Quikskoop™: RM Sungai Kalu (Sungai Kalu – West Sumatra, Indonesia)

Stage 5 of Tour de Singkarak from Sawahlunto to Muara Labuh in the southern part of West Sumatra may be one of the most challenging routes and also a very scenic one. Me and fellow travel journalists decided to head first far before start to do some photography stuffs on the way and as always, they asked me where to eat for lunch. I said without hesitation, ‘RM Sungai Kalu! Best for its baluik lado mudo!’

RM Sungai Kalu - Exterior

It’s pretty much unimaginable to experience the rough route between Sawahlunto – Muara Labuh as a cyclist. First you really have to climb all the way up but you get to reward yourself with the beautiful lakes of Danau Diatas and Danau Dibawah. Then you have to do series of up and downhills with plenty of turns and chicanes to reach Muara Laboh on the almost southernmost part of Solok Selatan regency. It’s a test of trial and tribulation indeed! Even us back in the car cannot imagine the exhaustion from the hardships!

We went ahead and stopped in a small village just 20 km before finish to seek out one of the most exotics in Minangnese Cuisine and this time it involves eels.

Finally we arrived at RM Sungai Kalu – an established restaurant, relatively neat and clean, even though it’s quite in the middle of nowhere. I bet that travelers from West Sumatra who head for Jambi or vice versa often stop here for their meals and that’s the reason why this restaurant flourished.

Baluik Lado Mudo
Baluik Lado Mudo

Mr Yulamri as the owner greeted us with open hands and explained passionately about the dishes. He mentioned about this business where his father started decades ago, far in the time where the roads were still probably gravel or dirt, and it has grown so much. One interesting thing about this restaurant and the masjid in front of it is that both are using water transferred by pipes straight from the mountain and there’s no switching off of it. The water here is just simply refreshing, cool, and abundant!

Dendeng Batokok Lado Mudo
Dendeng Batokok Lado Mudo

As for the food by the way, it’s pretty much everything that involves lado mudo or the green chilies sauce Minangnese style! First, the beautiful looking baluik lado mudo or fried paddy field’s eels with the green chilies, and there are also combinations of lado mudo with both fried chicken and dendeng batokok. The dendeng batokok may not be as elaborated as in RM Dendeng Batokok back in Muaro Kalaban but still it’s a formidable dish when combined with lado mudo.

What’s special about the eels was that it came from local West Sumatran paddy fields, slim in stature, and fried until all part of the eels become very crispy. It’s not all about its saltiness in terms of taste, but the thing about eels is that it has a special flavor and texture where you won’t find in any other protein. Imagine the delicious fried eels paired with the good old spicy lado mudo and fries. Heaven on earth!

The fried chicken is also something that you cannot miss as well, since for me, the taste resembles pretty much with the fried chicken produced by my aunt’s skillful cookery back at home. She marinates it first with coconut milk and many herbs but this one here is paired with the magical lado mudo. Additionally once again, the dendeng batokok is also highly recommended.

RM Sungai Kalu - Serving Station

Another surprise came next where the price of these fancies were not expensive at all. The seven of us spent around IDR 20,000-ish each and for a very good bargain, plus the fresh iced tea or orange juice. Rural areas of West Sumatra may get very hot during the day even though many hills surround it so drinking these gave us the boost much needed for our long way back home.

So the next time you’re around Solok Selatan regency, a visit here is a hot list that you have to fulfilled, no matter how far it is!

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RM SUNGAI KALU – SUNGAI KALU, INDONESIA

Halal-friendly

Must eat: Baluik lado mudo, ayam goreng/dendeng balado lado mudo

Spend: IDR 20,000 – 30,000 / person

Address: Jalan Lintas Muara Laboh, Pasar Sungai Kalu, Solok Selatan – West Sumatra, Indonesia

Telp: TBA

Opening hours: Everyday, TBA

Kahvehane: Kopitiam Nan Yo Baru ‘Liong’ (Padang – West Sumatra, Indonesia)

Nan Yo Baru - Interior

Finding a kopitiam has been a-must activity since I set my foot on Bangka island around last year. In certain places where the traces of Chinese immigrants can be found, you can almost be sure that the trail of good coffee follows. This joyous moment happened as well during my visit to the Chinatown area of Padang and this very kopitiam is said to be one of the famous in the city. Let us meet Cici Yance, the owner of Kopitiam Nan Yo Baru ‘Liong’.

As the wife of the second generation owner of this homey kopitiam, Cici Yance has been running the show solo lately. Her husband’s ailment prevented him to be involved fully in the business again. Much to my surprise, Cici Yance served seven of us with warm welcome and swift service. After all, the rush hours had passed.

Lontong Cubadak
Lontong Cubadak

For me, it’s also the chance to taste one of the local’s best aside from the coffee. Due to its Chinese heritage, Nan Yo Baru also serves noodles and dumplings but I had to skip it for now even though the very thought of it made me drooling. This time I chose Lontong Cubadak or rice cakes with young jackfruit, sweet nut paste, bean curd, other vegetables, and a hard-boiled egg with curry soup. To refresh myself again against the very hot day that day, I had myself Cici Yance’s iced coffee and milk.

This particular rice cakes dish has many different version. For example, my breakfast the last time I visited the regency of Lintau on the far eastern part of West Sumatra was the combination between bubur or roughly cut rice cakes with young jackfruits only. While this one here has a more colorful combo and a rare treat for my tummy!

Es Kopi Susu
Es Kopi Susu

As for the coffee, Cici Yance said that she uses a particular robusta beans from Sungai Penuh area around the foothills of Kerinci mountain in Jambi province territory and she does it the Singaporean kopitiam way by boiling the coffee inside a sieve and the unique long kettle. Too bad that time I didn’t taste the real hot coffee but after all, the iced version was also a formidable choice. A friend of mine regarded highly the taste of his cuppa for only like IDR 6,000!

Cici Yance
Cici Yance

Well, it was a short visit and no matter how pleasant Cici Yance’s hospitality was, we only talked a bit but my journo friends bought some coffee beans to be taken home. One of them even asked Cici Yance to teach how to brew it and she’s more than willing to do so.

So, now I know where to find good coffee and perhaps next time I’d be able to also visit another coffee watering hole of my friend’s girlfriend’s relatives also in Padang. It’s a good thing that naturally the Chinese families have this particular fondness with coffee everywhere and they share the fun with us in an affordable way. I am indeed, thankful.

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NAN YO BARU ‘LIONG’ – PADANG, INDONESIA

Halal-friendly

Must eat: All kinds of coffee, rice cakes dishes for breakfast

Spend: IDR 10,000 – 15,000 / person

Address: Jalan Nipah no. 22, Padang –

Telp: +62.751.28529

Opening hours: Everyday, TBA

Quikskoop™: Es Durian Ganti Nan Lamo (Padang – West Sumatra, Indonesia)

The King of Fruits! Who would dare deny its exotic taste, its silky and sultry texture, and its intriguing appearance? I bet most Asians love it, especially those who came from Southeastern part like us here in Indonesia. But due to its pungency both in flavor and fragrant-wise, it’s a fruit that’s also shun people especially from our Western counterpart. For instance, even Andrew Zimmern himself cannot take this challenge.

By the way, here in Indonesia we all do love to enjoy durian in many ways. Traditionally we break through its thorny exterior and enjoy its delicious meat plainly. Some even can finish several fruits in one time, although it’s not good for your health from what I heard (well, I have never been a hardcore fan of durian). Or if you don’t want all that fuss, we can find hawkers selling one version of es durian where they put one piece of the fruit with its seed and combined it with condensed chocolate milk with black glutinous rice sprinkles. Simply delish!

Another example came from Es Durian Kantin Sakinah in Bandung with its colorful combinations and still remain as the best in my heart.

Es Durian Ganti Nan Lamo - Es Durian Party!

Now this particular version in Padang came out rather differently. Without doubt, Es Durian Ganti Nan Lamo brings this certain corner of Padang’s Chinatown a good livelihood for people around as it has successfully opened up two stores, a similar competitor just across the street, and several food vendors hooking up with it in order for them to ‘survive’.

Without doubt, Ganti Nan Lamo’s version of es durian is still a tempting one and I’d do it over and over again whenever I’m in Padang. They have a bowl full of durian essence, probably as a result of blending, and they only need to pour it over ice and give it a kick of condensed chocolate milk for every serve. There’s the Minang version of also combining it with local famous es tebak thus giving the es durian more texture and something to chew with. Even they have the ‘floating’ version by giving it three flavors of ice cream. Of course, I really recommend it doing the Minang way here with es tebak!

What’s probably missing for us, who came from Java, is that the es durian from Ganti Nan Lamo lacks the fiber texture of the fruit. We didn’t feel something to chew upon and there’s no seed at all. Well, I guess we still like it the old way, or for me The Sakinah way, but still it’s a good treat on a hot day or even for anytime!

Even if they have permanent place, I suppose cleanliness comes on the bottom list of priority and occasionally people coming in asking for money over playing guitar or just simply begging like in many street food hawkers. Well, I call it as something that we have to be thankful upon. What’s better than having good food and also a chance to help others in need?

To conclude this up, hopefully Ganti Nan Lamo will always experiment new ways in serving es durian and that one day, it’ll be as colorful as any experience you can get from any hawkers only in one-stop and that’ll be here, on the city filled with legendary culinary scenes!

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ES DURIAN GANTI NAN LAMO 

Halal-friendly

Must eat: Es durian tok, es durian campur (es tebak)

Spend: IDR 20,000 – 30,000 / person

Address: Jalan Pulau Karam no. 103B, Padang – West Sumatra, Indonesia

Telp: +62.751.26203

Opening hours: Everyday, TBA

Quikskoop™: RM Dendeng Batokok – Masakan Hj. Ermis (Muaro Kalaban – West Sumatra, Indonesia)

Here comes the sequel after the Soto Padang episode! With a half-full belly, we headed just a few hundred meters away from Soto Urang Awak closer to Sawahlunto. There you can see on your left, the restaurant famed for its specialty of dendeng batokok!

Dendeng Batokok is another painstaking process on how to produce a great piece of art. It’s basically a marinated sliced beef soaked in for like 5 hours or so and then smoked using wood fire for 10 hours straight. Before serving, the meat will then be ‘tokok’-ed (hence the word ‘batokok‘) first or pound until really flat. The beef will then be accompanied by a separate red chili sambal soaked with the local ‘olive oil’ made from coconut or known more as minyak basanak or minyak tanak.

RM Dendeng Batokok Muaro Kalaban - Dendeng Batokok and friends

My first encounter with it reaffirms that other dendeng batokok I have ever encountered before was indeed a pure joke. Mrs Ermis traditional recipe that goes way back to 1940s survives and never compromise with the original version even with the current price rise of beef or any kind of dynamics that a restaurant has to deal with.

I found my sliced beef often melted by itself in my mouth and it was really really good, although sometimes you really have to chew it a bit. What matters would be the flavor as all the herbs and ingredients were marinated well inside the beef thus creating a complex taste of sweetness and savory dominated by coconut flavor and of course, fragrant, due to the result of wood fire smoking process. Even having it plain with warm rice was a very happy moment for me.

The sambal may be a bit too spicy for some so that I decided to pour the coconut oil instead. The new oily texture made it even tempting. It’s probably like when you see Jamie Oliver put the magical OO into any of his dishes and how radiant it becomes, right?

Now my trip to Sawahlunto has become so meaningful. Not only did I have the chance to enjoy the classic town filled with Dutch buildings and its long history, the enthusiasm of Tour de Singkarak international cycling race, but also getting myself involved with personal affairs with these blissful moments of tasting the greatest dendeng batokok and also not forgetting, the soto urang awak. Thank you Rendang Journey 2012 for introducing me to this town and Tour de Singkarak 2013 for letting me having my intimate moments with it!

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RM DENDENG BATOKOK (MASAKAN HJ. ERMIS) – MUARO KALABAN
Halal-friendly
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

Address:
Jalan Lintas Sumatera, Desa Muaro Kalaban, Kec. Silungkang, Sawahlunto – West Sumatera, Indonesia

T: +62.755.913.04

Opening hours: Everyday, TBA

Quikskoop™: Soto Urang Awak (Muaro Kalaban – West Sumatra, Indonesia)

Tour de Singkarak 2013 – Fourth Stage.

It was a really long way to Pulau Punjung of Dharmasraya regency, one of the richest regencies of West Sumatera and also the hottest as it reached up to 40 degrees of Centigrade during the stage finish celebration. Even before that, we started back at Sijunjung, took a road less traveled and enjoyed the beauty of Silokek precipices and rivers, did a bit of jungle trekking to find the secret waterfall, and then finally head south to Dharmasraya on a journey as far as almost 190 km.

This exhausting trip indeed requires a treat at the end of the day and I kept on nagging to our good driver Mr Eddy to take us for the mythical Dendeng Batokok specialty restaurant out of Sawahlunto, the city we stayed in for a couple of nights. One of the car’s passengers, Mr Kholili from TVRI, first advised us to enjoy a bowl of good Soto Padang first before that. It had turned out that the Soto Urang Awak restaurant was just nearby where we originally headed. Of course, I’d be more than happy to experience new things first!

It’s probably just your regular side street restaurant down by the intercity highways, but I found out that this particular Soto Urang Awak provides a bright, inviting, clean, and a quite cozy environment to dine-in. The menu only consists of two, Soto Urang Awak or known more as Soto Padang and the beef soup. The latter already finished for the day so it’s all left to Soto Urang Awak to prove that the title’s worthy of the humble restaurant’s name.

Soto Urang Awak
Soto Urang Awak

And indeed it was! The composition may be pretty regular but I bet it’s the best so far I have ever tasted before. While my previous encounters left me in exasperation whether will I finally one day meet ‘the real deal’ and it was answered in an instant! Now I daresay that the one in Muaro Kalaban is perhaps the best so far but I’ve yet to prove my point if only I had more time to scour Kota Padang, where I stay for final days of Tour de Singkarak 2013.

Soto Urang Awak Muaro Kalaban - Exterior

By the way, the composition of this Soto Urang Awak was quite simple as it only uses crispy fried beef, vermicelli, scallions, potato frikedeller and warm rice with it. There’s no red crackers this time and no eggs, but it was jolly time when I found that the soup was particularly fit my palate well, good flavored, and if we didn’t plan for Dendeng Batokok then I’d surely have my tambo ciek (one more bowl please!) moment!

So whenever you’re around Sawahlunto, spend sometime outside of the town, join in the ranks of other travelers from all across Sumatera, and enjoy the warm soup for your soul!

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SOTO URANG AWAK – MUARO KALABAN

Halal-friendly

Must eat: Soto Urang Awak/Padang

Spend: IDR 20,000 / person

Address: Jalan Lintas Sumatera, Desa Muaro Kalaban, Kec. Silungkang, Sawahlunto – West Sumatera, Indonesia

Telp: +62.755.914.16

Opening hours: Everyday, TBA