You’re excited. Insider tips have brought you to Bandung Chinatown’s food street, Cibadak. Delicious and affordable dishes surround you, dishes that greatly differ from other Chinatowns you have visited.
As the locals told you, some are impossible to find in other parts of the country! All of the writing is in Indonesian though, but you have no reason to worry as we’ve come up with the lowdown on what’s good here.
1. Soto bandung
Indonesian soto (traditional soup) has as many varieties as there are stars in the sky, but soto bandung has somehow never caught up with its competitors from other regions. People who are not from the city have difficulty appreciating the light taste of its clear beef broth and daikon as opposed to the bold and piquant taste of other variants, but soto bandung is a star in Bandung’s Chinatown with a few popular stalls selling it. Served hot with a plate of steamed rice, the subtle and warm seasoning of lemongrass and ginger is just what you need on a cold evening.
Se’i is a smoked meat dish originating from Kupang, West Timor, and rarely found in Western Indonesian cities such as Bandung. The original recipe calls for venison from Cervus timorensis, a protected deer species, but now it is more commonly made with pork or beef. In West Timor, se’i slices are eaten with corn porridge, a Timorese staple. As Western Indonesians prefer rice, pork se’i stalls in Bandung’s Chinatown serve it with steamed rice instead. They also combine it with other cooking styles from other parts of Indonesia; a favourite is se’i rica-rica (smoked pork in hot and spicy seasoning from North Sulawesi).
3. Nasi campur
In Indonesia, nasi campur (mixed rice) is a set dish—basically a pork feast on a plate—that can only be found in Chinatowns. What you’ll get is a plate of steamed rice or Hainanese chicken rice, which always comes with the sides of ca siao (fork-roast pork), siao bak (crispy roast belly), ngo hiang (five-spice pork roll), lap ciong (Chinese sausage), telur kecap (braised soy sauce egg), sate manis (sweet pork satay), and baikut sayur asin (sour mustard soup).
4. Sate babi
Talking about satay, Cibadak, like most Indonesian Chinatowns, is the place to be if you’re craving for pork satay. Although not impossible to find elsewhere, pork satay in Indonesian Chinatowns almost never comes with peanut sauce. Instead, it comes in different varieties such as sate manis (pork in sweet soy sauce), asin (pork with salty seasoning), buntel (minced pork in fatty membrane), samcan (flank), and many others.
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This is a dish that is difficult to find outside of Chinatowns in West Java and is an acquired taste; people from other parts of Indonesia might find the combination weird. This only seems to boost its nostalgic value among the locals, together with the fact that not many vendors sell this dish anymore. Ambokueh consists of sticky rice cake, tofu, pork offal, five-spice pork roll, Chinese sausage, pickled cucumber, and the pièce de résistance, slices of pig’s ear, all drenched in sweet brown sauce thickened with tapioca. Although ambokueh is quite filling, the locals still treat it as a snack.
6. Bola obi
When the sweet potato dough is fried in oil, it puffs up into a ball with an airy and hollow inside. This is what basically what bola obi (sweet potato ball) is, a moreish snack you munch on while browsing for “proper” food along the street. These balls need to be consumed fresh off the wok while they’re hot because they don’t keep well. A similar snack can be found in Thailand where it is called khanom kai nok krata, but the Thai variant is much smaller having the size of a quail’s egg.
7. Martabak babi
It’s safe to say that Indonesian martabak has strayed so much that it only bears slight resemblance to the original recipe of mutabbaq brought to the country from the Middle East by way of India, but martabak babi brought it to another level by replacing the usual meat of choice (beef, mutton, chicken) with pork and topping it with melted cheddar cheese. Indonesians like to put cheddar cheese in everything. Just be glad that we didn’t include chocolate sprinkle on this one as well as they usually come together.