Surabaya oh Surabaya. My second time and I fell for the city. It’s a prime example for big cities in Indonesia with friendlier traffic, excellent road marks, good city lighting, with relatively clean city and river (at this point Bandung and Jakarta are currently a joke). Not to mention of course, plenty of good eats and being one of them is clearly, the amazing and traditional Lontong Balap!
What I thought as something familiar to Jakarta’s ‘ketoprak’ and West Java’s ‘kupat tahu’ was very much different as lontong balap offers a new perspective in rice cake genre, apart from the inseparable companions of tahu (fried bean curd) and tauge (bean sprouts). Literally means ‘racing rice cake’ derived from its history where the original sellers were racing against one another until the finish post at a certain historic market in Surabaya for reasons I’m still looking for, but what matters is all the immense flavors it presents.
Lontong balap is soupy, a symbolic difference than its comrades back in the western part of Java that use peanut sauce, and tastes quite sweet with a hint of savory owing from the beef broth. But first of all, huge chunks of rice cakes are placed in order with the bean curds and (a lot) of bean sprouts first. Other interesting addition is the use of crushed lentho - a mixture of cowpeas and other herbs made into balls and fried, which tasted quite unique – almost as if I’m having a fried potato fritters (prekedel kentang) that my auntie often made back home.
Lastly, all of these beautiful mess are soaked in the soup, topped with bawang goreng (fried shallots) and the indispensable sambal petis (with a mixture of shrimp fermentation) to give the friendly spicy kick. Add this rustic beauty with a bunch of clam satay, also a local delicacy that tastes sweet and gives an extra feel of the sea to the already seemingly simple, but rich in flavor dish!
As why I particularly picked Lontong Balap Pak Gendut (literally translated as ‘Mr Fatty Racing Rice Cake’)?
It’s one of Surabaya’s finest and I was lucky to be their last patron of the day, otherwise I don’t know when I’ll be able to taste this slice of heaven again. Missing it already!!
Must eat: Lontong Balap and Sate Kerang
Price: IDR 10,000
Address: Jalan Kranggan – Surabaya, East Java – Indonesia
Opening hours: 9.30 am – 9.30 pm