Over the years, I've definitely eaten my share of Indonesian food. While I've always enjoyed it, it wasn't until I had dinner at Indo Kitchen one night that I was really wowed. I was there to participate in a "tasting." Someone in our party was going to be hosting a holiday dinner featuring Indonesian dishes and since she didn't have much experience with that cuisine, she wanted some help choosing the right foods to serve. Suffice to say that we had quite a feast - a feast of 14 dishes, believe it or not.
Except for the Beef Rendang, which I found to be lacking in zing, the majority of the dishes were wonderful, but even then, I definitely had my favorites. Our meal started with Gado Gado which is an Indonesian salad with tofu, egg, veggies, shrimp chips topped with a peanut sauce. Whenever I've had this dish in the past, it's always been a disappointment. I think a lot of it had to do with the sauce. Either the sauce was too thick, too thin and/or just lacked punch. I've also had Gado Gado where it was made up of primarily lettuce which the sauce would make limp. Yuck!
Indo Kitchen's Gado Gado; however, was a hit with me. First, I liked the use of cabbage and other crunchy veggies like bean sprouts and green beans. The eating texture was just so much fun. The peanut sauce was also amazing. Its consistency was just right because it clung to the ingredients as opposed to being absorbed by them. Also, you can definitely tell that more than peanuts went into the sauce, evident by the various spice specks mixed into its liquid goodness, which definitely contributed to a more flavorful kick to your palate.
The other must-try is their Ayum Bumbu which is a crispy seasoned chicken. My oh my! A part of me wonders if they double fry this poultry dish because the crispiness of the skin was beyond words plus after taking your first bite, you may be an addict for life. How can you not be addicted to a food that is coated with ground spices, nuts and garlic and than deep fried? Those little crispy bits that were falling onto my plate as I bit into my chicken leg were quickly picked up with slightly oily fingertips, also to be consumed. They were just that tasty and not to be wasted.
With my Filipino palate, I always enjoy more sour and tart foods. In fact, my favorite Filipino soup is called Sinigang which usually is made up of a tamarind-based broth. At Indo Kitchen, you can order their Tamarind Soup. After doing some online research, I discovered that young tamarind tends to be more on the tart side and I can definitely say that describes Sinigang to a tee; however, ripened tamarind, while still retaining some sourness, is also sweeter. Now I know why my first spoonful of the Tamarind Soup was so surprising. Instead of the tartness, I got to enjoy a different flavor profile of the tamarind which I've never experienced before: sweet and sour.
The other dish that made my evening was the Tahu Campur, which is egg with tofu and cabbage in a peanut dressing. The Tahu Campur was actually a pretty simple dish with the egg, made into an omelet, covering the tofu and cabbage on the plate, but I liked how the omelet was browned and a little crispy at the edges. Add the crunchy cabbage, the spongy tofu plus the awesome peanut sauce, also used in the Gado Gado we had previously and what you get is an egg dish that you, more than likely, won't see in your local Denny's.
As for dessert, we three different kinds, but the Ice Cendol which includes mung bean jelly in palm sugar and coconut milk, was what put a smile on my face. I could easily see myself downing the Ice Cendol on a hot summer day, but even in what California classifies as winter, this dessert drink is still a sweet way to end your meal.
Overall, I really enjoyed Indo Kitchen and am looking forward to a return visit so that I can do even more Indonesian Cuisine exploring.
To see pics, go to:
5 N 4th St
Alhambra, CA 91801