It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Indonesia.  I think the last time I was there was when I was 7 years old and we went to the Island of Bali.  I know a lot has changed since then and even my old co-worker, who is a Chinese immigrant from Indonesia told me, “Your version of Bali doesn’t exist anymore.  It’s more built out now and the rural areas where you used to visit as a little kid is gone.”  It’s sad, although understandable, the landscape of beautiful islands around the world changes.  Due to high demand of tourism and money to be made, it’s understandable for these areas to be built out with fancy hotels and shopping malls.  As these areas get built out, it’s only natural for the cuisines to change and for new chefs to introduce new ingredients to what was already a brilliant way of cooking in Indonesia.  While I remember, from my childhood, dishes like gado-gado, spicy fried chicken, and petai [Indonesian broad beans], I know that these “national” dishes have had their share of evolution.  But for me, it will always be dishes like beef rendeng, gado-gado, nasi goreng, and chicken curry, that will be most Indonesian.

Here in LA, it’s really, really difficult to find Indonesian food.  And the Indonesian food we do find are lumped in with Singaporean or Malay food because of their similarities.  When we recently went to 3rd Street Farmer’s Market and saw a stand called “Singapore’s Banana Leaf” and the word underneath the name “Indonesian”, nothing else mattered.  I didn’t care that there was a Tapas place next door or that behind me was what seemed like quite an authentic Mexican joint.  I was focused and centered on getting some Indonesian food.  It’s so hard for me to choose which basic Indonesian food to get.  It’s one of those times when you haven’t seen a food for so long you just want to eat what you love most instead of trying new fusion or versions of it.  For those who haven’t had the chance to try Indonesian food, I am sure many of already had it without knowing it.  The world famous [literally] satay originated from Indonesian and to this day, there is nothing like a true Indonesian chicken or beef satay.  I’ve had my fair share of Thai chicken and satay, and while good, it doesn’t compare to the Indonesian version.

Of course it brings back some childhood memories.  It also brings back an Indonesian restaurant our family loves in Hong Kong whenever we go back.  The Indonesian Restaurant on Granville Road on the Kowloon side may not be the best Indonesian restaurant in Hong Kong, but it holds a special place in our hearts.  We went back there in 2009 when we visited Hong Kong.  I know as long as it is open, we will continue to have at least one meal there when we visit.  Always looking for Indonesian food.  Always hoping that the Indonesian food I find will be half way decent.  Singapore’s Banana Leaf is decent – it doesn’t have the same exact flavors I remember, but to find it in LA is a treat in itself.