One of my good friends in primary school was of Indonesian descent. I look back on those days and regret that I wasn’t more adventurous in my eating as a child because I remember them having ayam goreng, cendol, nasi goreng, and more delicious Indonesian food at their house at all times. Unfortunately, my undeveloped childish palate meant that my friend and I were more likely to request fruit, cheese and crackers for our after school snack before we went out bike-riding around the neighbourhood.
I’m a little more sophisticated now, and find myself really enjoying Indonesian food now – partially for its similarities to Malaysian cuisine, but as much for its own unique qualities which I’m only just starting to discover. K and I recently visited Shalom Indonesian Restaurant in Sussex Street for a quick weekend lunch which we both thoroughly enjoyed, though it did leave us quite parched for the rest of the afternoon so I suspect there was some generous use of MSG in each dish!
First up was a shared entree – a Gado Gado mixed salad which happily came with a lot more in the line of fresh healthy vegetables than you would normally find with some Malaysian-style Gado Gados. I particularly liked the topping of crispy prawn crackers which reminded me of my childhood stealing prawn crackers for a snack from my parents takeaway shop. The peanut sauce dressing was definitely the highlight here though, and as K said, you can really tell when they use fresh home-made peanut sauce as there’s an intensity of roasted peanut flavour that you can’t normally get from a jar.
I chose to order a Mie Ayam Bakso – chicken and mushroom noodles with beef balls. I was a bit confused about how to eat this – do I pour the soup over the noodles, or do I eat it separately? I ended up eating them separately as the noodles were already quite well dressed with a tangy sweet sauce at the bottom of the bowl – all I needed to do was mix up the chicken, noodles and sauce together for a delicious but simple way of presenting instant ramen which is one of my all-time ultimate comfort foods.
Both the sambal and the chilli fried chicken on K’s plate of Nasi Campur brought tears to my eyes. This dish was hot – and yes, it was marked with three chillies on the menu so I expected some level of chilli pain, but I didn’t quite expect it to be quite as hot as it was! Despite this, the dish was still a hit with K, and I particularly enjoyed nibbling on the little fried anchovies and peanuts on the side.
My Es Cendol and K’s Es Kelapa Muda came out quite a bit after the meals had been delivered to our table so I was left wondering for a little while whether or not they had forgotten about them. These were fantastic cooling drinks, though not particularly thirst-quenching because of how sweet they were. I enjoyed having cendol as a drink/dessert combination, and K’s coconut drink was interestingly flavoured with rosewater which I felt was quite an unusual combination. To my disappointment, there wasn’t the option of a durian shake on the menu.
You can’t go too wrong with a meal at Shalom. It’s not the healthiest of meals and I’m pretty sure that they use an abundance of MSG, but the prices are reasonable, it’s quite tasty, it’s central in town, and service is generally pretty prompt.
After raving about our experience at Shalom to my Indonesian colleague that week, she blithely replied “Oh yeah, Shalom for us is only so-so. If you want really good Indonesian food you have to go to Kingsford to Ayam Goreng 99”. I guess I know where I’ll be going for my next hit of Indonesian food!