Indonesia - A taste of "Lontong Cap Go Meh", an ethnic Chinese-Javanese dish in Lawang
Depot HTS (Han Tjwan Sing) is a largish Chinese-Indonesian-owned restaurant-cum-grocery mart located in Lawang. Founded in 1927, I often wondered what kind of traffic actually passed by its location then. The area then was popular with Indonesia’s erstwhile Dutch colonial masters for its cool dry climate, owing to its altitude – providing a pleasant respite from the tropical heat & humidity.
Depot HTS’ claim to fame was its chewy, hollow sesame seed-encrusted glutinous rice balls filled with mung-bean paste - popularly known as “jin deui” (煎堆) in Chinese, but known as “onde-onde” here in Indonesia (the term was very confusing to me, as in Singapore/Malaysia, “onde-onde” are poached pandanus-green-tinted rice flour balls filled with Gula Melaka/palm sugar and rolled in freshly-grated coconut).
I liked Depot HTS’ “onde-onde” – crisp, airy and the mung bean filling was not too sweet.
We had lunch today at Depot HTS because a couple of Chinese-Indonesian colleagues were gushing lyrical about its “Lontong Cap Gomeh” – compressed rice cakes, chicken, fried tofu and various poached vegetables, all slathered with a very tasty turmeric-tinged, lightly-spiced, coconut milk-infused gravy. This dish is typically cooked by the ethnic Chinese in Java to celebrate the 15th Night of the Chinese Lunar New Year (in Fujianese dialect – 15th night was called “Chap Go Meh”). The dish would be similar to Singaporean or Malaysian “lontong” served with “sayur lodeh” (coconut crème-curried vegetables), but “Lontong Cap Gomeh” also included additional toppings like “Opor Ayam”, a lightly-spiced chicken curry, and “Sambal Goreng Ati Ampela” (fried chillied chicken livers & gizzards).
Other dishes we had today included:
- “Soto Ayam” (spiced chicken soup) , served with rice
- “Nasi campur” – the typical East Javanese rice dish served with a variety of spiced meats & vegetables. “Nasi campur” varies from restaurant to restaurant, each will have its trademark version of “nasi campur”.
- “Rawon” – beef stewed in a “kluwek” nut-infused gravy stock, spiced with turmeric, candlenuts, galangal, onions, lemongrass, lime leaves and chillies.
- A variety of side-dishes like “Bentoel goreng” (fried yam fritters), “Pastel” (egg-and-meat-filled empanadas) and “Kroket” (a deep-fried crepe with sweet-savory chicken-meat filling)
Jl. Dr Wahidin 123
Lawang, East Java
I was holidaying in Penang over Chap Goh Meh this year, and it was absolutely fascinating: the Penangites held a huge traditional Chap Goh Meh procession which included "dondang sayang" , lion dance and dragon dance troupes in the Esplanade, throwing of oranges into the sea, and loads and loads of Penang street food goodies! Don't think we have any specific traditional food in Singapore (or Malaysia) which is related the celebration of Chap Goh Meh, right?