If you love Indonesian cuisine, I guess you must be a loyal customer of the nearest Indonesian restaurant somewhere in your country. If this is the case, I’m sure you’re familiar with mainstream Indonesian food, such as ‘soto’, the chicken soup with the yellowish herb ‘turmeric’. However, did you know that there are many types of Indonesian dishes that you can only taste by traveling to certain areas in Indonesia where the food is originated? If you happen to be in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia (or its surrounding cities), there are certain local foods you should try, which are nearly impossible to find in your country and hardly in other parts of Indonesia! Here are 5 most lip smacking East Javanese dishes, which in my humble opinion are very delicious!
1. Rawon, the dark beef soup
Rawon may be one of the darkest soups in the world. It’s an absolutely savory black beef soup, where the color is in contrast with the purely white steamed rice that always comes with it. The dark color comes from a type of herb named ‘kluwak’, made of processed ‘kluwak’ nuts, which also makes the rawon tastes a little bitter. For a popular rawon in Surabaya, go to the restaurant ‘Depot Anda Fit’ located on Jalan (meaning Street) H.R. Mohammad in West Surabaya.
2. Rujak Cingur, the spicy salad with beef lips
Indonesia has several types of spicy salads, but ‘rujak cingur’ (sweet beef lips and spicy salad) is hard to find, except for when you travel to East Java. It contains raw vegetables and fruits, like cucumber, pineapple, and young mango, including those that may be hard to find in your country, such as kale (similar to spinach, but crispier) and ‘bengkoang’ (jicama, a type of root plant which is crispy and watery). Beef lip (the upper part) is the indispensable part of this spicy salad, which if you have never eaten it before, you will be surprised to find that it is actually the chewiest cut of beef! Normally eaten with a type of cracker named ‘krupuk’, this is probably the darkest salad in the world, as the main ingredient in the spicy gravy is a type of fermented shrimp named ‘petis’, which is dark and fishy. Many ‘warungs’ (small dining places or food stalls) serve this specialty, but if you happen to be in Surabaya Plaza Mall, go to a restaurant named ‘Rujak Cingur’, located on the 2nd floor.
3. Tahu Tek, the delicious supper omelet
This is the most common ‘supper food’ in cities and villages throughout East Java, sold by food hawkers on a tricycle modified as a mobile kitchen. It’s an omelet made of eggs that have been scrambled together with bean curd, and then deep fried before the omelet is topped with a sweet and savory peanut gravy (the same gravy with ‘rujak cingur’) and ‘krupuk’. You can only find ‘tahu tek’ after dusk, as that’s the time when they go down the streets and hit the bamboo gong (it sounds like ‘tek tek tek’, and that’s the word ‘tek’ comes from) to attract people to come out of their house and buy the food. Fortunately, you don’t really have to wait till after the sunset to taste it as there are some restaurants selling it, including Mama Chicken, located in almost every mall in the city.
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4. Lontong Balap, the yummy bean sprout soup with ‘Lontong’
‘Lontong balap’ is the iconic food of Surabaya. No wonder people from other parts of Indonesia always look forward to eating lontong balap, as this is one of the things Surabaya is most famous for. It’s brown beef soup with lontong (Javanese rice cake), bean sprouts, fried tofu, and ‘lento’ (fried mung bean cake), topped with fried shallots. For the most popular ‘lontong balap’ among the locals, go to ‘Lontong Balap Pak Gendut’, a ‘warung kaki lima’ (the term for a food stall located on the roadside), located on Jalan Kranggan. The stall has been there since 1956 and is always packed with ‘lontong balap’ fans, especially during lunch times.
5. Lontong Kikil, the cow’s foot soup
Out of the 5 different Surabayan foods, this one really can’t be missed as it is the must-have food for many of the Javanese people in East Java when they have a big party or wedding. Like many other areas in Asia, almost all parts of a cow are edible, including the foot, which in fact is one of the fattiest parts. If you are in Surabaya, it’s a pity if you miss eating ‘lontong kikil’, the thick and savory beef soup with ‘lontong’ and ‘kikil’, the cow’s foot. The good new is that you don’t need to attend a wedding party to eat it. You can go to ‘Jalan Kutai’, where you will find a ‘food truck’ (a four, or more wheeled vehicle functioning as a food counter) named ‘Lontong Kikil Kutai Jaya’, which has tables and chairs for customers. It is open daily till 11pm.
Food that is hardly found in Central Java
Java’s eastern and central parts are the areas where most of the Javanese live. However, the Javanese living in those 2 areas have different culinary specialties, and the food I have mentioned above are not likely to be easily found anywhere in Central Java, which is known for its own versions of Javanese food. Now you know what to eat when in Surabaya!
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