When I had the chance to visit Jakarta, Indonesia, I made sure to research a little bit about this place and even asked a long lost Indonesian friend to give me the local’s perspective of some Do’s and Don’ts, since it’s a first time for me.
The information I was able to gather when it came to food has given me an initial impression that Indonesian dishes are not for everyone. For one, they are usually hot and spicy. I enjoy Indian food but don’t like too much spice to go with it.
My impression of this country traces back to my grandfather who used to work in Indonesia. I recalled that he once cooked an Indonesian dish but I never had a chance to taste it because he said it’s spicy and I was still a little boy at that time.
While my Indonesian friend recommended what he believes I should try, I had my reservations at first because to my mind, his association of what’s delicious might not necessarily be what my taste buds would tell me.
He said I should try one of the very popular dishes in Indonesia which is called Sop Buntut, a soupy dish made of oxtail chunks, boiled for a long while and topped with vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. Its spices include garlic, ginger, julienned and nutmeg and that the garnishing usually features shallots and chopped Chinese celery leaves.
The way this dish was described opened my desire to explore local food whenever I’m in a particular place, and it has won over my apparent concern. Probably, Indonesia would be like the Philippines, with lots of regions and islands, with varying cultures and style of cooking.
So my wife, son and I sampled Sop Bontut at the Bogur Café in Borobudur Hotel, which also has a branch in One Pacific Place mall in Jakarta. One sip and I knew that the taste is indeed superior. One foreigner reviewed that compared to the traditional one, that original is still the best. It would be up to me if I’ll put lemon to the soup, I was told, and as an Ilonggo, I appreciate the sourness of cansi(Ilonggo beef soup) which Sop Buntut kind of reminded me.
We ordered this soup in its original or classic variant although according to some Indonesians, they prefer the grilled oxtail.
Bogur Café is offering a regular ox tail soup, but you can also have the oxtail grilled or fried. The dish is available in 3 serving sizes. As of this writing, a small portion costs Rp. 98,000, medium portion is Rp. 118,000 and the legendary portion is Rp. 128,000 per dish. We ordered the legendary which is almost P500 in Philippine money. The soup tastes really delicious that I now understand why it’s dubbed as legendary.
In addition to this dish, we also tried Bogur Café’s cheesy chicken cordon bleu (finally, the ham is not made of pork but chicken) and grilled jumbo lamb skewer. All these also surpassed my expectations in terms of taste.
Just as in movies, I would know when I have tasted one good food if I can’t stop talking about it long after I have sampled it.
My experience now strengthens my belief that I have not truly immersed myself in a particular place if I have not tried its local delicacy and/or dessert, no matter how exotic it might seem to me. Looking back, my initial discomfort about Indonesian food has changed. After eating Indonesian dishes for three days, which included beef rendang, chicken saté, gudeg, nasi goreng and other saucy Indonesian food, I can say that I can happily survive Indonesia anytime.