So, I chose my final destination (well hopefully not FINAL, but you never know given the tribulations in Indonesia): Yogyakarta. I'm going to spend about four days there. (However, I'm flying in and out of Solo via Air Asia.)
I read in Lonely Planet, I think, that there are cooking classes there. Anyone know of any? (Preferably in English, but I could probably follow by sight if I had to.)
Also, where to eat? Is there a night market? Where are the hawkers? Any good homestyle Indonesian food restaurants, especially ones that emphasize regional specialties?
Also, what are the MUSTS in and around Yogyakarta for someone who likes both natural wonders and the wonders of human creativity?
Nick, Jogya tends to see more tourists bec of Prambanan and Borobudur so it's easier to get trapped in the "Khao San to Kathmandu" Lonely Planet "banana pancake/banana shake" circuit. Jogya has great services, but tends also to have more touts than Surakarta/Solo. Spend more time in Solo-the city is not as picturesque, the traffic is godawful but the markets and the street food (and yes, night markets) are fabulous and the traditional culture absolutely without peer. I once heard three whole nights of all-night state-of-the-art Wayang Kulit (the best dalang, the most renowned pasinden at that time etc) hosted by the Prince of Solo in a courtyard right outside his kraton. My last trip was in the 90s-but let me check my notes to see if there's any usable material in there for Surakarta or Yogya. But with only 4 days, you won't have much time really. Borobudur and Prambanan are whole day affairs EACH. And there's tons and tons of "lesser" temples if you wish to pursue them.
Thanks Richard. Because I'm flying out of there, it's probably easiest to split my time, so maybe I'll do that. I'd like to see Yogya.
I hear you about the Khao San thing. I'm in Bangkok now. Just from the plane ride I'm already tired of kee nok farang -- unlaundered, unshowered, and bragging about how they bartered a tuk-tuk from 50 baht to 25 baht while complaining about how bad it would be to have a Wal-Mart here. My goal is not to step into Khao San. Though I ended up getting a hotel just off Sukhumvit, so I'm seeing the other type of annoying tourist here. Good thing about being near the "entertainment" in BK, though, is that I was able to get a bowl of kanom jiin at 2am after my flight arrived.
Any recs you have on Central Java would be greatly appreciated. I'll be putting together a tip sheet over the nex few days.
Well, Khao San has its charms. I for one shed a few nostalgic tears for that whole scene-but you know what I am talking about. You can't "do" Surakarta in one day!!!! Absolutely not. It's not organized for the foreign traveller like Jogja. It's a bigger city than Jogja (I am pretty sure-gotta look that up) and it takes longer to find things. You are less likely to have people come up to you speaking English-and there might even be people who speak only Javanese/Solonese and not Bahasa. If you "do" Solo in a day, all you'll come back with is impressions of pollution and noise and grime-not the extraordinary layers of culture hidden behind. That said, you will be surrounded by food: street side warung (i.e. "comedores") even around highly developed areas-such as Purwosari or the Singosaren area, this is a department store/shopping quarter that took the place of an old market the Pasar Singosaren-Chinese or Arab shops, hawkers selling cookies, sweetmeats, all kinds of jajan pasar at all hours of the day (and night!), ice vendors at night, mie purveyors in the alleys, excellent nasi gudeg (w/ green jackfruit) around the stations etc etc
Re: cooking class in Yogya per Lonely Planet
<snort> well, I would be careful. Jogja offers all kinds of classes for tourists: batik-making, massage etc etc Quite like Khao San Road.
Lonely Planet food writers are some of the least reliable around for food recs: I had an LP Mexico with me on my recent trip and was horrified at some of the things that are passed off in there as chow-info (see specially the ridiculous piece on street food in Puebla.)
But I didn't see your post/query re your trip until today. I would have voted for a trip up to great chow town Penang from KL-and then if you had the time-the trip by hydrofoil to Medan. But then you probably got the Air Asia tix to Solo at JetBlue prices so it's not an issue.
For KL, of course you have checked foodfirst's website
Tons and tons and tons of posts on KL chow. But this loh mee in particular makes me want to jump on a plane toute suite!!!
yeah, and i think lp is getting worse, too. the indonesia version i have seems to be entirely aimed at backpackers looking for a proper english breakfast or local fare with all the soul -- along with with the shrimp paste, chiles, and msg -- sucked out. the 'world food' series are surprisingly good intros, however, but they have few if any recs. what's sad is that for many cities all there is are the big guidebooks, most of which just repeat the same damned recs over and over again for years. i ate one of the worst meals ever on my travels based on a lp rec in old san juan, pr, in january. horrid stuff. i was begging for a tgi friday's.
i'm not bad at exploring and trying things on my own. street foods are good because you can always just point. but it would be nice to get some local or regional food at a restaurant that doesn't have a menu where local dishes share a page with spaghetti. i may just have to TOFTT -- perhaps multiple times.
if yogya is so popular with tourists and backpackers, i'm surprised there isn't more written on its food.
Thanks for the plug, RST.
Nick, a great resource for our forays to Sumatra has been 'Eat Smart in Indonesia' by Joan and David Peterson (RST's right, LP guides are pretty lame when it comes to food). But, you probably won't be able to find it (we ordered from Amazon).
Anyway, without giving specifics on restaurants, a good way to great finds is to ask about regional specialties. Ask at your guesthouse, on the street, in a market, ask the folks sitting next to you on the plane, what are the regional specialties of Jogja -- then once you're on the ground ask anyone where you can find them.
Masakan apa saja yang khas di daerah ini? (mah-SAH-kan AH-pa SAH-jah yahng (k)has dee DIE-rah IN-nee?) k's are barely pronounced.
Masakan khas daerah = regional specialties
Saying the words 'masakan tradisi' (traditional foods) seems to work well too.
Some Jogja specialties:
gudeg = young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk served with opor ayam (chicken in spicy coconut-based sauce), rice, a dollop of coconut cream, and buffalo skin crackers - the latter are really tasty!
bakpia = dough filled with mung beans and cane sugar
In Solo, lok for gampol plered (sweet snack made with rice flour, coconut milk, and spices) and nasi liwet (combo plate of riced served with chicken, giblets, chayote cooked in coconut milk .. and more beef skin crackers!).
Also sate buntel (balls of minced lamb and onion wrapped in caul) and, to drink, susu segar madu telur, aka SMT (milk, honey, and beaten eggs).
Of course, you'll see nasi Padang places and if it looks like a g.ood spot, stop in. It's a great way to sample a lot of dishes
Yogya is famous for the Borobudur and Prambanan temples, you won't want to miss those for sure.
Foodwise, almost everyone mentions gudeg (young jackfruit stew), and almost everywhere serves this dish.
Other dishes that you should look out for: Ayam Kalasan or Ayam mBok Berek, chicken braised with spiced coconut water, then fried.
You gotta try Indonesian sate kambing (lamb satay) from a cart.
Why Medan? If you're looking for Nasi Padang, it's available throughout Indonesia. Just look for the restaurants with many plates stacked up by the window.
Many tourists either stay at the Prawirotaman or Sosrowijayan area. Sosrowijayan is closer to the train station, so tourists tend to get hassled more in this area.
Huh? Why switch now? I adore Solo. I thought I was clear about that. In fact I adore ALL of Java: Cirebon, Semarang, Surabaya, Malang, every single city with its own magic and its own distinctive cuisine. Then there's the great Kebun Raya at Bogor. And the Dieng Plateau etc etc And Yogya is certainly one of the great world destinations bec of Borobudur and Prambanan + countless other temples (Mendut in particular). If anything, you should switch to this itinerary:
Air Asian KL/Yogya (I think it flies this route no?)
then by land to Solo
Air Asia back to KL
i'm in solo now. fly out tomorrow for one night in bangkok (ha! just got that song stuck in your head -- but alas, mine, too...). will try to hit the wet market in the morning before the flight. just did duta minang, a chain of masakan panang places, but decent quality. honestly, i didn't have a lot of especially good food in indonesia. it may just be my palate. i like eating foods cooler than most people, much like mexicans where it's lukewarm. but here, most things have been sitting around, even sate sits around. when it's made to order it's delicious, but it rarely is. had martabak my first night in yogya (like roti canai, but pan-fried more with more emphasis on the filling, i think) and it had been sitting. i hoped they'd make one to order and just had a couple on display. perhaps if i spoke more than a few words and phrases of bahasa i could have insisted. had martabak last night, freshly made, and filled with a pefectly cooked mixture of eggs, onions, and meat and it was terrific.
even stewed meats like beef rendang are often chewy. curries tend to be pretty thin, with rendang being an exception. the lesehan places on malioboro and places doing nasi campur are a mixed bag. it's quite random, i think, as to which are good. but none i visited were really any better than the duta minang chain. and no less expensive, i don't think.
one exception was ceria, possibly also a chain. this was on the road immediately west of the malioboro up towards the train station. this is a good road to find eats. got the best fried chicken i had in indonesia, plus fried chicken skins, at a warung here. (also got a 90 minute foot massage for 25,000 rp, about $2.50 -- and while it hurt like a motherf'er, it was probably the most effective of the trip, and i got one a day in thailand, plus one in kl.) ceria's dishes were fresh looking and tasting and had better execution than most. they also had a wadeng counter. yum.
so i have mixed feelings about my first trip to indonesia. oh, and btw, i probably ate 4 or more meals a day in indonesia, so i was doing my part to find the good stuff. best thing i had, probably, was some gado gado that was made to order by a warung on the next major street west of parawhatever. never saw it there again, though.
yogya's wet market pasar beningharjo is not one of the better ones i've visited. pretty dirty, mediocre quality produce, not many spices, cockroaches the size of my thumb or bigger, little fish and meat, etc.
also, duta hotel and duta guest house rock! and there is a laundry that does by the kilo just north of parawhatever on the perpindicular road. they even iron the clothes and deliver them to your hotel.
Hmmm. Sorry to hear your food experience was less than stellar. I can guarantee you that it's not representative of Indonesia, or at least of Sumatra and Bali.
I wonder if Yogya's market was damaged/affected by the earthquake. I had heard it's one of the best on Java. As for dirty and cockroaches the size of your thumb, well, welcome to a 'real' southeast Asian wet market! Just keep your eyes on the food and don't look down. ;-)
I've been to plenty of "real" wet markets. I thought this one was especially grimy, which was probably highlighted by the lack of quality food items. Went to Pasar Gede in Solo and it was better. It's funny seeing Washginton apples in such a market, though, and on the streets throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. I wouldn't be surprised to see better wet markets in Yogya as you get out where people live.