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Aug 24, 2008 05:30 PM

Add Indonesian to Burmese Food Fest

Thanks to Eating in Translation we made it to Astoria today for an Indonesian food fest. A bit smaller in size an the Burmese it was nonetheless as good and as interesting. Unfortunately we noshed a little in Flushing prior to so we did not sample as much as we'd have liked. We had:

Sate combo; lamb, chicken and beef. My BH basically ate them...she liked them and the peanut sauce was homemade. In additon, they dribbled a soy sauce (kecap manis?) on top. I didn't see (waiting on another line)

A noodle soup dish; with chopped beef and mushrooms, broth, and beef meatballs. Garnished with scallions, fried shallots (I think) and topped with sambal. Meatballs were a little rubbery bu the sambal gave it a nice kick. I enjoyed this alot

Steamed fish dumplings. These were pretty dense and had some fish aste but very mild. They were topped with peanut sauce and I think, kecap manis. hey were served luke warm. Interesting, but not memorable.

A cold sweet drink made with milk, coconut milk, green leafy i don't know what, ice, what we were told was rice (had the texture of gummybears) and molasses type syrup. Very refreshing and very sweet (too sweet for my BH).

Finally, we had two types of fritters. One was like a fried wanton stuffed with a piece of chicken; served room temp, it would have been better hot. The second was a mini-pancake sized flat bun. It had ground meat and scallions. It was the better of the two.

We unfortunately did not take any pictures of the food. I wish we had, altho I can't seem to upload (download?) them onto my posts a anyway (help?). I have several from the Burmese fest that I 've tried to post several times without any success.

There were at least seven or eight other table with foods to sample. By this time we were full.

I would definitely say that along with the Burmese fest, this fest deserves to be on Hound calenders for next summer.

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  1. The gado-gado was super saltyfishyfierypeanuttycrunchycoolcrispsoftchewysweet. If there weren't so much more to try, I could have eaten a gallon tub of it.

    A similar peanut-chili-shrimp paste was spooned onto another stall's steamed fish cakes three ways: wrapped like a dumpling, stuffed into soft tofu, and stuffed into slices of bitter melon. With some molasses and hot sauce drizzled on top of all that, even the bitter melon was reet tasty.

    Asunin? (Shoulda written it down) was a refreshing cabbage slaw strewn with bits of yellow marinated tofu. Liked that along with a couple of items from the same table's rice plate: a hypersweet, butter-soft beef redang and a sort of quasi-cassoulet featuring red beans and bits of what I took to be tripe or maybe tendon.

    Less thrilling was a big deep-fried triangle of what seemed like taro (or tapioca?) starch stuffed with hard-cooked egg and deposited in a puddle of a sweet soy sauce.

    Of the desserts I tried, I thought the oddly donut-hole-like glazed fritters of red rice were all right but a little firm and dry for me; better were a refreshingly thin durian milkshake -- you could taste the creamy whole milk as much as the durian -- and best of all given the rising afternoon heat, a coconut-pandan "popsicle" in a knotted plastic bag. Mmmmm.

    That night, still smitten, I improvised a gado-gado-like salad for dinner.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hatless

      According to the lady who first sent me news of this bazaar, the dish that I thought was gado-gado, and that I introduced to everyone as gado-gado, was actually lothek -- a "quite similar" salad, she said. The dressing for gado-gado uses coconut milk and must be cooked, she noted; it also contains hardboiled egg, shrimp crackers, and the nut crackers called emping. The dressing for lothek is ground to order using a mortar and pestle (but, it seems, not cooked), and it features tapioca crackers.

      If I have better luck with the photo upload than toby1355 (the Chow uploader has bonked on me many times, too), you can see the lothek below; if not, have a look at

      1. re: DaveCook

        could they also mean something like rojak?

        1. re: bigjeff

          Rojak, she didn't mention. She added that "pecel is similar to lothek, but usually the peanut dressing is already made." At this point, however, without the bazaar's salad stall in front of me, I'm out of my depth.

    2. thank you! can you provide some addresses/info, etc.?

      1 Reply
      1. went over the weekend, to the second event of their 2009 season (one of the vendors said they have it almost every 3 weeks); the inaugural weekend was apparently packed (from the NYT article from Dave Cook) and this second weekend was equally packed. Btw, for further reference, website is here:

        the place is real easy to get to by train (R/V/G to 46th St in Astoria), we sampled the cendol, a pink drink with coconut meat shreds, a meatball noodle soup, gado-gado (or some form of it), some cracker-type things, and a jook-style porridge. all were delicious, the place was really packed; the line for cendol (there was a very inefficient vendor in the middle of the left side) was ridiculous but worth it, although I've had a better one at Java Village in Elmhurst. The meatball soup was right next to the cendol vendor and for $5, noodles piled with various meats, fried wonton-type things, fried onion, sambals, etc. The jook thing was towards the back, between the gado-gado salad ladies in the back right corner, and a table selling all pre-packed goods (we picked up a rice dish with a fried chicken leg and various fried pork parts for $5 and ate it later, it was good) in the back left. The jook was very good, garnished very similarly to the noodle soups (it seems almost everything was garnished the same: fried shallots/garlic, fresh herbs, various sambals (a smooth and a chunky), etc; this was really good, although a warm dish that probably wasn't the best idea for the hot day. the gado-gado/lothek was amazing and filling and delicious.

        next time I may pick up the satay combo from all the way up front on the right side; 5 sticks of any combination of chicken/lamb/beef over lontong (the rice cubes) and drizzled with ABC and sambal looked really good and a pretty standard order.

        the big difference between the burmese fest and this is that while there were some stalls specializing, there were many other stalls selling all the same thing; satays, various fritters, similar noodle soups, similar steamed cakes and things; less of a specialization than what I've found at the Burmese event where each stall basically turned out one dish. on a hot day like yesterday, the pavement and the crowds made it somewhat unpleasant, but the gado-gado was beautiful, as was these fish crackers we picked up, 3 for $1, large discs filled with small fried anchovies and fried so well; same vendor as the people selling yuca strips covered in chili sauce. one thing the indonesians do is fry really really well!

        3 Replies
        1. re: bigjeff

          My favorite item at this festival was probably the snack called the combro ("grated-cassava croquettes" according to Dave Cook). I liked the gado-gado/lothek variant; that vendor's menu actually referred to it as "gado gado (something) lothek" if I remember correctly. I took a lot of this home, for want of a place to sit down and eat, but sadly the curvy tapioca crackers (?) got soggy, though the rest was still good. From that same vendor, I also got some tasty but oily veggie fritters with corn and various other colorful things in it.

          I also enjoyed a huge mass of spinach-like substance, stuffed with a little bit of chicken, I think, over rice. Maybe this was lontung sayur? I enjoyed this more as leftovers several hours later, away from the hot sun. This reminded me of a superior spinach and/or kale dish (sayur daun singkong, I think) at Upi Jaya in Jackson Heights.

          I also tried the egg-stuffed fishcakes with noodles and cucumber, which I found to be pretty bland, though nicely crunchy on the outside, and with a good egg flavor.

          But overall, I didn't enjoy this fest as much as the Burmese fests in Briarwood, perhaps because I did not react well to the hot pavement, claustrophobic crowd, and the lack of unoccupied seats. I should've gotten there earlier. I couldn't even take the food a little ways down the street and eat in one of the few shady spots on the sidewalk because an uptight woman who lived in a brownstone there chased me away ("this is not a place to be eating!") which just made me more cranky. (I was in a foul-enough mood that I would have stayed and argued extensively about the ownership of the sidewalk but I didn't want to make trouble for the Indonesians with their neighbors.) Fortunately a friendly Indonesian guy made me feel better by sharing his fishcake dumplings with me. They were very very dense (he also had to share them with a bunch of other people in order to get rid of them!) and pretty bland but the friendly gesture was awfully nice. We also shared sips of each other's dessert drinks. He and I agreed that his bright green dessert drink (es cendol, I think) was much much tastier than my brownish, thin durian drink, which was 99% milk with a touch of palm sugar and little meager strings of mostly-tasteless durian. I was hoping for more durian! And aren't these dessert drinks supposed to be made with coconut milk, not cow's milk? The cow's milk did not agree with me. And finally, I took home a sticky rice triangle with coconut, with a little container of very sweet syrup on the side (presumably palm syrup). Again, bland. Not enough coconut.

          In any case, if I ever go again, I'm getting there early, or not at all. 2 p.m. was way too late. That mosque's little courtyard is just not big enough for all those people! If Upi Jaya is still as good as it used to be, then frankly I'd be happier there.

          1. re: Ike

            Hey, Ike! I can understand your crankiness - The secret IS to get there early as possible! And also bringing a friend is a big help - one can sit and guard chairs while the other gathers...I went to the first and had lots of goodies, which I think is the way to go - Several were excellent, many good. Point and pick, with so much to choose from, but don't miss the gado-gado made to order (each order has it's own peanut sauce ground in front of you!) at the back table. Sorry I didn't post soon enough to actually remember details...

            1. re: Ike

              all i know is, lontong refers to the compressed rice cubes that many things were served over, including the gado-gado, and many of the satays. i saw that spinach dish though, but wasn't in the mood to eat rice that day. and those crackers on top of the gado-gado are krupuk, or shrimp crackers! and, tapicoa starch-based.

          2. Hi - newibe here, but not to Indonesian, or at least Javanese, food. I know some of the ladies who cook the stuff @ the bazaar. Couple of minor corrections - I don't remember what the pink coconut drink was called (maybe "es kelapa" = "coconut ice"), but "es cendol" is the drink/ice with the green wormy things (the 'cendol' proper - they're made of rice flour and are supposed to be flavored w/pandan = screwpine, which is where the green comes from, but they're usually more-or-less tasteless) and palm sugar + coconut milk on top.

            The "jook"-like stuff is called "bubur"; the most common kind is "bubur ayam" (chicken). It's not made like Chinese congee, which is rice cooked for a long time with a lot of water until it's soupy. Bubur is more complicated - the rice is cooked for a long time until it turns into glop, then cooled to room temperature. At serving time, it's diluted with a hot, spicy chicken broth, and garnished with things like chicken shreds, egg, garlic or onion flakes, shrimp or tapioca chips, etc. I love it. It's a typical breakfast or late-night dish.

            "Asinan" is a sweet and (mostly) sour dish made with vinegar and more-less-uncooked vegetables. One or two of the stalls sells it to take out (the last two festivals, they had different kinds each time).

            Meatballs are asian; supposed to be rubbery. They would call them "chewy." I love them, but they're not to everyone's taste.

            Other recommended dishes: "Soto Betawi" ("Jakartan Soup") if you like guts - beef tripe, liver, tongue in a thin coconut-milk + beef (or chicken?) broth w/peppers and tomatoes and things. Soto urat = stuffed tripe in soup.

            Some of the stands have "nasi campur" ("mixed rice") which doesn't mean anything specific, but they'll put together a plate for you. It's a good way to try a bunch of stuff. There was one dish at the second bazaar, not the first, of taro leaves stuffed w/coconut and a little bit of dried fish, in a coconut-milk gravy, that was pretty spectacular, but I forgot to ask what the name was. I don't think it's Javanese (there are a lot of other islands in Indonesia).

            As toby1355 pointed out, some of the stuff is better hot even though they serve it at room temperature. There was a stuffed tofu ('tahu isi') like that - really large, about the size of a fist, stuffed w/veggies, that needed microwaving, but was unbelievably good after nuking.

            Suggestion: get there early, 11 or 12 is good, before the sun gets too high. That way, you can sit comfortably on the sidewalk on the shady west side of the mosque. Or just get a lot of stuff to bring home.

            11 Replies
            1. re: geckoFeet

              thank you for the breakdown! I really enjoyed the bubur; we were planning to go again so I'll keep some of your tips in mind. any other not-to-be-missed items at the bazaar? and, if you could break down locations somehow (a map of sorts?) because of all the overlap between offerings?

              1. re: geckoFeet

                Do any of these stalls ever make Nasi Biryani? I've been getting a craving for some Biryani rice like I used to have in Singapore & Malaysia, but can't find it anywhere in the NYC area. Any advice as you seem to be well versed in all things Bahasa.

                1. re: deam

                  Thanks for the kind words, which I pedantically have to repay with a slap, and point out that "Bahasa" means "language," so saying I'm well-versed in that would refer to my linguistics degree, but that's just an undergrad degree, so I'm not that well versed.

                  Also, more to the point, I know some things about Javanese food and the sort of pan-Indonesian stuff a bland version of which they feel appropriate to feed to tourists (when Americans come back from Indonesia complaining that the food is dull, you know exactly what sort of places they've been eating in), but there are hundreds of non-Javanese cultures in Indonesia, and I don't know much about them. (The biggest groups live on Java: Javanese, mostly in central and east Java, are about 40% or 45% of the population, so they're much the biggest group. Next is Sundanese, who live in west Java, maybe 10% or 12 %. Next is Betawi, who live in the Jakarta area, maybe about 8%. I'm pulling these number out of my butt, so don't take them too seriously.)

                  I've never seen of heard of Nasi Biryani in Indonesia. Quite sure they don't have it in central Java. The name is obviously Indian - there are large numbers of Indians in Malaysia and Singapore (the British imported them when they were the colonial power), not so many in Indonesia (which was colonized by the Dutch).

                  Other dishes I liked: karedog, which is basically coleslaw w/peanuts and a tamarind dressing instead of a milk or mayonnaise thing. Rawon, which is a beef (brisket) soup flavored (and colored black) with "kluwuk" nuts - don't know what those are in English. I had some really awful, dry chicken sate that my roommate picked out, so he's not allowed to choose things any more. Oh, "rujak" is a fruit salad. Most westerners like "rujak petis" which is sweet + salty (petis is a black-ish flavoring made from fermented shrimp shels). There's also "rujak manis" ("sweet") which is WAY too sweet for western tastes, but try it anyway - eat w/rice and something sour, maybe an asinan. "Gudheg" (or "gudeg") is young jackfruit, inevitably canned here, which is usually either slightly sweet or very sweet (it's a main-course thing, not a dessert). The sweet version, which is typical of the city of Yogyakarta (where the earthquake was a few years ago) is not well liked by westerners (or other Indonesians); the less-sweet version, typical of the city of Solo (aka Surakarta) is much better. It's a toss-up which you'll get.

                  The two times I've been, the stands haven't all been the same, and the ones that were didn't have all the same stuff, so I don't know how useful it would be to provide a detailed map, but it might be fun to try. If the next one's on July 19, though, I might not be able to go, since that conflicts with a reptile show in Westchester.

                  If I can find my camera, it'll be fun to take pictures - that's a very asian thing to do. A couple of months ago, I took a Javanese friend to a Japanese restaurant here, and he took pictures of everything - the Japanese staff + customers looked very accustomed to that sort of behavior. Even if I can't find my camera, I can certainly make notes - it hadn't occurred to me before that most of the signs are in Indonesian (since the foods don't have convenient English names).

                  Get extra food when you're there. Most of the stuff will keep for a couple of days at least; most of the stands will wrap up stuff to go (and there's a lot that's already packaged that way).

                  1. re: geckoFeet

                    thanks for the explanations; perfect!

                    just to add to your explorations, this place java village in elmhurst:


                    been in and out of there, the place does brisk business, they have a huge spread of stuff, most of which I cannot identify. but, most of it good when we tasted it.

                    1. re: bigjeff

                      Oh, yeah, I love that place, but most of my fellow Indonesi-o-philes don't. The stuff prepared to order is better than the pre-prepared stuff, generally, but the pepes (things w/banana-leaf wrappings) are pretty good.

                      You can also buy their stuff, in convenient take-out form, from the wonderful little store "Indo-Java something or other," a block and a half away, on the other side (south side) of Queens Blvd., just w. of Grand/Bway. It's owned by the same people as the restaurant. The best prepared food there is the stuff labeled "Philadelphia.' A little chow-houndy research shows a bunch of Indonesian places in Philly, but I keep forgetting to ask which one they get their food from. They don't always have the Philly stuff, but it's definitely worth a grab.

                      1. re: geckoFeet

                        whoa that is cool. never saw that place before but . . . very good, esp. since I live quite nearby. awesome.

                        and to return the "favor" (not that I know if you are into thai crap) but a similar deal at the place called Sugar Club which is up Broadway, near Elmhurst Hospital, just a block or two past that park/playground. lotta takeout goods as well, many from area restaurants (arunee, SEA, spice). haven't had any of the takeout stuff but it looked good, and very inexp. I'm sure the flavors will have to get amped up but, that's the point of that sorta takeout; bring it home, hook it up a little bit and it should be golden.


                        1. re: geckoFeet

                          hmm. Philadelphia. makes me wonder whether Ena Widjojo is catering for NY again, after relocating to Philly and setting up Hardena there a number of years ago.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Thanks, Jeff. I would have assumed that some place called "Sugar Club" is a massage parlor or something. I don't know much about Thai food, since I've never been to Thailand - do like that restaurant, I forget the name, in the shopping center on the NW corner of Whitney and B'way, since it's mostly Thai people in there and the food has a lot more flavors (fresh herbs and things) than in the run-of-the-mill Thai places. I live in the Lower East Side, a bit north of Chinatown, so go to Bangkok Groceries (on Mosco, btw. Mott & Mulberry) for Thai groceries - they're very, very nice, and have a good selection of fresh herbs and frozen things that don't ship well fresh. Also the best coconut milk around (necessary for all sorts of SE Asian, and S Asian, cooking) - it's frozen from Thailand, not diluted from coconut cream like the Philipino stuff, and not pasteurized-processed-made unhealthy like the canned stuff (which is what they use in all the restaurants). Bangkok Grocery is the importer; it's pretty rare at other stores (and sometimes even they can't get it, but they don't know why).

                            Ena Widjojo is the lady who used to cook at the Indonesian consulate here? They don't have anybody cooking regularly there now, unfotunately. There is an Indonesian lady somewhere in Queens who does catering - she made an offering (of various kinds of food) for a shadow-puppet performance we did at the consulate a few months ago, and it was unbelievably good, but it was also incredibly expensive. I can't figure out a polite way to ask who she is.

                            1. re: geckoFeet

                              Why not just ask the consulate. It was possibly Ena since she still caters. Her place in Philly is well worth the trip.

                              PS there is a picture of Ena at this link

                              1. re: geckoFeet

                                nusara is the thai place you're thinking of? ate a couple meals there, thought it was pretty good but, it's near enough that I just head to ayada these days, or maybe chao thai instead. good tip on the coconut milk tho, will definitely have to look into that.

                                1. re: bigjeff

                                  @jen kalb: I don't think it was Ena. The delicious offering was brought by the ladies who bring food to gamelan (Javanese orchestra) rehearsals. They hadn't made it themselves; they said it was made by someone who lives in Queens. I got the impression it was a younger person, someone's niece or something like that. I didn't think it polite to ask them for details. But thanks for the tip about Ena's restaurant - I have family in the DC area, go down there several times a year. Usually stop for seafood on the way down or back (Woody's Crab House, North East, MD), but will definitely detour via Philly one of these days.

                                  Oh, Jeff is right, the next food bazaar is the 19th. I thought I couldn't make it but it turns out I can. Will take extensive notes. Probably should start a new thread next week in order to call attention to it (they *are* interested in advertising it - they were really happy at the crush of people when the Times article came out).