Many a time I’ve tried to like durians, but it just doesn’t happen … then again, it’s not as if there’s a rule saying I should.
Nevertheless, I’ve had it fresh, in a shake, in a cake, as lempuk, with all resulting in failure. And it’s not even the awful odor that does me in — I’ve generally eaten it in places that smell a lot worse.
With that displeasing transition in tow, I present to you, Jakarta, Indonesia. Jakarta is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been, but like many other cities, it takes some patience to get to the good eats. They are expanding their metro system and other forms of public transit, which is good, but it also makes the metropolis’ infamous traffic that much worse.
In short, getting to Jalan Raya Mangga Besar, or what I have deemed to be durian street (at least at nighttime), is vexing. Located in the northern part of the city relatively close to the old Dutch fort Fatahillah, and Jakarta’s Chinatown — near where a lot of the metro construction is happening — Jalan Raya Mangga Besar is busy during the day, but really buzzes at night with lots and lots of street food.
It’s also where you can find stall after stall of durian, the spiky fruit native to Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia, among other countries in Southeast Asia.
As it had been a few years since my last taste of something better suited for college mischief than human consumption, I took a walk along “durian street” for a small, small nibble:
Spicy fish, braised eggplant, pandan pancakes stuffed with sweetened coconut … if you’re looking for a primer in Javanese food with a hint of Balinese flavor, look no further than my video from Warung Kolega restaurant in Legian, Bali:
Due to the pandemic, many businesses had shutdown, particularly in the erstwhile backpacker hub of Kuta, where I stayed due to its proximity to the airport. And whereas Kuta has a heady mix of international and Indonesian restaurants, it’s not where you’d go for top eats in Bali.East meets West meets East meets what the???
Having previously lived in Indonesia, there were plenty of local foods I was longing to eat again. Of course, it’s easier to find regional Indonesian cuisines in Jakarta, but with Bali being much easier to enter in March 2022, it was good to explore somewhere I hadn’t been in seven years.
Still, while traveling for extended periods, every now and then I want to eat something reminding me of home, like a burger, katmer, or pizza.
Ah yes, pizza. As much as I enjoy eating you, you are not reliable in the least. At the lower end of the spectrum, there was that Origus buffet pizza in Beijing which had custard and red beans as a topping, and Imo’s with provel “cheese.” At the other end, this. But where would a place like Pizza Hut factor in to the equation?
You’re joking, right? Pizza Hut can tempt me all they want with their newfangled, limited time, east meets west offerings like dim sum pizza, but until they …
wait, WHAT?? dim sum pizza???
Considering that Indonesia has a small but prominent Chinese minority, and that Cantonese food is popular throughout much of the country, it’s not so unusual to see dim sum on the menu. But atop a pizza? That’s a new one.
I could have gone for satay, grilled fish, banana pancakes, but no, I opted for another primrose path.
To be fair, the dim sum pizza was edible, with crust housing the shrimp dim sum, and the pizza lined with mushrooms. Though, edible enough to return to Pizza Hut? Nah.