Jayakarta and my first Indonesian meals

    Ketoprak at Jayakarta, Berkeley - warm rice noodle salad with bean sprout, cucumber, shrimp cracker and peanut sauce - $6.25

    There is only one on the East Bay, and three in San Francisco. (I don’t count the Asian Fusion stuff and places with, like, one Indonesian noodle salad.) That is just way too few Indonesian restaurants in an area where Asian cookeries sprout like mushrooms after the rain. Historically, the Indonesians have settled here at least 10 years before the Vietnamese, and at about the same time as the Thai. After a few wholesome meals at Jayakarta, it is beyond me why Indonesian food has not gained much popularity in the States.

    Take the palm-sugar-smothered rotisserie chicken ayam kalasan. It loses to no other chicken but my mom’s. I’m hooked from the first bite. The sweetness is in eve.ry. single. strand. of meat, it’s tender, it’s firm, it can make me rob a school kid for $7.95 when the craving gone mad.

    Mie goreng (left) - $7.95 and Bihun ayam (right) with beef balls - $6.50

    Or the chewy bihun (rice noodle) that fares wonderfully both stir fried (mie goreng) or boiled and tossed (bihun ayam) with chicken, shrimp, beef ball, egg, and some crunchy stalks similar to but denser than celery. Also, bihun is better than than bakmi (egg noodle).

    Or the subtle, smooth, and compact fingers of pounded fish grilled in banana leaf. The otak-otak panggang reminds me of chả cá and chạo tôm in Vietnam.

    Nasi Goreng with chicken (left) -$7.50- and weekend special Nasi Bungkus (right) - $7.95

    Or the rice (nasi). Fried rice (nasi goreng), no complaint. Rice served in banana leaf with coconut beef, fried curry chicken, and marinated tofu (nasi bungkus), absolutely no complaint. The egg kills.

    And coconut rice (nasi lemak) with ample cubes of chicken, mealy perkedel, and my all-time-favorfish anchovies fried to a crisp.

    Or, away from the meaty fried and marinated galore, a gentle bowl of chicken wonton soup (pangsit kuah). So elevating. (I once had this horrid wonton soup when I was six. The wonton was thick and doughy like a blob of mush, the soup was like chicken and dumpling bubbling in lard. I avoided wonton soup ever since. Until now.)

    And a glass of fruit jelly, rice, banana and cassava in coconut milk, with shaved ice, for $3.95.

    I don’t understand why Thai restaurants outnumber Indonesian ones. Is it the lack of pork? (No.)

    Address: Jayakarta Restaurant
    2026 University Avenue
    Berkeley, CA 94704

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