Yogyakarta is often called “Jogja”, and it is a gem of Java Island. The city is situated between two Buddhist and Hindu wonders and is known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage. I was deeply impressed by the Prambanan, a remarkable Hindu heritage site that has so much resemblance to Angkor Wat, and the Borobudur, a splendid Buddhist monument that is the single largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth. I have already written about the incredible experience of watching sunrise and sunset at both sites; I have also shared my visit to a local market “Pasare Resik Rejekine Apik”, and taking a cooking class at Viavia Jogja. But still, there was something more, something more than a spiritual feast, something that intensified our sensations.
We somehow managed to turn our little visit to Jogja into a “yummy-licious” one and made it our mission to really get to know Indonesia’s cuisines by exploring different dining places in the city.
I visited Bali and Jakarta prior to Yogyakarta but have yet to realize what Indonesia was about. Maybe the food scene is less well-known than Malay, Thai, or Vietnamese food to the world; it doesn’t mean Indonesian food doesn’t have its own specialties. Indonesia has a diverse and eclectic cuisine drawn from all corners of the country from Aceh at the top of North Sumatra to the eastern borders of Papua. The first thing we did after we got off the plane and check-in to the hotel, though, is an afternoon tea at the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta. 😛
The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta
If you have read The 101 Travel Guide of What You Need to Know about Malaysia, I did mention about English afternoon tea is a thing if you ever visit Malaysia. I suppose it is also a thing in Indonesia. The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta is a boutique heritage hotel and I was told it’s the best place for English afternoon tea in the city. When I first entered the hotel from the main road it didn’t impress me much until I walked into the main hotel building. The historic building was constructed in colonial style and the swimming pool was right in the center. Each luxurious suite has its own balcony that overlooks the pool. Honestly, the food in the tea set was not as tasty as I hoped but made up by a cheap price and a nice environment.
Malioboro street and the classic Indonesian Dishes!
We ventured down to Malioboro Street, the busiest shopping street in the city, after our afternoon tea. This is probably the best place to shop for souvenirs and explore local street food. There is a local chain deli called Es Teler that serves easy and cheap Indonesian food with an exciting variety. Some common Indonesia dishes are “Nasi Goreng ”, “Mie Goreng”, “Gado-Gado”, “Bakso”, “Otak-Otak”, “Pisang Bakar Coksuke”.
Ha-Ha :P, which means:
Nasi Goreng is a common and popular Indonesian fried rice dish, usually served with a variety of side dishes such as meats, vegetables, and spices. For Nasi Goreng, the rice is usually seasoned with sweet soy sauce. Another popular rice dish is Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice) or Nasi Kunyit (Turmeric Rice), cooked with coconut milk and turmeric. I would say, it would be a safe choice for those who ended up entering a local restaurant and had no idea what to order!
Mie Goreng, on the other hand, is a common fried noodle dish. It has also great variations by adding prawns, chicken, or beef, and stir-fried with garlic, eggs, shallots, and spices. It is a safe dish to order but in case you cannot deal with spiciness, let them know.
Also known as lotek, Gado-Gado is an Indonesian salad. The salad consists f boiled, blanched, or steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs – but instead of a stir-mix, they are usually just placed neatly next to each other with Gado-Gado sauce served on the side. It is not my favorite dish (just because I don’t like peanut sauce). Otak-Otak is a grilled fish cake made of groundfish meat and served with a banana leaf wrap.
Bakso is meatballs, usually made of ground beef or pork, and served with rice vermicelli. It’s a great tasty noodle soup :P. I liked ordering it when I felt I had too much greasy food, and craved something soothing and light.
Pisang Bakar Coksuke is an Indonesian snack (but I would think it’s a dessert) made of banana and plantain, covered in batter or not, being deep-fried and sometimes sprinkled with shredded coconut or sauce before served. I am not a sweet tooth so be warned, it could be a little bit too sweet for some. Rujak is also an Indonesian salad, which is commonly a mix of cucumber, pineapple, and watermelon served with a sweet, hot, and spicy dressing made from chili, plum sugar, and peanuts. It is refreshing but, again, not my favorite because of the peanuts.
For a fancier Indonesia food experience:
Madam Tan Resto
Madam Tan is opposite the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta, and it’s a popular restaurant for Indonesian food. It has a nice ambiance and vintage interior, and the dining area is bright and comfortable. The food tastes nice and I recommend trying it!
The House of Raminten
The House of Raminten is full of whimsical ideas. The restaurant was like a madhouse with strange and bold decors. I saw a Jacuzzi (out of nowhere) in the middle of the restaurant and there are traditional Javanese decorations all over the place! It is also a small performance venue (and I found there are horses at the back of the restaurant when I went to the washroom) so the place was crowded when we got there. Luckily the host was quite friendly and we got a table quickly (we were exhausted after walking the whole day in the city!).
The food was so-so, honestly, but it was cheap and dynamic. 🙂
Prawirotaman (and the area) is a vibrant backpacker area with quite a lot of cafes and travel agencies. Apart from Viavia Jogja (which is not only a cooking school but also a restaurant and hostel), there are a few nice gift shops on the same street. I tried a few cafes and restaurants, like Il Tempo Gel Gelato – who would not want a yummy gelato on a hot Indonesian day!
Green Host Boutique Hotel
Another place that I love is Agenda, on the rooftop of the Green Host Boutique Hotel. The hotel is decorated with an industrial vibe with a nice spa, restaurant, pool, and art gallery on the ground floor, there is also a mini aqua agricultural farm on the rooftop next to the bar. We visited there the last night in town, had some drinks and Buffalo wings, and enjoyed the great live performance overlooking the neighborhood.