It’s been a big week for Ms. Tjahjadi as The New York Times called my dear friend Chef Dewi in last week’s Hungry City. Chef Dewi formerly of Java Village now cooks at Indo Java a small Indonesian grocery store in Elmhurst, Queens. Every Tuesday afternoon you can stop by for lunch, usually with a choice of a dish or two, served up by Dewi. This pop-up, affectionately called Warung Selasa (Tuesday “Food Stall”), is perhaps the best way to experience Indonesian food in New York, according my local Indonesian food guru Dan Hill who was kind enough to interview Chef Dewi between bites of his bakso mangkok.
When did you start cooking? I started cooking from home in New York in 2003.
You didn’t cook in Indonesia before you moved here? No, never. I worked as a secretary. Cooking wasn’t a hobby of mine. I learned how to cook when I moved to New York. I helped my mother cook at home as a child, but that was it.
Do you remember your favorite cooking of your mother’s when you were a child? No, but I learned from my Mom that if I wanted to eat something, I had to make it from scratch. I had to prepare all the ingredients and cook everything. So I remember the cooking process, but I never cooked. For example, if I wanted to make lontong sayur. I would have to make the lontong by cleaning the rice and making the lontong. The vegetables I would have to cut, like the chayote . . . and at that time there wasn’t grated coconut, so at that time we had to grate the whole coconut by ourselves. So everything had to be done from the beginning.
Bakso mangkok, literally a bowl of beef meatball soup inside a bowl made of beef itself.
So you knew how to do all these things, but you didn’t like cooking? No, I didn’t like it. I liked making cake. I liked baking, but I never did that either! [laughs] (more…)
When I first visited the Facebook page of Awang Kitchen, the newest Indonesian spot in the Southeast Asian-inflected Chinatown of Elmhurst, it displayed a vast menu, which has seen been edited down to a more manageable size. While the food was delicious, when I visited on opening weekend, the kitchen was moving at a glacial pace. Thankfully the kinks have been ironed out and Awang is fast becoming my favorite Indonesian spot in the neighborhood.
I’m a big fan of Indonesian fried chicken, so when I spied ayam goreng kalasan, a variety marinated with coconut water, I had to try it. It was some mighty fine bird and came with a sidecar of sambal terasi, a fiery red pepper concoction made with terasi, or fermented shrimp paste. It’s one of several sambals that the Jakartan chef-owner Siliwang “Awang” Nln makes in house. (more…)
I used to live in Indonesia and am craving Indonesian food. Read about the parking-lot festival and would love to know when it will be happening next. I’ve tried calling Masjid Al Hikmah several times, but have had no luck. Do you have any idea when it will be starting up? – Suzanne C., Bayside
I too am eagerly awaiting food festival season at Masjid Al Hikmah. I’m not sure when it starts up again, hopefully soon. In the meantime though some of the sisters from the masjid operate a scaled-down version of the bazaar on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that offers bakso and other treats. You might also want to take a trip to what I like to call SEA Elmhurst to check out OK Indo and Java Village. (more…)