Lunch like the locals – sort of


Many days, my office co-workers Mawar and Sida have their lunches in the office, having it delivered by an ojek (motorcycle taxi). These are very inexpensive, about US$1 and consist of rice, a piece of chicken or fish and a small amount of some sort of vegetable (nasi padang). The meal comes wrapped in a paper that holds in the juices, with newspaper wrapping on the outside. It is bundled with an elastic band. I have no idea where the food comes from.

These meals are very typical for Indonesians. I tried them once before when I ate with several of the restaurant waitresses on the floor last year. But as I’ve passed my co-workers on my way to lunch recently, the aroma of their food has often had me asking them to include me in the next “catered” lunch. Today, they remembered.

I asked for ayam and nasi (chicken and rice), the non-spicy kind. “It won’t be spicy,” I was assured, but I knew otherwise. Not spicy here means it won’t cause flames to come from your mouth, just tears from your eyes. But I was ready.

My lunch arrived wrapped in newspaper, with an elastic band holding it together. The girls would not let me pay for it, even though I had offered to buy all our lunches if I could participate. Since I needed something to drink and there was no table space where the girls were eating, I took my meal to Goodies, where the staff was tickled by my venturing into their food domain.

Part of the charm with this type of meal is that you are supposed to eat with your fingers, and I did. “Do you want a fork, a spoon, Mr. Ken?” one of the staff asked with a smile almost turned to laughter. “No, I will eat with my fingers.” A spoon and fork were brought anyway, and after thoroughly soaking my fingers in the spicy juices of the chicken, red-tainted rice and sparse green beans, I did eventually revert to the fork.

The food was delicious. However, there was not enough chicken so I ordered chicken curry to fill the gap. Also spicy. Such a wimp.

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About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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