Padang Cuisine

Monkey BrainWhen I travel abroad and eat whatever the locals are eating, I always tell my hosts I will try anything once. Though I may not be back for seconds. They like to see my face when I try these things.

EelPadang restaurants are a unique experience, based on a style of food that originated on the island of Sumatra and akin to our association of Cajun food like jambalaya with Louisiana. Food sits in the front window and they bring you bowls of food, usually two things in a bowl and you get a dozen options or so. You eat one piece, they charge for one. Don’t eat any, no charge. Then the left overs go back in the front window for the next guest. Much of the food sits out all day with no refrigeration. I think it was all cooked early in the morning because all is served room temperature. Not enough refrigeration in these places to keep overnight, so it must be fresh.

In Indonesia it’s common to eat with your fingers, the way we eat tacos or fried chicken in the U.S. The hard part is doing it without getting too messy, because everything has a sauce on it. The locals look pretty clean when they’re done, but I looked like a toddler on his first birthday. Hands and face covered. I need about four napkins during dinner, but they don’t use even one. A bowl of water is put at each place as the table is being set to clean fingers before and during the meal if necessary




(top left photo) I had monkey brain in Borneo!

(middle right photo) Eel comes in both fresh water and saltwater varieties. Both are good. Seasoning on these was a little too hot for me: red chiles!

(bottom left photo) These have teeth like a walleye, the state fish of Minnesota. The fish in this photo was at a Chinese restaurant. I really liked the pepper fish.