So many years ago on almost every weekend, it has always been customary for my family to visit the wet market in Lembang in search for fresh vegetables and fruits. Since early morning, the grocers have displayed fresh carrots, cauliflowers, passion fruits, and many others still dusted with morning dew and so full of colors.
Meanwhile my parents haggle for the price, I took a walk with my siblings around the market to see the process of making fried tempe and oncom, looking for cold beverages, and of course, to have the ketan bakar.
I didn’t know how it was all started and why my parents specifically chose this particular lady who sells ketan bakar among others around her, but it has been proven that hers has always been the best, at least for my family.
Ketan bakar itself came from an soap-shaped glutinous rice, grilled, and then served with sauces such as a sweet peanut sauce, spicy peanut sauce with bird-eye chillies, and serundeng - fried grated coconuts. It has a complex layers of chewiness, sweet and spicy nutty texture, and crispiness from the coconut. When I was a kid, I didn’t like spicy food that much and I always asked her to give more of the sweet peanut sauce.
It has always been a treat for me. How can it not? The ketan bakar got sliced in the middle and all the sauces were put inside, then lastly, showered by serundeng. It’s the Sundanese definition of sandwich right?
Some twenty years later, when visiting Lembang has become a luxury for me who now live in Jakarta, I always give a chance to visit the market once in a while, although it happens only like one or a couple of times within a year.
When I arrived last time, everything was so different. What I once saw as a busy, thriving market now abandoned by many of the grocers and only a few remain there including my parents’ old vegetable grocer and the ketan bakar lady!
I can’t help but feeling a bit sad about what I saw there although the tourism have always been exciting here thanks to Lembang’s proximity with Gunung Tangkubanperahu and other places of interest such as Tahu Tauhid, De Ranch, fresh milk restaurants, and the current hype – Floating Market.
I greeted the lady with a warm smile and she remembered me still although it was probably a year since we last met. What impressed even more aside from her wonderful ketan bakar was that she still remembered my preference of having sweet peanut sauce albeit many many years had passed!
I sat by with my lovely wife and enjoy the ketan bakar which she love so much also and it became a routine for me to feed her the ketan bakar while we’re there. Last time it even became a romantic brunch for us even though only with this simple yet humble dish. I had my second and complement it with a fresh hot milk and my wife with a glass of bandrek susu. With the cool air and how everything feels easy in the countryside, everything that happened there was simply priceless.
“What will happen next with this market?”, I asked her and she said it may be renovated soon but she didn’t know where she will move her ketan bakar stall in the meantime. Of course, it made me sad to hear such thing especially that these hardworking, honest people have been around in this market for many years.
Time may have been cruel to some but from what I saw, she didn’t give that desperate look nor sadness. She chose to lead this way of life and enjoy every moment of it as much as we enjoy her ketan bakar.
Now I can only hope that I will always have a chance to enjoy her ketan bakar for many years to come at her place, not only to seek for good food but also to reflect again whether we have contribute so much to the society so far or not.
KETAN BAKAR LEMBANG
Suitable for vegetarians
Pasar Lembang, Jalan Raya Bandung-Lembang
Look for the lady according the the picture, among several other ketan bakar sellers.
Early morning – late afternoon.
Spend: IDR 10,000 – IDR 15,000 / person.