05/28/13 10:32am

Pondok Jakarta’s Fried Chicken is Southeast Asian Soul Food

Whitney fried chicken, named for a certain thoroughfare in Elmhurst.

Whitney fried chicken, named for a certain thoroughfare in Elmhurst.

Ever since I got back from North Carolina I’ve had a fried chicken jones. Efforts to round up a crew of eaters to head uptown to Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken have fallen apart. I’d just about given upon my fried chicken quest when I found some in the most unusual of places, Pondok Jakarta, a newish Indonesian spot on Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst.

Pondok Jakarta takes its name from a traditional Indonesian hut. Whitney Fried Chicken ($8.95) leads the roster of chicken dishes. The Indonesian name listed beneath, ayam goreng ala pemuda, means fried chicken pemuda style. Pemuda means youth, and, as best as I can tell, has been affiliated with various Indonesian political movements. Politics aside it’s some fine fried chicken. Despite the word youth it’s a hen that’s been marinated for a day. Then the bird is cooked for four hours, presumably boiled and then given a nice hard fry. I like to think of it as more of a chicken confit. The accompanying sambal rica is quite lovely, a funkier Southeast Asian answer to Texas Pete.

What came first the chili fried chicken or the egg?

What came first the chili fried chicken or the egg?

A week or so later I returned to Pondok to try the chili fried chicken ($7.50), tantalizingly described as “smothered with hot chili pepper.” When asked if I wanted the sauce on the side I shook my head. Served with a boiled egg, steamed chayote, and a mound of rice the bird itself is less crunchy than the flagship Whitney Fried Chicken. It is however quite spicy thanks to a blanket of incendiary chili paste.

Pondok also serves a third fried chicken, Jakarta style, that I have yet to try. Personally I think they should concentrate their energies on a spicy version of the Whitney Fried Chicken. After all, WFC has a certain ring to it.

Pondok Jakarta ,86-20 Whitney Ave., Elmhurst, 718-606-8025

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