Category Archives: Sawahlunto

Went There Ate That: A Foodie in West Sumatra (The Foodie Magazine, Jan 2015)

Never once I feel such intensity with my longing when it comes to West Sumatra. It is a country full of natural colors and flavors, and everything that came from long history of the people. After several trips there, it is high time for me to share a bit of my foodie adventure in Sumatra Barat.

A Foodie in West Sumatra (10)

Thrice I joined the ranks of journalists on trips to West Sumatra on different purposes but I was fortunate to squeeze the small room of time and opportunity to explore the country’s rich heritage of cuisines from different regions and also the magnificent landscapes in-between.

Oftentimes I have to thank nowadays technology in helping me to pinpoint the exact location of eateries within the obscurity on the map of rural West Sumatra. That and some help from the natives through Twitter, but most of all, my biggest achievement was that I managed to steer fellow journalists and drivers to follow my directions.

The highlight of this piece is mainly about where to eat in regencies outside of Padang, even though my sentimental side asked me to feature one also from the city.

So without further ado, let’s tread it together!


The city of Padangpanjang lies upon the mountainous region on the heart of West Sumatra. The cool climate of this region makes the city a favorite destination for weekend vacation, almost on par with the more popular Bukittinggi. Most of all, for us foodies, we all know that the city is the capital of the famous sate Padang.

A Foodie in West Sumatra (6) A Foodie in West Sumatra (5) A Foodie in West Sumatra (4)

As a much-loved dish for lunch and dinner, sate Padang from this city emphasizes the use of turmeric more than the coastal city of Pariaman with its red, fiery sauce from the chilies. Despite the strong presence of Mak Syukur, the biggest sate Padang restaurant in town that also has expanded itself to Jakarta, the city is basically proud of the heritage.

That’s why during my last visit, which coincided with Tour de Singkarak 2014, the mayor of the city decided to present everyone with a free-for-all satay bazaar and it was the very moment that I will never ever forget. While people are feasting upon different hawkers, I sampled some of them and found out how brilliant it was to mix between the meat, the tongue, the cheek, and other parts of cow altogether with the intense marination and the flavorful sauce. Respect!


A bit far to the south, the city of Sawahlunto is hidden between the surrounding valleys of rich coal deposit which makes it one of the most beautiful cities in West Sumatra. The way in and out is of the city is through the snake-like main road that leads up to the small town strip of Muaro Kalaban.

A Foodie in West Sumatra (9) A Foodie in West Sumatra (7)

In Muaro Kalaban, you will easily find the best dendeng batokok ever in the whole country. While considered as a delicacy in any Padangnese restaurant, the restaurant’s owner has been in the business for decades and the uniformed meat size from tokok-tokok process (pounding the meat) is cooked for many hours, and then topped with red chilies and minyak tanak (pure coconut oil) – the olive oil for Minang people.

There’s a perfect chemistry behind the richness of the spices, the sweetness that came from the meat, and the extra flavor from the coconut oil. Needless to say, each of the elements came from painstaking effort and I felt like I was digging on something heavenly, something that you would cherish on every bite of it.


This newly formed regency is tucked far away on the southeastern part of the province. It is even said that the medieval kingdoms of Sumatra started here, even before the times of Adityawarman.

A Foodie in West Sumatra (2)

Dharmasraya has only long strips of small towns upon the main road to the neighboring provinces and a few of recently revived historical sites for now. However if you take a look a little bit inside, you will find cheerful housewives saying more than just hello for the newcomers.

In villages of West Sumatra, it is a customary thing for the housewives to cook together to cater the wedding on the next day. What I found was something that is rarely seen anymore in cities and the togetherness in cooking anything Minangnese from grinding the chilies, frying the chicken, and the making of delicious potato fritters.

You can find restaurants out of here, but to view a celebration like this and mingle with the natives become something so valuable that you will not want to trade with anything else.


The southern frontier of West Sumatra begins here. Upon the long road ahead downhill that heads to the province of Jambi you will witness the beautiful Danau Di Atas and Danau Di Bawah, and also Mount Kerinci from far away. It’s always a pleasantly scenic journey down this way.

A Foodie in West Sumatra (8)

The Sungai Kalu restaurant upon the main road dated back since the 1950s and it flourishes from time to time as the government paves way to develop the regency. Now, it becomes an oasis for travelers and frequented by many every day.

So, whenever you’re here, be sure to try anything related with green chilies and by that I mean not just the dendeng or the chicken, but also the eels. It’s a simple pleasure found only in rural West Sumatra.


So many things to share from the capital city but I would like to just highlight this one for now. After the satay and the proteins from the rich Minang cuisine, then of course it is time for the soto Padang!

A Foodie in West Sumatra (1)

Soto Garuda has been there for many years and sells the much-loved soto Padang that you can find in Jakarta as well. However, their version is simply the best. It feels classic, fresh, clean, but also packed with flavors. The proteins came from the fried cow’s lung or the meat but adding their take of gado-gado is a must as well.

Clearly the two dishes are the best seller there and it’s better to come not too late in the evening or you’ll run out of it.


Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Jan 2015 edition

Download it for free here via SCOOP!

Dish That I Crave: The Real Dendeng Batokok!

Berbicara dendeng batokok tentu setiap restoran masakan Padang memiliki versinya sendiri. Berkeliling dari satu tempat ke lainnya, saya melihat seolah restoran-restoran ini hanya bermain dari jenis sambal, yaitu apakah menggunakan cabe merah atau cabe hijau.

Rupanya tidak hanya itu. Sebetulnya ada juga berbagai versi pengolahan daging sapi sebelum diakhiri dengan dipukul-pukul oleh batu cobek, atau yang kita kenal dengan istilah bahasa Minang-nya yaitu ditokok-tokok.

Cerita kelezatan dendeng batokok memang masih kalah pamor ketimbang rekan-rekannya yang lebih populer seperti rendang atau kepala ikan kakap. Padahal di balik itu semua terdapat cara pengolahan yang sebetulnya cukup rumit.

Dendeng batokok bakar lado mudo ala Chef Adzan
Dendeng batokok bakar lado mudo ala Chef Adzan

Pada resep dendeng batokok bakar ala Chef Adzan Tri Budiman di artikel terdahulu, kita bisa melihat pengolahan resep yang cukup ringkas namun tetap menghasilkan rasa lezat.Tetapi bila satu waktu berkunjung ke RM Dendeng Batokok di desa Muaro Kalaban, tepat di luar kota Sawahlunto; niscaya Anda akan terkagum-kagum dengan cara mereka memasak hidangan istimewa yang satu ini.

Konon proses marinasi daging harus berjalan sekitar 5 jam terlebih dahulu sebelum diasapi selama 10 jam. Lalu setelah itu barulah daging ditokok-tokok. Selanjutnya, sambal merah dan minyak tanak dipersatukan bersama dengan dendeng istimewa ini ketika disajikan.

Dendeng batokok ala Hj. Ermis
Dendeng batokok ala Hj. Ermis

Tidak pernah sebelumnya dan niscaya tidak akan ditemukan citarasa seperti ini di Jakarta atau tempat manapun lainnya selain di Muaro Kalaban. Kedalaman rasanya memiliki kekhasan sendiri.

Dihidangkan dalam bentuk tipis-tipis, dalam setiap lembar daging sapi ini terdapat citarasa kelapa yang cukup mentereng serta ada rasa hasil pengasapan yang menjadikannya smoky bila meminjam istilah hidangan bestik khas orang Barat. Konsistensinya yang serta merta lumer ketika bersambung nikmat dengan lidah kita membuat dendeng ini lebih dari istimewa.

Telur dadar khas Minang yang menjadi sandingan pas dendeng batokok serta nasi yang "ngeprul"
Telur dadar khas Minang yang menjadi sandingan pas dendeng batokok serta nasi yang “ngeprul”

Tidak hanya itu, rasa sambal serta minyak kelapa murni yang eksotis ini turut menyumbangkan keunikan tersendiri yang hanya didapatkan dari masakan Minang saja.

Oh kalau bukan karena betapa jauhnya restoran ini dan kerinduan pada negeri yang indah ini, tentu bukan tidak mungkin saya akan kembali berkunjung ke sini dari tahun ke tahun. Apalagi kalau bukan untuk menikmati “the real” dendeng batokok!


Check out my first post about RM Dendeng Batokok at Muaro Kalaban:


RM Dendeng Batokok 3

Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

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

T: +62.755.913.04

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!


Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

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!




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