Lately when people ask what my favorite food or restaurant is my answer besides, “Depends on my mood,” is Awang Kitchen. Since April the Indonesian spot has been in heavy rotation on my dining roster. Good thing Indonesian cuisine is so varied! When I first wrote about Chef Awang’s restaurant I made much about him bringing the flavors of Jakarta to Elmhurst, but the truth is the menu, particularly the specials, ranges all over Indonesia, including Sulawesi and Java.
I am slowly making my way through the wonderful, complex soups and stews that cycle through the specials board, including a grand version of soto mie jakarta, complete with a fresh spring roll filled with vermicelli and baby shrimp. What brought me there the other day though was the promise of sate ikan hiu, or baby shark satay, a Sulawesi delicacy. Sadly they were out of it by the time I got there, so I had to opt for one of my favorite appetizers, tempeh mendoan, which transforms the otherwise odious fermented soybean product into scrumptious fritters. Crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside with just a hint of fermented tang, they’re great dipped in the sweet kecap manis.
As for the soup, the waitress recommended sop konro, which she described as a rib soup. Served with rice and sambal tauco—a condiment made with plenty of chili and just a little bit of fermented beans—the bowl of deep brown broth carried a beguiling aroma of beef and spices. Lurking beneath the delicious broth was a hulking beef short rib. It was one of the most satisfying soups I’ve had in a long time.
Afterwards Chef Awang told me that like the shark dish I didn’t get to try, sop konro is from Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. The dark color comes from a bean called keluwak and other ingredients include garlic, shallots, and candlenuts. Awang didn’t name them, but I suspect that it also contains a blend of aromatic spices, including nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.
I’m glad I took the waitresses advice and tried the “rib soup,” who knows when it will appear on the specials board again.
Awang Kitchen, 84-05 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst, 347-492-9264