Bakso the meatball soup, steamed brownie, and siomay the fishcake dumpling - these are some of the most common food you can find in Bandung, Indonesia. Those who are familiar with this city are sure to have tasted these local delights. But did you know that Bandung has a lot more to offer?
The foods I share on this article are probably less popular, but they are worth a try. What are they? Where can you get them? And how much do they cost? Keep reading to find out more!
Spicy, hot, and savory. This dish represents what Bandung cuisine is mostly about. It is pronounced as “suh-bluck”, onomatopoeic to the noise you might make when you’re eating something so spicy your tongue cannot take it! How spicy can seblak be? Well, imagine this: the most important part of the dish is chili. Indonesians are commonly known to always have local specialty chili sauce called sambal. With shallots and garlic in it, sambal can be used as a dipping sauce or a mix to broth, stew, or any other dishes. Yes, everything! And for this particular dish, that special chili sauce is not just an addition, but it is the main part of the dish.
The dish became popular more than a decade ago. Back then, it was simply cooking things (mostly fish or shrimp crackers and scrambled egg) in a boiling chili stew. Since then, Bandung people have gotten more and more creative in coming up with new variations of the dish. They would add other ingredients like noodles, meatballs, fish cake, peanuts, fried crackers, greens, chicken feet, and more. There is no set rule of what should be added into a dish to call it seblak. What matters is the spicy sambal-based broth that ties them altogether!
Seblak can be found in almost every corner of Bandung streets, ranging from 7,000 to 15,000 IDR (approximately 0.5 to 1 USD) per serving. To locals, this dish is more of a snack to eat when you just want to munch but you’re not that hungry for a big meal. Some popular franchised eateries which serve seblak are Seblak Jebred, Seblak Sultan, and Seblak Oces. I personally prefer buying them from food carts by the street, like Seblak Merapi, located on Terusan Jalan Jakarta in Antapani region of Bandung. I love to eat seblak especially during a rainy day as it warms the body up quickly!
Unlike seblak which is a savory dish, Kembang Tahu is sweet. However, Bandung’s signature spicy flavor can still be found in it! Don’t worry, this one does not come from chili sambal but the ginger broth. Another one to enjoy on rainy days!
Like most ginger-based dishes, kembang tahu is best served while it is still hot. The sweet ginger broth complements the hero of the dish: the sweet, soft pudding made of soy. That is the kembang tahu. In Indonesian, tahu means tofu which is made from soy. Both are made through similar process: fermenting and raising the soy. The texture of kembang tahu is similar to Japanese egg tofu. That is the result of starting the fermentation from soy milk instead of blended soybean used to make regular tofu.
A small bowl of kembang tahu is sometimes served with roasted peanuts to add its texture. You can find it in some local eateries or, the best way, is from street vendors carrying them on their shoulders. You can get one serving for just 5,000 IDR (approximately 0.35 USD).
Fried chicken? You can find that almost everywhere in the world. But crushed fried chicken covered in tasty, spicy sambal? This one is best to find in Bandung. This style of cooking is called geprek, which in Indonesian means “crush” and the type of food is called geprekan. The most common type of geprekan is chicken, and the dish is called ayam geprek. Another popular type is tempe, an Indonesian specialty of fermented soybean. This one is called tempe geprek. So, as you can see, if you see anything on the menu with “geprek” in it means the dish is prepared in the following steps. First, the ingredients are marinated with spices and deep fried. Then, it is crushed to smaller pieces with a tenderizer or traditional pestle and mortar. Finally, it is covered in sambal before serving.
These geprekan dishes are served with some raw veggies and rice. Eat them while their fresh from the pan, best accompanied by either hot or iced tea. As this is a popular dish not just in Bandung, but also in most parts of Indonesia, you can find it in almost every local eatery in this city. However, there are recommended places such as Ayam Geprek Bensu, Ayam Geprek Pangeran, and Ayam Geprek Chicago. One geprekan dish is sold starting from 15,000 IDR (approximately 1 USD).
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Gado-gado and Lotek
Now that we have learned about those three unique dishes, let’s not forget one of the Indonesian simplest yet classic dishes, gado-gado. Some Indonesians would jokingly call it salad with peanut sauce when they try to explain it to foreigners. Basically, it is indeed like a salad. Mixed veggies and other ingredients covered in dressing? Yes, it is salad-like, but not quite.
What makes it different than conventional salad is the dressing itself. The Bandung style of peanut sauce dressing is made of fried peanuts, boiled potatoes, and a bit of water crushed together with pestle on a mortar. The veggie mix can be anything, but commonly they are beans, cucumber, tomato, carrot, hard-boiled egg, fried tofu, and tempe, all chopped in small pieces, covered in peanut sauce, and sprinkled with fried shallots. Yum!
Here’s a twist: Bandung has its own style of gado-gado. It is called lotek. What makes it different is the veggie mix. This dish focus more on the greens, blanched or boiled in a hot water. Among these four dishes, lotek is probably the oldest, most traditional. Therefore, you can find it in almost all traditional local eatery in Bandung. Usually served with rice cake, it is sold from 10,000 IDR (approximately 0.7 USD).
Try something unique in Indonesia's culinary city
Have you made your mind up, yet? It is hard to choose one of these four tasty looking dishes, isn’t it? Well, why don’t you just try all four of them and many other dishes Bandung has to offer?! Enjoy your culinary adventure!
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