Indonesia has one of the most complex cuisines in the world and dishes from Sumatra are one of the best known. Masakan Padang or Padang food is unique West Sumatran combination of food that is best described as – super diverse! Also, bear in mind that it is spicy, and you have to get used to it gradually.
“Masakan Padang”, and this region in Sumatra influenced the culinary style, not just of Indonesia, but also neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. Wherever you go in Indonesia, there will be a Padang restaurant. Their way of serving is unique. Food is cooked early in the morning and put on display on a stack of plates. There are two ways of serving; you can point at the trays on display what you want, and they will put it on a plate for you with small quantities of rice.
The second way is you just sit down, and the surprise is coming! Staff will come and put more than dozen 20 plates filled with food in front of you, and this is the ‘hidang’ way of serving. What you don’t want to eat, you just take back at the end of your meal, and you don’t have to pay for it! What can you choose? Beef rendang, curried fish, stewed greens, chili eggplant, curried beef liver, tripe, intestines, fried beef lung, fried chicken, and of course the variety of sambal (the spicy sauces that are the absolute must on Indonesian tables) – just to name a few!
The best known Padang dish is rendang – a spicy meat stew. To be precise, it is a dry beef curry cooked with coconut milk and spices for several hours until almost all the liquid has been evaporated. You will soon find out that every Padang restaurant is based on this dish. Also it is cooked at homes, and especially during holidays.
And although everybody loves it, maybe not so many know that there is a deep philosophical connection to the food. The beef in Sumatra is a symbol for the ninik mamak (tribal leader). Coconut is connected to cadiak pandai (the intellectual), chili relates to the alim ulama (spiritual leader) and condiments represent society as a whole. In the past, rendang was only for the aristocratic. Don’t leave Indonesia without trying it! If you are worried about the level of spiciness though ask if they can prepare your food “tanpa cabe” or without hot chili peppers. Selamat Makan!■