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?

PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED

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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