Category Archives: Sungai Kalu

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.

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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.

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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!

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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: Anything from RM Sungai Kalu!

Tak terasa hampir setahun berlalu sejak terakhir saya bertandang ke penghujung selatan Sumatra Barat ini. Tentu setiap kota maupun kabupaten di negeri ini memiliki berbagai restoran kebanggaannya, namun bagi Solok Selatan salah satunya adalah RM Sungai Kalu.

RM Sungai Kalu II 1

Tidak jauh sebelum mencapai perkampungan yang dikenal dengan “seribu” rumah gadangnya, RM Sungai Kalu berdiri sejak masa dimana jalan raya ini masih terbuat dari tanah. Di Jalan Raya Muara Labuh – Padang ini, RM Sungai Kalu menjadi opsi terbaik untuk rehat sejenak dan bersantap sebelum melanjutkan perjalanan menuju atau dari propinsi Jambi.

Meskipun terletak di sebuah desa kecil, RM Sungai Kalu begitu cepatnya dipenuhi pengunjung di kala jam-jam makan. Saya pribadi yang sudah berkunjung dua kali ke daerah ini sangat menyarankan untuk berhenti dan mengisi perut di restoran ini sebelum melanjutkan perjalanan. Terbukti pada saat sekembalinya kami dari Padang Aro, perjalanan panjang hingga lima jam harus kami lalui untuk mencapai kota Padang. Sayangnya saat itu saya belum berkesempatan mencapai Jambi.

Tapi marilah kita bercerita sedikit tentang makanannya. Persis seperti tahun sebelumnya, saya selalu menyempatkan bersantap aneka hidangan yang berhiaskan lado mudo di sini. Kekhasan RM Sungai Kalu adalah belut goreng serta ayam goreng cabe hijau yang juga dilengkapi dengan kentang goreng. Tentu jangan ketinggalan pula mencoba berbagai pilihan lainnya di sini.

RM Sungai Kalu II 2 RM Sungai Kalu II 3

Panas terik pegunungan di siang hari akan terobati dengan menikmati sepiring penuh nasi dengan belut goreng renyah ini. Sambal hijaunya segar tiada tara dan begitu pula bila ditemani dengan segelas es jeruk. Rasa penat dari perjalanan jauh seakan terobati dengan begitu cepat.

Namun sayang di saat bernostalgia seperti sekarang ini, RM Sungai Kalu begitu jauh dan sulit untuk ditempuh. Semoga di lain masa kita akan berjumpa lagi.

Bila beruntung, kita akan bertemu lagi di Tour de Singkarak 2015!

Bila cabang yang satu ini terlewatkan, jangan khawatir. RM Sungai Kalu II terletak sedikit lagi ke selatan setelah desa rumah gadang. You won’t miss it.


Check out my first post about RM Sungai Kalu:


Unsuitable for vegetarians

Jalan Raya Muara Labuh – Padang,
Kec. Koto Parik Gadang, Solok Selatan Regency,
West Sumatra – Indonesia

T: +62.821.7184.0311 / +62.812.6102.7117

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!




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