Yogyakarta or the local calls it ‘Jogja’, is located in the central part of Java, in between the two major Indonesian cities – the capital Jakarta and Surabaya, with a population of 400,000. Yogyakarta is rich in history and Javanese cultures such as batik, ballet, and puppet shows. With two UNESCO World heritage sites and a volcano in view, the city has a lot to offer.
We decided to take it slow and get in touch with the locals. We signed up for a cooking class @ Viavia Jogja – and to my surprise, it is actually quite well-known to the locals (and later I found out why). Taking a cooking class in Southeast Asia is getting popular while visitors could try out making their very own delicious tropical dishes, and most of these classes start off with a trip to a local market for the ingredients.
Viavia Jogja is in the Prawirotaman street on the south side of Yogyakarta – a tourist district in the city filled with cafes, restaurants, backpacker guesthouses, and some souvenir shops. Passing through the alleys we were at a local food market, Pasare Resik Rejekine Apik, where we got all the ingredients that we need for the two main dishes of the day. Unlike the big cooking schools in Bali or Thailand, Viavia Jogja offers the guests an intimate cooking experience with only 2-4 ‘students’ in a class. The MasterChef, Diwan, said she preferred it this way as it would be easier for her to communicate with the students and get them to focus on the cooking. Sometimes a big group would just chat among themselves and forgot all the cooking.
Pasare Resik Rejekine Apik (Local Food Market)
The trip to the Local Food Market, Pasare Resik Rejekine Aik, was surprisingly fun. The market was vibrant in the morning and lots of locals were already there getting different kinds of ingredients while we arrived.
Our tutor, Diwan, was shopping for ingredients for our class, as well as the evening class. She introduced local food and we discovered a lot of interesting food and fruits, too! While we were looking curious in the market, Diwan offered to buy us marinated duck eggs, tempeh, and salak (snakeskin fruit) as a healthy snack for our meals. It was the first time I tried salak: The fruit looked hard but the “snakeskin” could be easily peeled by hand, the meat was not as juicy as I guessed, quite dry actually, but it has a refreshing taste.
Shopping in a market like this is always “educational” because urban people (like me) would find it surprising to see and know how different food is made or prepared from their original form. We saw coconuts were freshly shredded, how the chicken was chopped, or pickled food or common fruits in its original form. We bought fresh chicken, tofu, tempeh, vegetables, and some lime for our cooking class afterward. The people in the market were rather friendly and since we have all the things we need, we headed back to Viavia and the cooking began!
Well, I had to admit I signed up for the fun, but sure it would be nice to learn something along the way. In fact, I did. As a chef of the café herself, Diwan definitely is experienced with what she was doing in her rooftop kitchen in Viavia. After shopping for the ingredients and back to the kitchen, Diwan made us iced tea and started to explain each ingredient. Then we were chopping, peeling, grinding, cooking, and stirring with an iced tea in our hands, fancy. Although the website said we were supposed to be cooking only two main dishes (Sambal Goreng Sayur – a veggie dish and Ayam Goreng Kalasan – a chicken dish) – we tasted so much more.
We also cooked coconut rice, made our own chili sambal sauce, and fried a lot of krupuk… Turned out it was a feast. I had a great time! Later we headed out for ice cream around the corner and that place was packed with people… Charming!
I recommend taking a class in Yogyakarta because Viavia’s class is more intimate, less commercial, and more relaxed. We didn’t only make a dish, but we tried many different snacks and fruits; we also bought some original hand-made souvenirs in the shop when we leave. I spent an afternoon there as if I was invited to a local’s home for a nice chat and a home-cooked meal.
Wait, I have some more tips and afterthoughts:
- Like Jakarta, Bali, and Surabaya… traffic in Yogyakarta was Horrendous (yes with
a capital H). There was a traffic jam in every corner and every turn of the city for 18 hours every day. Especially the shopping street – Malioboro is a dead zone, once you got in, you might never get out (literally). Cars were lining up nose-to-tail as if it never ends, with motorcycles filling up every gap in between the vehicles. Crossing the road was like parting the red sea. One thing I learned was to hold up both arms as I was crossing the road.
- The drivers were generally nice, just the traffic was really, really busy.
- Take it slow and enjoy a little “Jogja” time – if it is a vacation anyway then don’t mind a little lack of efficiency.
- Most service people (I am talking about restaurant servers, tour guides, and hotel staff) are generally pleasant and polite, they may not speak very good English but they always try their best to serve you. The taxi drivers, however, were not very honest. Lacking an effective mass transportation system, most tourists relied on taxis, or private cars getting around the city. I personally experienced three drivers who gave me less change (or they just didn’t until you ask for a change), asked for a higher price, and drove a longer route all in one day. Just confront them and let them know that ‘you know what they are doing’.I was told there was a ‘minimum’ charge of 25000 IDR for each taxi ride – It’s not much anyway but I doubt if it’s more like an ‘unspoken’ rule for tourists, I just didn’t like being ripped off.
- Coffee doesn’t come with milk naturally. I need milk with my coffee, just ask for it.