Exploring the World, Pandemic Style

Asia, Indonesia, Southeast

Laksa Betawi Assirot

When I began exploring places far from home more than ten years ago, cultural sights and performances were always high on my list of things to see and do. I can’t remember exactly when it started, but my interest in cultures that are different from the ones I grew up in is rooted in my childhood years as I loved reading about stories from faraway lands. Then I traveled and started taking notice of each country’s cultural practices. In Germany (or at least in the city of Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia), I saw how guests would bring plates to a wedding celebration and smash them right before entering the venue to bring good luck to the couple. In Saigon, Vietnam, I watched a puppet show performed on a stage filled with murky water to mimic the rice fields, and in Japan, I saw how age is not an excuse not to be energetic and productive, as shown by an older shop attendant who juggled different tasks with ease and extraordinary speed. These memorable moments illustrate why I fell in love with traveling: it broadens my horizons and gives me inspiration.

However, trying local dishes was something I never really did despite the fact that I always find joy in eating. When I went to Bangkok for the first time, I did think of sampling the local food – at McDonald’s. And when I was in Phnom Penh I only ate one Khmer dish and went to KFC; my default choice was the usual tourist fare. In the past, I always resorted to eating something that didn’t look too foreign. And why did I do this? I guess I was basically following what many people do when they travel.

This changed when I met James, a true foodie at heart who always makes trying local dishes one of the top priorities when he travels. On our first trip together to Laos, I had an amazing time sampling Lao cuisine which I wouldn’t have otherwise eaten had I gone there by myself. The more traveling I do, and the more local delicacies I sample, the more I realize not only the importance of food in different cultures, but also its ability to tacitly show us the history of a place. Take a look at the regional cuisines in Indonesia and they can tell you a lot about the past: Acehnese food usually incorporates a lot of spices, which is a testament to the area’s past connection with major trading ports along the Indian Ocean; Central Javanese dishes, on the other hand, have a distinctively sweet flavor thanks to the plethora of sugar cane plantations in this part of the island that were set up during the Dutch colonial period. In Jakarta, the local dishes are a result of centuries of amalgamation of culinary influences from different cultures, including Sundanese (the indigenous people of neighboring West Java), Chinese (due to the high number of immigrants from China when Batavia, as Jakarta was called, was an important trading port in the Dutch East Indies), Malay, Arab, Indian, Dutch and Portuguese to name some.

In short, due to its ability as a window to other cultures, food has now become one of the main reasons for me to travel. Through food, I can get a glimpse of how people from different cultural backgrounds have different ways of cooking, different philosophies concerning what goes into their mouths, and different perspectives on what food really means to them.

2020 had most of us grounded as borders were shut and traveling in general seemed to become something from a distant past. In 2021 we’re seeing how, to some extent, traveling is possible again, although it’s still nothing like how we knew it before the pandemic. So to satiate my craving to see the world, trying foreign cuisines in the city where I live is the closest thing to traveling that I can do for the time being.

Jakarta is not like New York or London where people from hundreds of different countries from all over the world live, which also means that you can find restaurants serving authentic food from all corners of the globe. But the Indonesian capital has been seeing a steady rise of businesses introducing dishes from faraway lands most Jakartans are not familiar with. In a post I wrote three years ago, I commended the city’s evolving food scene where now you can find Brazilian, Peruvian, Greek and Spanish restaurants in addition to those serving Japanese, Korean, Italian and Dutch dishes that had established themselves for quite some time. The pandemic has forced me to explore Jakarta even deeper, and because of that now I realized that there’s actually more to discover in this city when it comes to international cuisine.

Let’s start our journey in Central America – or one of Jakarta’s satellite cities to be precise. Situated in a compact commercial compound filled with uninspiring shophouses, Oh My Taco is a hidden gem in its truest sense. Inside the two-story venue – the upper floor was closed when we went – visitors are welcomed by a Honduran flag proudly displayed right above the serving hatch, while the rest of the dining area is decorated with Central American-themed ornaments. Owned by a Honduran who lives in the Jakarta metropolitan area, this restaurant serves dishes that may at first sound too strange for most Indonesians. Its plato tipico is a prime example for this; the combination of grilled pineapple and meat with pico de gallo, fried sweet banana, stewed red beans, avocado, rice and tortillas might not be something you come across every day. But if you are curious enough to give it a try, you’ll find out that mixing all those seemingly random components actually works. Add a little bit of everything, and the result is a beautiful balance of flavors that satisfies your taste buds. Of course, there’s no way for me to tell whether what I tried was authentic or if it had been adjusted for the Indonesian palate. But it sure was delicious.

The only Honduran restaurant in the Jakarta metropolitan area

Plato tipico, one of the most popular dishes in the Central American country

Taquitos flauta, one of the Mexican dishes served at Oh My Taco

Now let’s cross the Atlantic Ocean to Africa. On another day, James and I went to an unassuming eatery – which looked more like a canteen – in West Jakarta to try dishes from the western part of Africa. African Food Center Nwanyi Nnewi is one of very few places in the city that serve food from the continent. Hailing from Nigeria, the owner herself responded to my inquisitive WhatsApp message in a jovial and energetic tone when I asked her what dishes would be available on the day I planned to go there.

Prior to my visit, I’d watched quite a number of videos on YouTube about jollof rice, a dish that is popular in West Africa (and a source of national pride as each country has its own version of it) and had been curious to try ever since. When I finally tasted it myself at this low-key place, I was pleasantly surprised to find it even more delicious than what I expected. Its savory and umami flavor, with a little hint of sweetness and tartness, made it like comfort food that you just want to keep eating. We also tried nsala (a thick soup made from ground crayfish, yam, utazi leaves, pepper and other ingredients), egusi (a different soup made from ground melon seeds, red palm oil, meat and fish, and other ingredients that are foreign to me), and fufu (traditionally made from cassava, plantain or cocoyam, but the one we tried was made from wheat flour). There was something familiar yet foreign about the flavors of these Nigerian dishes, though they’re more peppery than most Indonesian food, but overall I quite enjoyed my first ever foray into the Nigerian/West African culinary tradition, ensuring a second trip or a repeat order in the future.

Still on the same continent, this time we travel across the vast Sahara desert to get to Morocco, or in my case to a restaurant called Marrakech in South Jakarta. James once told me how much he loved the lamb tagine he had at a Moroccan restaurant in Bath, England and how he wished there was a place in Jakarta that serves dishes from this North African kingdom. He did eventually find one on the internet, but apparently it was closed just months earlier as the owner decided to move to Bali to start another culinary business. It wasn’t until a few months ago when we finally came across the information on Marrakech and gave it a try.

When I had Marrakech’s lamb tagine, it truly was a revelation. The lamb shank which had been slowly cooked in saffron and cinnamon sauce was tender and succulent. Its sweet, savory and slightly tangy flavors will certainly be appreciated especially by Central Javanese (like me). Then we tried its couscous which was also served in a tagine – a shallow earthenware pot – that came with meat (lamb or chicken) and chopped vegetables (carrot, pumpkin, zucchini as well as chickpeas). It was also my first time having the North-African grain-like crushed durum wheat semolina which has this interesting texture that I liked. These tasty dishes and the fact that Indonesians don’t need a visa to travel to Morocco have put this country really high on my list of places I’d like to go to when this pandemic is over.

Where I had my first ever Nigerian/West African dishes

Nigerian jollof rice with chicken

Nsala (left side) and egusi with fried fish

The eatery’s version of fufu

Marrakech restaurant’s signature lamb shank tagine

Couscous with chicken and vegetables

Now let’s move to the eastern Mediterranean region known as the Levant which also happens to be among the latest places we traveled to before the pandemic started. In 2019 on our separate trips to Lebanon and Jordan, we discovered the fresh, hearty and delicious world of Levantine cuisine. We adored za’atar (a dried herb or spice mix used in cooking in this region), savored manakish, and relished different kinds of salad, from tabbouleh to fattoush and Arabic salad. It was sad to leave these countries as we knew that there was no restaurant back in Jakarta that serves authentic Levantine cuisine.

Or that was what we thought until we learned about Joody Kebab in North Jakarta. Owned by a Jordanian and his Iraqi business partner, this restaurant had in fact been around for quite some time. In the middle of August last year, we decided to give it a try and in the end regretted not knowing about this place earlier. We ordered manakish drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar; moutabal (grilled eggplant mixed with tahini and olive oil); and tabbouleh, which all tasted like what we had in Beirut and Amman. They even served arayes, a dish from Lebanon that we tried during our stay in the Jordanian capital. Unfortunately, early this year we learned that Joody Kebab had to permanently close its doors just two weeks after our visit. It’s one of those sad stories I believe many of us have been hearing since the start of pandemic as many restaurants struggle to survive amid the dwindling number of customers.

But not all is bad as some did manage not only to survive the pandemic, but also to thrive during these difficult times. In East Jakarta a small joint specializing in Iranian cuisine belongs to the latter category. Kourosh Kebab introduces traditional Persian fare to Jakartans through dishes including koobideh (minced lamb or beef mixed with salt, black pepper, finely grated onion then grilled on a skewer), joojeh (chunks of chicken that are marinated in lemon juice, saffron and chopped onion and then grilled), ghormeh sabzi (a stew made from sauteed herbs mixed with kidney beans and other ingredients), and khoresht gheymeh (a stew made with meat, fries, yellow split peas, tomato paste and dried lime cooked with turmeric, saffron, salt and pepper). Despite their earthy appearance, I found these dishes more produce-driven, not spice-driven as I’m more accustomed to here in Indonesia. But I really enjoyed them all nonetheless. And it looks like I’m not the only one as a few months ago Kourosh Kebab opened its second restaurant, this time right in Kemang, one of South Jakarta’s trendiest areas.

Joody Kebab’s interior

Manakish with za’atar

Joody Kebab’s moutabal

Tabbouleh, my favorite Levantine salad

Kourosh Kebab’s koobideh, joojeh, ghormeh sabzi and khorest gheymeh

While it’s been fun looking for new places to eat in and around Jakarta serving authentic dishes from around the world, I’ve also been exploring more Indonesian food during the pandemic and found one dish particularly intriguing. Laksa is a type of soupy dish popular in parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand. Usually served with noodles, it varies widely from one region to another. Some use coconut milk, others have a prominent sour taste. It turns out that Jakarta has its own version of the dish, called laksa Betawi, which is surprisingly not easy to find.

We had to go to a modest eatery in a densely-populated, low-rise neighborhood in South Jakarta to find Laksa Betawi Assirot, a family-run business that has been around since 1972. They only do one dish, and they do it really well. Made from a mélange of spices and ingredients that include pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, cardamom, ginger, kencur (sand ginger), galangal, lesser galangal, turmeric, candlenuts, lemongrass, salam leaves, garlic, shallot, sugar, two types of chilies, and dried shrimp cooked in coconut milk, with coconut cream added toward the end of the cooking process, laksa Betawi tastes as rich as it sounds. Served with sliced ketupat (a type of rice cake) with your choice of protein (egg, beef or jengkol – a kind of pea native to Southeast Asia) and then sprinkled with fried shallots, kemangi leaves and chopped Chinese chives, it’s the kind of dish that will give you an explosion of flavors in your mouth.

In a more upscale setting in another part of South Jakarta, I found the joy of rediscovering Indonesian food through Javara, a brand focused on reviving lesser-known ingredients and culinary traditions. At their visually-pleasing shop, they sell a wide variety of products ranging from all kinds of flower-specific honey (clove, coffee, rambutan, mango), artisanal salt (produced using traditional techniques in Bali), heirloom rice (forgotten rice varieties that were common in Indonesia before 1970 when the government stipulated that only certain types of were allowed to be cultivated to intensify rice production in the country), coconut oil for different purposes, and the list seems to keep getting longer every time I check.

Sharing a space with the shop is their small restaurant serving Indonesian dishes made using Javara’s products. Here for the first time we tried West Sumatra’s ikan asam padeh, a sour and spicy soup with skipjack tuna. It intrigued me that this light and refreshing dish comes from the same region that produces rich and spice-laden delicacies like rendang and different types of curry-like dishes that can be found at eateries throughout Indonesia. We were also delighted by tumis jantung pisang (stir-fried banana blossom), tempe/tempeh nuggets (it was like eating usual chicken nuggets, but healthier), as well as mie pelangi tuna dabu-dabu (naturally-colored vegetable noodles with pan-seared tuna and chopped sambal/spicy condiment from North Sulawesi). If the name Javara sounds familiar to you that’s because I have written about its outlet in Semarang’s Kota Lama that serves different dishes from its Jakarta outlet but is still dedicated to Indonesian food.

If anything, exploring flavors of the world makes me miss traveling even more. I miss randomly going to a restaurant in a foreign land which often turns out serving some of the most memorable dishes I’ve ever tried in my life. I miss convincing local people that all I want to try is the same dishes they eat every day, not pasta or pizza as I can find them easily back in the city where I live. I miss learning about the spices, herbs and ingredients used by different people in their cooking which, though unfamiliar to my Indonesian palate, taste delicious nevertheless. I miss learning about cooking techniques not known back home. However, as I am (as most of us are) still waiting anxiously for the pandemic to end, I’m pleasantly surprised to find out that Jakarta’s food scene is becoming more and more diverse every day. And that’s one of a few good things that has come out of this global health crisis: I am getting to know my city better.

Ikan asam padeh, tumis jantung pisang, and tempe nugget with chicken at Javara

Javara’s mie pelangi tuna dabu-dabu

Javara’s shop in Kemang, South Jakarta

As always, all posts published in my blog are not sponsored. All brands and business names mentioned here are purely based on my personal preference.

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

66 thoughts on “Exploring the World, Pandemic Style”

  1. So happy to see that restaurants are doing well in Jakarta. Unfortunately, in my part of the world, like in many others, that’s one of the businesses which is facing a second disrupted year. We try to order out from our favourite places, but the menus are often truncated, and even chefs have been affected by the pandemic.

    On another topic, I see that you have the same problem that we have: masks used as chin guards.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Actually many restaurants in Jakarta were also struggling in the first few months of the pandemic. Some have not recovered including my favorite Vietnamese restaurant which is still closed up to this day — its Instagram account only says “reopening soon” since last year. However, I notice those that managed to survive have also been focusing on online orders (there are two popular so-called super apps here in Indonesia through which people can order food online), and this include fancy eateries which had never done delivery in the past.

      Masks as chin guards are bad enough. But I have seen someone who lowered his mask when he was about to sneeze! Fortunately I was at least 10 meters away.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Deliveries from really fancy eateries is a new thing, and one of the nicer outcomes. Sad state for most of the restaurants though.

        Yes, I’ve notices similar behaviour. Also lowering the mask to talk.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I admit in the first few weeks of the pandemic, there were times when I automatically lowered my mask when I had to talk. It took a few more weeks for the new habit to sink in. However, at this point — more than a year since the start of the global health crisis — everyone should have understood how to properly wear a mask.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Bama. I’m so happy that meeting James opened up a new aspect of travel for you. As a vegetarian with a sensitive digestive system, Im, sadly, not as adventurous as Id like to be. I avoid American fast food no matter what country I’m in, including here in the USA. It’s like eating poison and sure as heck isnt interesting. Bon appetit 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Henry, just last night I watched a video on YouTube about dishes much loved in the US, and I noticed the ridiculous amount of sugar and fat to make them. The good thing is it seems like vegetarian food becomes more and more delicious and appealing these days. Have you been to Bali? A lot of places there do really good vegetarian/vegan dishes. However, if you travel across Indonesia, finding traditional, unpretentious vegetarian dishes should be very easy — as long as you’re not allergic to peanuts.


  3. What a post on global food in Jarkarta, Bama. I had to chuckle a bit at the beginning when you said you went to McDonalds in Bangkok and stuck to familiar foods on your travels before meeting James 😜 To be honest I thought you always traveled with James the entire time, but I guess you also traveled heaps before meeting him.

    The pandemic has certainly grounded us where we are, and it’s great you took us on a journey of good food around you. I like these places you presented, they all seem to strive to serve as authentic food as possible complete with thoughtful decor. I am not too adventurous when it comes to mixing many ingredients together, but sounds like you do get to experience the mix of flavours eating the plato tipico at Oh My Taco. The Manakish with za’atar also caught my eye. It looks amazing.

    It is good to see many of these kinds of restaurants survived the pandemic, and hope they are getting the support they are getting. Good to hear some places are making use of online ordering to continue on. As usual, great photography, Bama.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I was one of those people. Lol. We started traveling together in 2012. Before that I was pretty much a solo traveler.

      For me, one of the positive things that came out of the pandemic is that I get to know Jakarta and Semarang — my hometown — better. All these years, they were often overlooked by places further afield.

      I guess from now on, if one is thinking of running a restaurant, he/she should also consider taking orders online. That’s the way to go for the foreseeable future.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eating local foods is one of my favourite parts of traveling, I’m glad you’ve discovered this too. We are lucky to have a lot of international flavours here in Canada so I can often find many of the dishes from our travels – or at least versions of them. For my true favourites I try to cook them at home. One of my favourite dishes remains Gado Gado with tempeh. Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad now it is also part of my travels. I really want to return to Cambodia to try its local dishes because when I went in 2011 my palate was not that adventurous yet. I think I had mostly Western food when I was in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Gado-gado is indeed one of the most popular Indonesian dishes outside the country. However, I prefer some of its cousins, including pecel which has a more spicy and sweet peanut sauce. You should try it if you can find it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t believe you ever ate at a McDonalds of KFC! I’m astonished. Also I think I need to come to Jakarta and have you and James take me to all these wonderful places.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I actually find it easier to try diverse foods when not traveling because some places I travel to do not have diverse palates. For instance, I had Portuguese for breakfast and Peruvian for lunch yesterday. I was still too full to have dinner and only had an apple for dinner. However, like you, I cannot tell how authentic it is when I eat out. This was a whammy of a deliciously packed post with so many foods in one post, it could have been several posts. It was mouthwatering!!!!! How wonderful that you have a friend James to go with you too or vice versa! I am so glad James taught you how to explore the world through food!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is true, especially when one lives in a multicultural city inhabited by people from different parts of the world. I have only been to a Peruvian restaurant once, and it was in Hong Kong — I hope that place survives the pandemic. You can imagine how boring my food experience would have been if I hadn’t met James. He’s truly one of the most passionate foodies out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for the kind words, Bama. The learning goes both ways — traveling with you has opened my eyes to many things I didn’t know or appreciate in the past, like the many kinds of bananas and mangoes that exist in this part of the world. I remember a time you found it very funny that I could barely identify crops and fruit-bearing trees that are commonly grown in Indonesia (because of my urban upbringing in Hong Kong).

    On another note, I’m seriously impressed with the diverse range of eateries you’ve been able to hunt down here in Jakarta. The Honduran restaurant and the West African place were completely unexpected, as was Kourosh Kebab. It is such a shame about Joody Kebab; I still can’t believe the place closed for good just two weeks after we finally ate there. I guess we’ll just have to look for another place that serves up authentic Levantine food in the coming weeks and months.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will never forget that time when I told you that you were looking at a papaya tree, in Hong Kong! 😀 You didn’t know how it looked despite having eaten the fruit many times before.

      There are actually more restaurants that I found, including one that is owned by a Malian and another a little out of town that serves Filipino food. Maybe next time. I remember how impressed we were with the dishes we tried in Joody Kebab. I hope the owner will open a culinary business again in the future because the food is really authentic.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank goodness I read this post, while I was having supper, Bama. What a wonderful way not just to discover different food traditions, but travel through your tastebuds to places that are not accessible right now. I have never been an adventurous eater, but travel changed that for me. Like you, in the beginning, I also opted for foods I recognised. 😉 I had no James in my life to save me from my folly, but I did start to do food tours or cooking classes in the places I visited, which was my saving grace. Food really is a wonderful way to discover and explore a different culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you didn’t read this on an empty stomach, Jolandi! As you mentioned about cooking class, that’s another thing James introduced to me since we started traveling together. To date we’ve taken classes in Bali and Blitar in Indonesia, and Penang in Malaysia. Apart from that, we’ve also joined a walking tour focusing on sampling the local food in Beirut. Now I can’t imagine traveling without trying dishes that are unique to that particular place.

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  9. Like you 10 years ago, I remain rather hesitant in local cuisine. Wonderful that James was able to open a whole new book of travel tastes, so to speak, for you. I think it is fabulous that Jakarta has such a deep and robust food scene that you can feel as though you are globe trotting. I am so sorry to hear that Joody Kebab has closed. Such a shame. We loved the food in Jordan and your description of this restaurant visit took me right back to Amman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice to know that you’re now more adventurous with your taste buds, Sue. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Jakarta has all these dishes from different parts of the world, which makes me even more curious about others I have yet to come across. I also loved the food I had in Jordan, especially mansaf… mmmm. When we tried Joody Kebab and found the food very good, we were planning to take my mom there one day. So we were really shocked when we learned that it was permanently closed not long after we went.

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  10. You’ve come a long way since your McDonald’s and KFC days, Bama! Trying different food while travelling is also one of my greatest joys. For some reason, I’ve always been quite adventurous in that respect. I remember digging into a heaping plate of sardines in Spain when I was 7-years-old and the rest of my family turning up their noses. It’s great that you have found food from around the world in your own city. How do you usually come across this eclectic set of eateries? I’m drooling over the lamb tagine…one of my favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! 😀 It’s good that you’ve always been eager to try different dishes since you were young. That story of you eating sardines is hilarious. I think my adventure trying all these different dishes started with me randomly googling something like “African food in Jakarta”. Along the way, I also googled other world cuisines in the city. Oh that lamb tagine is also one of my favorites! I always love lamb, and the way the Moroccans cook it makes me want to visit the country even more.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You and James should consider leading a tour for for foodies and maybe history buffs. I think people who are well traveled bring a wider perspective to life and business. I’m always nervous about eating in different countries not because of the food but because of food hygiene. It’s interesting, although I live in a very diverse city, I don’t try a lot of the foods from different cultures. I’m going to make a point to start doing that. Most of their restaurants / stalls are out in the suburbs so it’ll take a bit of driving for me to get there. There’s a food writer that highlights all these wonderful small places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know what, after taking that food tour in Beirut, I thought it would be great to do something similar in Jakarta or elsewhere in Indonesia. I think some people are already doing it, but I have yet to join any of those. Speaking of food hygiene, as James grew up in Hong Kong, I was a bit worried he would fall sick when we were traveling in India because of the stories we’d heard. But it was actually in Mandalay, Myanmar where he got an upset stomach after trying some street food there. I hope you’ll get to try some interesting dishes when you venture out to those restaurants!

      Liked by 1 person

    • He surely did. And what I can do in return is introducing him to the world of spices (with my mom’s help) which he knew very little when he was still living in Hong Kong.


  12. “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are”, Brillat-Savarin
    I really like this quote because it’s so true. Food is closely related to a country’s history and lifestyle. You won’t know about that culture, without trying their food. Period.
    A brilliant way to explore the world, Bama! It’s also interesting to know that the culinary scene in Jakarta is so diverse.
    Btw, like Alison, I don’t believe that you ate at a fast-food chain. The way you describe food sounds like a culinary expert 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true. Now I always encourage people to try local food wherever they travel because it really is a window to another culture.

      People who have known me for a long time say that for me there are only delicious and very delicious food. If I say a dish tastes okay, that usually means other people will find it horrible. But through James’ blog I learned how to elaborate what I taste, which is actually a fun thing to do. I train my palate and my brain to identify different flavors and describe them in words.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What an impressive variety of restaurants. I had to laugh about you eating KFC/McDs when you first travelled. When I took my youngest daughter on her first trip to Java, we reached Bali by ferry and she was so happy to see a Halal KFC! I let her indulge, but refused to eat there myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess it really is a matter of perspective. I grew up eating my mom’s cooking which usually incorporates a wide variety of spices and herbs. And when I tried KFC for the first time, I thought it was something different. But then like everyone else, I became so accustomed to its fried chicken to a point I associated it as easy and convenient. However (fortunately?), those days are gone. I wonder how much your daughter’s palate has changed since her trip to Bali.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I woke up to take this culinary journey on this post today. Such a lovely read, it’s like I just took a trip to lovely places with amazing food today! Looking forward to more!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Your post made me really hungry. And nostalgic for unique food. What a great way to travel while not being able to travel. James truly introduced you to a whole new facet of traveling. Wonderful. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops, sorry for making your stomach growl. 🙂 Food has become an important part of my travel, so much so it’s one of those factors I consider when choosing a travel destination.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. How lovely. I always love trying the local food. In India with pandemic lockdowns are still severe, and we haven’t eaten out in a restaurant for close to 1.5 years now. However many people have started selling home cooked authentic dishes online, and I had one yesterday itself (gifted to me by a friend), from the North Eastern part of India, diametrically opposite to where we stay (South Western part). I think food makes a very important part of every travel, even road trips..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m curious about the food from Northeastern India. I wonder if it will remind me of the dishes I had in Myanmar, or Bhutan.

      I really hope the situation in India gets better soon. Meanwhile here in Indonesia it seems like we’re entering a second wave despite mass vaccination rollout. This is largely due to the Eid holiday one month ago where many people, despite government prohibitions, decided to go back to their hometowns.


  17. The food from North East of India would I guess be closer to Myanmar? Use of bamboo shoots, some very local eastern Himalayan range spices etc. it’s unique and oh so delicious.

    India had a terrible second wave, and we already fear the third wave. I really hope and pray this stupid pandemic ends soon and we are able to meet people and travel freely once again…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love bamboo shoots!

      I hope the situation in India gets under control and you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy.


  18. hcyip says:

    With international travel being near impossible, it’s a good idea to explore the world through different means such as seeking out international food in your city (for me, I’ve been reading books such as history and novels from different countries). It’s good to see that Jakarta, even if without that many international residents as you said, still has a lot of international food places. All the places you featured here look quite good, especially the Iranian and Honduran restaurants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We just have to be creative to explore the world in a different way, don’t we? Although I can’t lie that I really miss traveling. It’s good that you’ve been able to read a lot of books — I should have done the same.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hcyip says:

        Yes, we do, and your way of seeking out new cuisines was really creative.
        That’s ok, you definitely put out a lot of good writing about travel and Indonesia.
        One of my favorite books about a country is about Indonesia – “Indonesia Etc” by Elizabeth Pisani.
        Indonesia was on my radar, especially Yogyakarta and the historic sites, and I regret not having visited Indonesia before the pandemic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love that book as well for it gave me a fresh perspective on Indonesia and why this country still exists against all odds. I hope when the pandemic is over, or under control, and you’ll able to travel internationally again, you’ll get the chance to visit Yogyakarta. It’s one of my favorite places in the whole archipelago.

        Liked by 1 person

      • hcyip says:

        I learned a lot about Indonesia from that book especially the tremendous diversity and differences.
        When the pandemic is over, and travel is safe and I’m in the right mind to travel again, Indonesia will be near the top of my list.

        Liked by 1 person

      • hcyip says:

        Cool, if I go to Indonesia, I will check with you about advice and recommendations.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Even I, one of the least adventuresome eaters around, can understand the way our tastebuds can evoke cultures and experiences. This was such a thoughtful and appealing post, and it may have convinced me to travel with a more open mind, palate-wise, in the future! (Side note: very different/strange version of fufu, I think!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Through my tastebuds I learned how some cultures really love acidity in their food, while others prefer sweetness, or spiciness. I find the whole experience of trying to understand cuisines of the world as exciting as traveling itself. All thanks to James! When the pandemic is over, come to Indonesia, Lex. We will introduce you to all those traditional vegetarian dishes we have here.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! They have restaurants in Jakarta and Semarang, and I think now they also have an outlet somewhere in Bekasi, if I remember it right.


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