Culinary Memoirs of A Biologist Who Loves Food

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(Bandar Seri Begawan) Ambuyat – Aminah Arif Restaurant Serusop

July 2019, I was going to Flora Malesiana 11 Symposium in Brunei. For me, the entire week of symposium felt so long. Yet now, I really want to be BRUTALLY HONEST about that symposium.

I feel disappointed to the committee to NOT presenting one of your FLAGSHIP dish in the symposium even on that dinner which you took us to a remote restaurant! I expect any Bruneian food there, but 90% of the dishes you gave me were nearly identical as you serve on lunch in the symposium and that even almost the same dishes I found in typical wedding party here in Indonesia! I mean, oh come on! I went across the island and yet served with something familiar! The only thing different was the Bandung, rose petal flavored syrup (but hey, you can even find that in Malaysia and Singapore!).

Ah well, at least I found a lot of connections there and I am happy for that!

So then, to anyone who attend to the symposium with me might realized that I was absent from the symposium in the Wednesday, July 3 2019, AND the real reason was that I was going to find something different and truly unique to Brunei to eat! What is that? And that, my friend, is called Ambuyat.


The whole dish, minus the fried fish. Clockwise from top: The ambuyat, sweet potato (ube) leaf stew, cucumber and carrot with sambal dip, spicy curried beef tendon, and tempoyak (fermented durian) dip


Now featuring the fried whole fishes and we have the ambuyat pulled up

For everyone who wondered, what the heck is that white, gooey stuff, that is a carbo part of this dish. It is made of sago (Metroxylon sago) stem starch, mixed vigorously with water up to the glueey consistency. It tastes bland (as any other staple carbos like rice) so we need to eat that with the other side meals below.


The fried fish, the main highest protein source for this dish. Sorry that I was hungry and already eating this fish while I took the photo

The fried fish was the salty and lightly seasoned, eat it with the ambuyat to gives some deep fish flavor and saltiness. For spicy kick, you could eat the ambuyat with this one:


Spicy Beef Tendons (and Fat)

It has rendang (that awesome meat dish from Padang, Indonesia) like taste, thus I like the spices, but since I do not really like beef fat and tendons, I ate this only for some bites. Thing that I like though, it tastes soft to eat instead of chewy.

Now we go to the other dish which we can eat with ambuyat, but now for the best parts!


Sweet Yam/Ube/Sweet Potato Leaf Stew in Coconut Milk Broth

I really love the deepness of the flavor from this stew. It has sweetness from the coconut milk but it is not really overpowering. The seasoning inside the stew really added more flavor to the stew and the leaves inside is so yummy to eat with the ambuyat.

Last but not least for the complementary meal, and surprisingly, my most favorite one (but for you who hates durian, it is up to you!)


Sour and spicy tempoyak dip

Honestly, I do not really into durian, but for some dish, its creaminess and sharpness might be cooked into something really good! Take this tempoyak for example. You might disgusted with the sense of eating durian, leave alone the fermented version of that fruit. But this meal, combining the tempoyak with chili, lime, and other ingredients bring out the freshness of this dip! The acidity adds the freshness, combined with ambuyat, it was just really good! Especially with also the fried fish, and after that you can eat the ambuyat with the stew to indulge your taste bud with vibrant flavors!

As for the cucumber and carrot with sambal dip, I skipped this part. I believe this side dish is useful to cleanse your palate after the dense meal, but also to satisfy your need for sambal spiciness.


Carrot and cucumber with sambal dip

At first, I was thinking that eating ambuyat was like you eating something with chopsticks. Wrong, and that is not how chandas (the bamboo long fork specially made for ambuyat) works! Eating this requires extra “skill” to manipulate this semi-solid food with speed and dexterity! Observe:


Interesting, right? After I went back from the restaurant, I felt so satisfied. I love this part of my visit in Brunei (next to the hotel with massive room they gave me and the lovely view of the city). Ambuyat, despite the quite expensive price, is the part of Brunei that I think I will going to miss. I heard the news that in the other part of Bandar Seri Begawan, they also serve fried ambuyat (ambuyat in style of fried noodles), but unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to try all of those variants. Maybe next time.

My thanks to Aminah Arif Restaurant Serusop Branch, and the waiters who helped me eating ambuyat!


Ordered dish: Ambuyat biasa (normal ambuyat; because there is the special one with more side dishes complement it; this one is actually for 2 persons) – BND 16

Address: Jl. Muara, Simpang 68, Serusop, Muara District, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. Ph: +673 233 0773. Website: Link

GoogleMap: Link

TripAdvisor: Link

Notes: Some side dishes are interchangeable, ask the waiter/waitress!


Mille-Feuille Katsu (Kimukatsu, Jakarta)

Japanese meat cutlet or katsu is one of simplest Japanese dish, made of sliced meat like pork, beef, or chicken, then breaded in panko breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. This kind of meal is typically served with rice. There are many variations of katsu, but have you heard “a thousand-layer katsu”?

The concept called “mille-feuille” or in French means “thousand leaves” was, as I remembered, applied only in cakes. You probably heard about mille crêpe in a list of French desserts, it is a crêpe that being served in multiple layers in form of a cake, and between the crêpe layer, they put a sweet layer of cream. However, when we go back to the topic, I never heard anyone make a thousand layer concept in any one of savory dishes.

Recently, there is a new (quite new) restaurant in Mall Kota Kosablanka, Jakarta, called Kimukatsu and they serve this thousand layered katsu. The kimukatsu (キムカツ) concept was originally created in a franchise of the same name in Tokyo, Japan, but here in Indonesia, they don’t serve pork in the restaurant.

I visited the restaurant twice and I tried both the chicken and beef. The fun parts are: There are various of katsu in there – from the kimukatsu itself (chicken and beef) to salmon and tempeh (vegetarian), also in your table, there are authentic sweet-sour katsu sauce and sesame to grind and mix in your own desire.


Original Chicken Kimukatsu


The layers within

The layers in the thousand-layered chicken katsu or kimukatsu here probably are relatively hidden as the fact that chicken meat is more delicate than beef. On the first bite, it’s so juicy and it is really good with the sour katsu sauce. The coating is really crunchy as well!


Beef Garlic Kimukatsu


The layers and garlic inside

For the beef, I ordered one with garlic inside. As you can see on the pictures, the layers are more visible here than in the chicken one. The flavor is also awesome. As we probably know, the beef has more bite in it and the garlic blended perfectly in the middle, not overpowering, but just right.

Aside the concept, as I remembered, the folding technique to make layers in cooking helps to intensify the flavor, as the separations allow the juice to be preserved in it and being intensified; strengthening the depth of the flavor. And I think that this one works pretty well. Have to say, it’s a good experience to eat these kimukatsu!


Address: Mall Kota Kasablanka, Jl. Kasablanka No.88, Jakarta. Phone: (+62 21) 2946 5387. Zomato. TripAdvisor.

Ordered Meals:

  • Original Chicken Kimukatsu – IDR 45k before taxes
  • Beef Garlic Kimukatsu – IDR 54k before taxes


Taste Test – Indian Sweets

There are a lot of sweets in the world, all are typically made of sugar, fruit, milk, and more. There were some times, I tried the Indian ones. Some of it, I have to say this: They have TONS of calories in it!

Let’s start from this: Gulab Jamun.


Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun is Indian (ranged to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar) sweet made of khoa (condensed milk) and (I think) flour, mixed together, deep fried, and to put it even further, drenched them in simple syrup (water and sugar) and rose water. Have to admit, it has soft consistency as a baked cheesecake, and it is very very sweet.



Another, quite similar one, is Rasgulla. It is made of chhena (Indian cottage cheese) and semolina flour, mixed, fried, and also placed into sugary syrup. It has more bite as more flour is in it, but the flavor is nearly same.



Next one is Laddu. It is made from bundles of crumbles of chickpea flour that has been fried in clarified butter (ghee). Yes, also fried. But, this one is only glazed with the simple syrup, not drowned in it. In the syrup, they put cardamom pods or other spices. The texture is similar to doughnut, with more resistance, and more sweetness to its inside.



Last one for this time, is bits of condensed milk (khoa), spices (saffron, cardamom, etc) and pistachio called Peda. This one is not fried, it has quite a texture like chewable milk candy, but not sticky like chewable candy, it is more crumbly.  Unlike the other previous, this one is not glazed or soaked in syrup, but peda is already sweet.

So, maybe all of these sweets will cancel your diet immediately, but honestly, all of these are good to try! So good, once you eat them, it’s hard to stop!

Gulab Jamun and Rasgulla were bought in: Gran Melia Hotel, Jakarta (Google Map).

Laddu and Peda were bought in: Lulu Hypermarket and Department Store, BSD, Tangerang (Google Map).



Indian and Maghrebi Cuisine Taste Trip at Fez-Kinara Kemang, Jakarta

Happy Eid Mubarrak! This year’s Ramadhan was quite memorable for me, because I got a chance (and money) to do more culinary trips. For this year, I paid a visit to Fez-Kinara in Kemang. They offered special Ramadhan iftar dishes sets themed “Indian” and “Spice Caravan”. Indian set was all about Indian and some Southern Asian dishes, while Spice Caravan set offered Maghrebi (countries of Atlas Mountains, located in Northern Africa – from Egypt to Morocco, also known as Berber countries) dishes.

Both Indian and Maghrebi dishes, whenever you hear about it, I believe that everything come first to your mind is everything thick and spicy, like curry. True. Indian dishes have complex spices, from cumin, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and more, while Moroccan (as part of Maghrebi country) has more coriander flavor in it. Indian carbos in a dish mainly come from rice, Moroccan from couscous.

Let’s start from the dish served on iftar (the end of fasting, normally at 5:45 PM).


Chebakia (Left) and Jalebi (Right)

As iftar normally started by eating dates and a glass of water, followed by some sweets, we got Chebakia (Moroccan), fried dough in rose-shape, glazed in honey and sprinkled with sesame seed, and Jalebi (Indian), a fried spiral-shaped dough, and glazed in sugar syrup. Chebakia has more bite as it is crunchy, while Jalebi is softer, but oily. As far as I know, many Indian sweets are quite oily and overflown with sugar.


Chicken 65 (Kozhi 65) (Indian)

I know that its name is kinda odd, but Chicken 65 is a dish originated from Buhari Hotel Chain in Hyderabad, along with Paneer 65 (with cottage cheese) and Gobi 65 (cauliflower) all are coated with rice flour, all purpose flour, and chili powder (which give the red-orange color) then deep fried to crunchiness. The number 65, if I correct, it comes from the year these dishes were discovered, 1965, and also the price (INR 65). I like the crunchiness and the light spicy flavor on it, the batter is so crispy, while the inside, the chicken is moist. I wish on Fez-Kinara, they serve it with mint chutney.


Clockwise from top (Extra, out of set) Butter Paneer (Paneer Makhani), Rice Pilau, and Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)


Butter Paneer, enlarged. Note that this one is out of the set

The term “Makhani” or translated as buttery, came from 1950 discovery of the dish in Restaurant Moti Mahal, New Delhi, when they add butter to tomato-based curry. The flavor is strong but mild (compared to other Indian curry, which could be hotter), it has Indian garam masala, ginger, turmeric, pepper, and more. Paneer is Indian cottage cheese, which curd coagulated with lemon juice. It has tofu like consistency, but the flavor is mild like mozzarella. Turning paneer into the gravy, as chicken, is really a good idea. The rice pilau has light flavor in it as I tasted it, I guess it was added with stock and turmeric.


Karhai Paneer, also out of the set, for my curiosity


Bitten paneer

Compared to Paneer Maghni, Karhai Paneer, has extra burn in your mouth. It flavor strongly comes from tomato gravy (the base), choped green pepper, ginger, and coriander leaves.


Sheekh Kebab

Still curious about Indian dishes, I ordered Sheekh Kebab on my next visit (outside the set as well). Those who know will understand that this kebab is made of grilled minced lamb and popularized in many South Asian countries. It’s meaty and spicy in one bite.

For Indian dessert, I got something new for me.


Zaffrani Phirni (Saffron Phirni)

Phirni or firni is a creamy sweet rice pudding. In one bite, I still can feel the rice inside (the rice is completely cooked as in main dish, I guess to bring the bite in it), also there are raisin, crushed pistachio, and cardamom pods. It is fragrant and sweet in the same time. I read it that firni is normally served during iftar, too. And I really like this one.

Now, we go for Maghrebi dishes.


Harira Soup


Inside, there are vermicelli, beans, and lamb meat

Harira (Arabic:  الحريرة‎ – al-ḥarīra, Berber: ⵣⴽⵉⴼ – azkif) comes from Algeria and Morocco. It has mild tomato, coriander, and onion flavor and rich meaty flavor from the minced lamb. More surprised for me, there is vermicelli pasta in it. This soup is quite packed, I almost half-full by eating it.


Chicken Mugalgal

Mugalgal here is quite eccentric, because it has paprika, onion, and I say, it has more Western touch in it, although it has coriander and other spices in it. The taste is also more Mediterranian in it, fresh. Chicken Mugalgal comes from Saudi Arabia, and they said it was served during Eid-al-Adha celebration. This meal definitely good with rice.


Chicken Mandi Rice

Chicken Mandi here is sweet-savory rice dish, originated from Yemen (Arabic: المندي‎ – Al-mandi). The savory comes from the chicken and I guess, the base stock, while the sweet comes from the raisin. There is also cardamom pods in it. I enjoyed eating it with the chicken, also with the mugalgal.


Plain Couscous

Other option than rice here is couscous (Arabic: كُسْكُس‎ – kuskus, Berber: ⵙⵉⴽⵙⵓ – seksu), a dish made of semolina flour, well, it basically looks like a small crumbles of flour. It has no flavor if you cook it plainly. It is good when you eat it with meat tagines or any curry dishes.


Umm Ali

Last, but not least, umm ali (أمعلي‎ – um ali) for the dessert. It is an Egyptian dessert, normally served for Ramadhan celebration. It is sweet and fragrance bread pudding with milk (it has cinnamon and cardamom infused in it), and sprinkled with pistachios, peanuts, and raisins. Also love this as dessert, although it is quite heavy if you are already stuffed. The meaning behind the name is quite interesting, the name means “Ali’s mother”, it was said that it is made by the mother of al-Mansur Ali, it’s quite a dark story about her revenge against Shajar al-Durr for stealing her husband, killing it, and plotting on his son to become a sultan, you can check it on the web.

Thrice my visits were there, and I am glad that I came back home after that with happy, full stomach.

Note: The sets was available during Ramadan 2018


Address: Jl. Kemang Raya No.78B, Kemang, Jakarta. Phone (for reservation) – (+62 21) 719 2677. Zomato. TripAdvisor. Web.

Ordered sets and meals:

  • Indian or Spice Caravan sets: Single person – IDR 150k, Two person – IDR 260k, Four person – IDR 480k (all price already added with tax)
  • Plain Couscous: IDR 42k before taxes
  • Karhai Paneer: IDR 104k before taxes
  • Paneer Butter Masala (Small): IDR 123k before taxes
  • Seekh Kebab: IDR 106k before taxes

Notes: The restaurant normally will be vacant, but it would be better if you reserve a seat.


Se’i, The Famous Indonesian Smoked Meat (Se’i Lamalera, Bandung)

Smoking and curing are known way to preserve meat, as well as probably the most favorite ones. These procedures enhance the flavor of the meat to the max, making it more enjoyable to eat. And normally, when we hear about smoked beef, we might think if that comes from Europe or America. The answer, not really. Smoking is popular in many cultures and traditions throughout the globe, including Indonesia.

In Eastern Indonesia, specifically in Kupang (Timor Island), Nusa Tenggara Timur, there’s a smoked meat product called se’i (from Rote language: to slice the meat in thin strips). Originally, as it is a game food, venison is used. But now, because there is a restriction on deer hunting for conservation, either pork or beef are used. Sometimes, chicken and fish are also good for options.

To make se’i, the normal ingredients like table salt (NaCl) and saltpeter/curing salt (KNO3) are used as flavor enhancer and preserving agent against unwanted microbes, respectively. But, the real magic comes from a specific tree, which leaves and woods used for smoking the se’i. The tree is called, kesambi or kosambi (Schleichera oleosa (Lour.) Oken, which belongs to family Sapindaceae, a cousin of Rambutan), also known as Makassar oil tree, or Ceylon Oak. Somehow, in a reason I don’t really know, smoking with this plant materials gives se’i its distinctive flavor and aroma, as well as giving it the reddish surface color.

Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had a chance to go to Kupang to tell the real story. So instead, I visited a restaurant, which specifically selling this smoked meat goodness in Bandung, that only takes me a moment by train from Jakarta (the travel duration would be the same, but you spend only IDR 100k (USD 8) to Bandung, IDR 1.1 million (USD 80) to Kupang).

I ordered the se’i sapi (beef se’i) and se’i ayam (chicken se’i), using the traditional sambal lu’at (sambal or spicy condiment from Kupang, with chili, tomato, and coriander leaves) and sambal matah (sambal made of chili and lemongrass, quite trendy now in Indonesia). Ah, and when we ordered se’i, it seems to be common if it served with rice, a lemony clear broth, and sauteed papaya (Carica papaya L.) flowers. This time, not only the flowers, but also sauteed papaya leaves.


Se’i Sapi with Sambal Lu’at, sauteed papaya leaves and flower, the broth, and rice on background


Se’i Ayam mixed with Sambal Matah, sauteed papaya leaves and flower, the broth, and rice on background

The taste is awesome. The beef one used brisket meat (if I correct), making it layered with fat, enhancing the flavor. It tastes like normal smoked beef, but the smokiness is stronger, as it was just smoked. We normally eat meat with something sour, right, so we used sauces like barbecue sauce. Sambal lu’at has the spicy and sour kick that we need, the coriander boost the flavor even more. Sambal matah is also good, but too spicy for me and it conceal the smokey goodness of the se’i. The broth is good if you add it a bit to the rice, giving more lemon flavor with a hint of meat stock flavor to it. For the sauteed leaves, I like the bites in it and the perfect saltiness add to it. As it is part of papaya plant (it has bitter latex), I’d say that they cook it perfectly.

Final verdict, sambal lu’at is the best condiment for se’i. I like the beef one, but preferably I like the chicken more. Because the beef se’i is kinda shrinking and drier when it served, while the chicken (also I like chicken) is still meaty and succulent, although the beef has stronger smokey flavor.

P.S.: Other than regular beef meat and chicken meat, they also selling se’i of beef tongue (it is much softer and has smoother texture) and beef ribs (rib eye meat) (which has even more denser beef flavor).


Address: Jl. Bagus Rangin no. 24A, Bandung, Indonesia. Zomato. TripAdvisor

Restaurant notes:

  • Mushalla (praying room) – Available
  • Debit card – Available

Ordered Meals:

  • Se’i Sapi with Sambal Lu’at – Regular Size (IDR 20k)
  • Se’i Ayam with Sambal Matah – Regular Size (IDR 15k)


  • Because the price is very affordable for students, this place is packed with people for lunch, plan your trip wisely so you can get a seat!
  • You can buy the 1/4, 1/2, and 1 Kg of the Se’i here. The 1 Kg beef se’i was about IDR 150k


Kopi Kawa, When Your Coffee is Also a Tea

Indonesia is known for world’s most delicious coffee. You name it, from Java Arabica to Toraja Kalosi, we have a broad spectrum of coffee to try, even if you trace it, there’s a local coffee shop in Yogyakarta that sells these variants of coffee, up to the level when they included the farmers and their own methods as tool for classification. We also home for world famous civet poop coffee or “Kopi Luwak” (although recently, its popularity is shadowed by Thai elephant poop coffee, somehow). “Kopi” means coffee and “Luwak” means civet in Bahasa Indonesia.

Back to the Dutch colonial era, the Kopi Luwak was originally invented by local Javanese people as the result of when the Dutch took away the coffee beans for themselves to drink and trade. Leaving the locals to decided (I don’t know why and how they even thinking of it) to took the civet excrements, rinse them up to clean the coffee bean, and roasted the bean, which turned out to be more valuable than normal coffee. Although I’m not a coffee person as my dad, I could tell you biologically because the civet knows that they like only the most ripe coffee fruits. This also combined that the biological process on the civet body, the enzymatic process, further enhanced the coffee flavor. I remembered that some of the researchers are now trying to imitate this enzymatic process outside the civet body (this is because due to the high demand, some scumbags are force feeding the civet to bleed with the coffee fruit, while you are actually have to let the civet pick the fruit for you).

Well, that’s in Java. Their innovation are now one of the most expensive coffee in the world. It’s another story in Sumatra. In 1840, following 10 years earlier success of coffee planting in Java, Governor General Van den Bosch decided to grow a coffee plantation in Minang, West Sumatra with locals as slave labors. His iron-fist and strict rules obligated that no coffee beans would be spilled on the way. Leaving no chance for the locals to pick any beans.

Instead of picking the poop of the civets, the locals of Sumatra decided to pick the coffee leaves instead, drying them up, leaving the end product called “Kopi Kawa”. The name “Kawa” was originated from “qahwah” (قهوة) in Arabic, that means coffee. Don’t ask me why the name is translated into the abundant words “coffee coffee” here.

Now in present day. Lucky for me, I had a chance to try the Kopi Kawa myself in Jakarta. So I visit the coffee shop, Kedai Kawa Wahidin, located in Tebet, South Jakarta. When I look into their menu, their drinks are mostly traditional coffee based drink of West Sumatra. I was then ordered the Kopi Kawa, one original, another with milk as comparison.

Kawa Original (left), and with milk (right)

Closer look to Kawa Original

When the drinks arrived, I was amazed. So they placed the drink on a coconut shell. As for the first impression, it looks like tea with even darker color. It has, odd smell, very rich in metabolites (I could tell, it’s kinda aromatic and strong). Then I took a sip. It’s bitter and due to higher plant secondary metabolites accumulation on the leaves, it provides very strong, strange aftertaste and leaving an astringent flavor on your mouth. Honestly, the drink is not my favorite, but in the name of knowledge, I decided to try it anyway. And the one with milk, I was glad that they give me the sweetened condensed milk instead of liquid fresh milk, because it helps with the flavor a lot. But still, the flavor is too strong.

Final verdict, it’s okay to try it to satisfy your curiosity and for a challenge, and ultimately to understand, and to appreciate the local Minangkabau (West Sumatra) culture. I don’t say it’s bad, simply because I’m not a fan of coffee.

Location: KEDAI KAWA WAHIDIN, Jl. K.H. Abdullah Syafei no. 57B, Tebet, South Jakarta, Indonesia (Google Map: Link)


  • Kawa Original – IDR 9.5k
  • Kawa Susu (with milk) – IDR 12k

My notes: Take your friends, or family with you, you probably need them to drink with you!


Kebab Pizza, The Infamous Swedish Odd Pizza

It has been more than 2 years since I published my article about Finn’s Berlusconi Pizza. Yet, Scandinavian pizza culture still not cease to amaze me. It’s a 2 years late post, actually. But I guess I am not that late to share my odd experience.

When I was staying in Turku, Finland, my living place was in proximity to a local pizzeria called Orikedon Taverna. Whenever I have a sudden craving for pizza every time I went back from campus, I always stopped my bus on this restaurant which only 400 meters from where I lived. Like many pizzerias I found in Turku area, the pizzeria is also a kebab eatery. Not sure for me, but I guess the culture comes from the immigrants who come to live and work in Turku.

Then one day, I read an article about a pizza, which topping is (or was) famous in Sweden, while I know that some of the citizens of Turku are fluently speaking Swedish, next to their native Finnish. The pizza is called “kebab pizza”. At first impression, I was like, what the heck is that?? How on the earth they going to make a random crossover between pizza and kebab… and secondly, it also famous??

From that moment, if you nagged some people because they put pineapple to their pizza. Then they, and you as well, are nothing compared this one.

Some moments after, I payed a visit to Orikedon Taverna, found that kebab pizza, and for my curiosity, I ordered it for take away so I could eat it at home. Then I walked, I arrived, and I opened the pizza box lid.

The Kebab Pizza

I spend several minutes to stared at the pizza. How could this be popular amongst Swedes and Finns?? Then I remembered salmiakki by Finns (that black ammonium chloride licorice candy, Finns known “sweets”) and surströmming (that infamous sour, pickled herring; known as the world’s smelliest food that even surpass Indonesian durian fruit in comparison).

But hey, they made Berlusconi Pizza (see above link for access) in Finland, and in Sweden, they have their famous Kottbullar (Swedish Meatballs). Let’s give this kebab pizza a shot!

First bites, it is quite funny to taste the intersection between the spicy mayonnaise that usually in kebab for dressing and the marinara tomato sauce that topped a pizza crust. But it’s not bad! Then here comes the meat part, and the odd one: the lettuce part. It’s good actually.

My first experience on trying fresh lettuce on pizza was when I was in the elementary school 1st or 2nd grade. I remembered when Pizza Hut has gone too far and they made a “Taco Pizza”. That time, it tasted really odd to eat a pizza, which the crust not even crunchy, with lettuce and non-melted cheddar as topping. Funny thing to compare to Kebab Pizza, they shredded the mozzarella on top of the marinara sauce, baked it, so you can see in the picture above, there are traces of mozzarella on the pizza topping, but then the sliced kebab meat, freshly shredded lettuce, and spicy mayo was added. The pizza is good, for my tastebuds. Although, I wish the spices were more prominent in the kebab meat. I said this because whenever I eat kebab in Indonesia, the kebab meat always has a kick! Combining it with the spicy mayo is always a good idea.

There you have it. I tried the Swedish popular pizza on Finland!


Can be found in any kebab-pizzeria places in town, but this was bought at: Orikedon Taverna, Vanha Tampereentie 137, Räntämäki, 20380 Turku, Finland (Google Map: Link; TripAdvisor: Link; Foursquare: Link; Web)

Price: EUR 10.50 (regular size)


Quest to Find Indonesian Most Pricy Mushroom – Kulat Pelawan (Part I)

Mushroom is everyone’s favorite around the globe. Aside of its property as healthy food, which is because it has fiber as plant does, and it also has amino acids which normally found in animal tissues. This makes mushroom a good vegan substitute for meat.

Throughout the globe, mushroom comes from both cultivation (i.e. shiitake, oyster mushroom, maitake, enokitake, etc) and also mushroom hunting in the wild (i.e. black trumpet, truffle, chanterelle, morel, etc), and even mushroom hunting is one known tradition during fall season. Interestingly, the mushroom species gathered from the wild has very indulgent price, soaring up from USD 10 per kilos to USD 10,500 per kilos (truffle).

In Indonesia, wild edible mushroom is less known than the cultivated one. There are plenty of them are available in this country, such as:

  1. So mushroom (Javanese: So = Gnetum gnemon plant) or Scleroderma aurantium, which are edible when it is till young
  2. Bantilung mushroom, native on Kalimantan island
  3. Supa kelapa (Calvatia sp)
  4. Suung bulan/Moon mushroom (Gymnopus sp)
  5. Kulat Pelawan/Pelawan mushroom (Heimioporus sp)

This time, we will explore the most pricy and valuable of them all: Pelawan mushroom from Bangka island, which price could stand to USD 200 per kilos!


The shroom on its natural habitat (Source:


Pelawan trees (the ones with red barks) (Source:

What makes the facts about this mushroom even crazier is: It is rare because it grows only on Pelawan tree (Tristaniopsis merguensis Griff) that grown in Bangka (as people claimed so far) only during rainy season, then IT GROWS ONLY IN A TREE WHICH HAS BEEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING!

Probably it sounds like a magic stuff comes from your fantasy book. But it is actually make sense if you see it from scientific side. Lightning is actually contributing on atmospheric nitrogen fixation (turning atmospheric nitrogen, N2, into NO or nitrous oxide compounds, which later carried to the ground by rain, forming NO3 or nitrate, a plant nutrient) which is 5-8% of total nitrogen fixation (Noxon, 1976; Anonymous, 2011). Other things, I heard it from my biology lecturer that plant growth would be amplified under strong electric induction, and this is the reason why the plants grow under the electric grid are bigger than normal – this should has some connection with the nutrient flows.

The Pelawan tree and the mushroom forms a mutual symbiosis relationship. The mushroom grows as an ectomycorrhizae in the tree roots (Tasuruni, 2012). As the mushroom gets its place to live, the tree obtains extra nutrients as the fungal hyphae extends the surface area of the root hair.

Okay, stop with the crazy science talk.

So I decided to order the dried mushroom online, IDR 200k (USD 20) for 100 g via Tokopedia (here). Surprisingly, my order arrived on the next day!


First impression upon unboxing: The mushroom has very strong smoky flavor. Then I soaked the mushroom for around 15 mins (some said that I supposed to soak it overnight) and then I cut the stalks.


The mushroom, soaked

Then I sliced the mushroom, and prepared some fettuccine.


The sliced shrooms, the mushroom water, and the pasta

Then I sauteed the mushroom with olive oil, add the mushroom water, some seasonings (salt and pepper only, since I wanted to try it naturally), and as the flavor is very strong, I added some dash of cream on it.


Fettuccine with Pelawan Mushroom

Even after I added some cream, the smoky flavor was still very strong. I wonder how should I cook it as pasta dish and as Indonesian Bangka original dish.

Today, I decided to give it to my friend, Daniel Vigone from MammaRosy Kemang Jakarta. I wonder how he’s gonna cook it.

And I think the story will continue, as I planned to go to Bangka to investigate the Pelawan forest in Namang village for myself this May or June.

(To be continued)


KULAT PELAWAN – Heimioporus sp

Class: Basidiomycota

Family: Boletaceae (in the same family as Porcini or Cep, Boletus edulis)

Distribution: Supposedly endemic on Bangka island, Pelawan Forest on Namang Village

Price: IDR 2 million/USD 200 per kilograms


Anonymous, 2011. The Nitrogen Cycle,, accessed April 9th, 2018

Noxon, J.F., 1976. Atmospheric nitrogen fixation by lightning. Geophysical Research Letters3(8), pp.463-465.

Tasuruni, D., 2012. Morphological and ITS rDNA Sequences Analysis of Pelawan Ectomycorrhizal Edible Mushroom and its Ectomycorrhizal Structure. Thesis. Institut Pertanian Bogor.

Indonesian Cheese: Dangke (from Enrekang, South Sulawesi)

There are literally THOUSANDS of cheese variants throughout the globe. But I believe only a small number of people knows that there is a cheese variant in Indonesia. First, before you think that I’m bluffing that it is cheese, let me explain about it etymologically:

Meriam-Webster Dictionary: Cheese (n) a food consisting of the coagulated, compressed, and usually ripened curd of milk separated from the whey

Bahasa Indonesia Great Dictionary: Cheese (n) a food made from the essence of milk by hardening fermentation

So to be defined as cheese, a milk should be processed, fermented, and sometimes compressed to solid form.


Dangke cheese, on its raw uncooked form

Dangke, cheese made in Enrekang regency of South Sulawesi (north from Makassar), is made of buffalo milk. Instead coagulated by rennet like usual cheese, it is coagulated using a protease enzyme extracted from the latex of papaya (Carica papaya) called papain. The latex of papaya itself tastes bitter. So right amount of concentration and proper mixing is required to make this cheese.

How to enjoy it? During my visit to Makassar, I visited my girlfriend house and her mother marinated the sliced cheese with the mixture of salt, garlic, and coriander, mashed together and poured with water before the cheese is being fried. The result is just fantastic!


Fried Dangke


The interior of bitten dangke

It has a bit or fried exterior like fried Halloumi from Cyprus, rich and a bit bitter taste like Emmenthal from Swiss, and soft, porous texture like tofu or Paneer from India. Although this one is bitter in some cuts, showing that the mixing of papain is quite uneven. However, it is one of the best experience that I would have and it is very interesting that we have our own cheese!

Credits to Mr. Jeremia Jerry and his family, who bought this cheese and cooked it for me.


Originated: Enrekang regency, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

Price: Around IDR 25.000,00

Milk: Water buffalo

Type: Fresh cheese

Hardness: Semi-soft

Further fermentation: Not required

Curd coagulation: Papain (proteinase) from papaya latex

Melting: No, similar to Halloumi, you can even pan-fry it

Expiry: Only in hours if placed outside refrigerator, up to 2-3 days refrigerated

Serve: People pan-fry it with oil after marinating it in seasoned garlic-coriander paste and eat dangke with rice


Midnight Snack – Perkedel Bondon, Bandung

Bandung is a artsy and full of youth spirits heaven in the West Java. Creativity and diversity of the citizens and the students of many universities in Bandung, including some of the national tops are becoming the source of the radiant light of Bandung life. And we all know, no life would be sustained without a food, a good food to be exact! Bandung is a city filled with tons of delicacies that would attract all culinary tourist to come. It’s all from the traditional ones like nasi tutug oncom, gepuk, lalab, and surabi, to uncountable modern ones.

From the late 2-3 years behind, I heard a news about a perkedel stand in Bandung that opens at 11 pm, and right before it opened, it already packed with lining up costumers!

For those who doesn’t know what perkedel is, it is a fried mashed potato, which sometimes also made of maize, mixed with leek or meat, and usually coated with egg white prior to frying it. The name might similar to frikadeller, a Danish flat meatball which might introduced during Dutch colonial period.

And about the name “Bondon”, maybe it would be inappropriate to say it out loud, but it means “prostitute”. Maybe it compared to the food because it opens at night and only localized in one place. Well, no comment about it!

Okay, back to topic! So, how the famous Perkedel Bondon looks like??

Here’s the story:

Since the place is quite far away, I decided to buy it using Go Food service and I ordered it about 11:06 pm (6 minutes late, I was overslept). Moments after the order received, this conversation happened:

Go Food: Evening, sir. I’d like to confirm, did you ordered Perkedel Bondon?

Me: Yes, I did

Go Food: Umm sir, before I proceed, I’d like to ask if you had ever buy it before?

Me: Nope, what about it?

Go Food: The line is already long and it would probably took 1 hour to the kitchen! I’d suggest if we bypass the line by bribing the parking officer so I could go straightly to the kitchen and have your order. What do you say? Let’s say we give ’em about 10000 rupiahs (a bit more than USD 1.1)

Me: Errrr, okay. But don’t take it from my Go Pay point, I’ll pay the 10000 later when you’re here

Go Food: Right away, sir

I know, bribery is bad. But I feel bad if the Go Food driver have to wait for an hour and in one hour probably I would be fell asleep since the next day I will have an important presentation.

Curious and curiouser, how good it would be since they have a queue that long??

Then, surprisingly, 20 mins later, the driver arrived. He said that he was number 16 on the line and that was even minutes after the store opened!

Now, unboxing time!


Appearance-wise, it looks quite normal

Unlike normal perkedel, its outer surface is crunchy and sometimes there are some chopped leek. Along with the perkedels, they also provide a sauce, from its appearance, it looks like a sambal.


Inside, it seems so fluffy and good

Okay, here goes nothing!


With the sambal

Plainly, it tastes just flat. Very mild. I doubt that I taste any hint of pepper and salt. The flavor is straightly the potato taste and with a hint of leek. Once I dink it to the sambal, a strong shrimp flavor arise. It appears that the sambal is mixed with fermented shrimp paste (terasi or ebi, not sure), which enhances the flavor.

In the end, I’d say it is not bad. It is crunchy, hearty, and makes you full easily, but flavorwise, it just plain without the sambal and nothing else. Funny thing is, after I let it down in my room until the next morning, the flavor enhances, it becomes richer, especially in leek flavor. I don’t know if I say this: Safe it for your breakfast!


Jalan Suniaraja No.134, Bandung (near Bandung Station)

Open Hour: Everyday 11:00 pm – 03:00 am or until it all sold out

Price: IDR 2000 each piece

Note: Buy it by Go Food IN TIME, or wait in line for hours