Earlier this summer when I grabbed food from their stall at Alhambra's Summer Jubilee, and after much urging from Elmo Monster and Mochachocolata-Rita, I decided I really needed to dine here soon.
So a few months back, I convinced my brother to try Indonesian food with me. A long, long time ago, this location used to be a Chinese restaurant. According to their website, Indo Kitchen opened in March 2003 and serves Indonesian cuisine with a Javanese influence. It's a very small location, with only a handful of tables. This was in the late afternoon, so there were only a few other diners.
I ordered an es cendol (Indonesian mung bean jelly in palm sugar and coconut milk) for $2.99.
I thought this would be like che ba mau (Vietnamese three-color pudding). Instead it was a drink with a few pieces of jelly. I didn't care for the taste of the overly burnt palm sugar. Even after mixing up the drink, the burnt sugar taste was too overpowering.
We ordered the sate padang lontong (Padang-style tongue and beef satay skewers with rice patties) for $6.50. The beef and tongue were both too dry for my liking. Can any of my Indonesian readers identify the yellow sauce? I can't really remember if it had a taste and after cooling down, it quickly became thick and goopy. My favorite part were the rice patties. Maybe it's because they reminded me of Vietnamese rice balls, which I haven't eaten in years. The lontong were soft and springy without being mushy or sticky.
Now, I don't often mention service at mom and pop restaurants unless something really stands out. In this case, we also ordered the nasi rames pandang (Indonesian rice plate with beef rendang, chili, egg, curry vegetables, and fried mashed potato). Then after getting my drink, we waited and waited. I saw two other tables, that came in after us, get their orders first. Then the waitress came to say they ran out of beef rendang and asked if we wanted to order something else. It took them 15 minutes to figure out that they didn't have something? And we still hadn't even gotten our appetizer at this point. She suggested we order the nasi ayam bumbu and sayur asem (Indonesian fried chicken with rice and tamarind soup) for $5.99. Since that's what the other tables had, I figured I should order it so that the plate would come out quickly.
The tamarind soup was strong in both tamarind and belacan (shrimp paste) flavors. Indonesian cuisine with its strong use of spices, belacan, and kecap manis (Indonesian thick sweet soy sauce) can be a bit bold in flavors if you're not used to it.
Indonesian fried chicken is cooked twice -- boiled with spices and then deep-fried. The double cooking process means that if prepared improperly the chicken can be dry and tough. Luckily the fried chicken here was moist and succulent on the inside, with a lovely crispy skin.
Cecil of Food Craze has recipes for sayur asem and Indonesian fried chicken if you'd like to make these dishes at home.
I liked the pureed chili sauce and kecap manis chili sauce. The belacan chili sauce was too salty for me.
After seeing the mention of Indo Kitchen in my Summer Jubilee post, long-time reader Fkbloona said she wanted to take me here if I hadn't tried it yet. She said she eats here quite often so I was eager to try it again with someone who could lead me to various items on the menu. She brought along a friend who turned out to be a WC reader too.
This time I ordered soda gembira (Happy milk soda with syrup and condensed milk) for $2.25. Mmm. Can't go wrong with condensed milk!
I let Fkbloona do all the ordering. I'm guessing what these dishes are based upon the menu descriptions. Correct me if I'm wrong please!
We started with nasi goreng ikan asin (Indonesian salted fish fried rice topped with fried egg) for $5.99. This tasted similar to the Chinese version that I like, except with more kecap manis. The taste is like what it sounds, with salty fish. The salty fish isn't quite like anchovies, although similar in terms of saltiness. So if you don't like salty fish, this dish may not be for you.
I think this was the nasi empal dan sayur asem (Indonesian seasoned fried beef with rice and tamarind soup) for $6.50. The beef was redolent with lemongrass and coconut and spices, and incredibly tender.
Fkbloona said she often orders the gulai kambing (Indonesian goat curry) for $5.99 because she doesn't make this at home.
The goat was very tender and not too gamey at all. There were lots of very lethal chopped chilies scattered throughout the bowl so beware when you eat this.
Cecil of Food Craze also has a goat curry recipe she recently submitted to Weekend Wokking. I think it's great that I'm learning about Indonesian cuisine from readers and bloggers. Who knows? I may eventually venture into trying to cook something.
Ati and ampla goreng (Indonesian fried chicken livers and gizzards) for $2.99. These seemed to have similar flavors as the fried beef. I liked the gizzards, never been a fan of liver, however.
Pempek telor palembang (Indonesian fish cake with whole egg) for $4.99. The flavor of the fish cake was good, but it was quite rubbery.
We finished off our meal with cheese crackers that Fkbloona had purchased from the deli case by the counter.
And then, not only had Fkbloona invited me out for dinner, she insisted on paying for it too. Do I have the greatest readers or what? Thanks again for dinner lady! Next time's on me!
Overall, I liked most of the food that I tried. And at $6 to $7 for most dishes, Indo Kitchen is an inexpensive option to explore Indonesian cuisine.
Who else ate at Indo Kitchen?
Elmo of Monster Munching tried the combination rice plate, satay, and a colorful ice mix dessert.
Pleasure Palate tried 14 dishes and said almost everything was wonderful.
5 N. Fourth St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.
1 year ago today, Albalu Polow (Persian Sour Cherry Rice).