipino taste.
The menu also offers a lot of intriguing and familiar Indonesian dishes that are worth a try, such as gado gado, mixed boiled vegetables in peanut sauce; ayam rica rica (pronounced as ree-chah ree-chah), or chicken in a bumbu (spice mix of chili, shallots, garlic and ginger); and a variety of mie, noodles. Noticeable, though, is the absence of kerupuk (very much like our kropeck) or the traditional crackers that Indonesians eat with every meal. It is quite a big deal in Indonesia as the locals love a bit of crunchy texture in their food (there is a specific kind or flavor of kerupuk to go with every dish), and it’s a little sad that Indonyaki doesn’t serve it with their dishes, which would have made for a truly authentic experience.
The owners did the right thing by adjusting the taste profile to be more approachable and friendly to the Filipino taste. They always offer the spices and the fire engine-red sambals on the side so that you can adjust the heat to your liking. Everything is reasonably priced, and the customer service is excellent. The portions are generous; some are even large enough to share.
Drop by and enjoy a dish or two the next time you venture out to Maginhawa to satisfy your epicurean cravings. Nothing quite beats the real deal, but Indonyaki doesn’t pale in comparison.