I was quite enthused about Indonesian food when I was here last year at this time. This year, not so much. I still find it delicious, don’t get me wrong. But it’s pretty heavy and a little goes a long way. I used to travel five months out of 12 for work and the food thing is never easy. There are usually work-related receptions and the hotels inevitably serve a buffet of oversauced local foods with a continental twist that I immediately regret having eaten. But I always do eat them because what if I miss out on the one thing in the buffet that is really good? It was okay when I was younger but things – and by things I mean pounds – have a way of catching up with you. So. I have been trying to watch my weight on this trip, which, since I am a blogger who often blogs about food, is definitely sub-optimal. Anyway, after the first few days of nasi this and gado-gado that, I found myself casting around for alternatives – not easy. One thing that is easy? Finding incredibly delicious fresh fruit juices. So that’s been my staple.
Tag Archives: Bogor
I’ve been in Bogor (Indonesia) for the past two weeks, working. Apologies that I’ve been rather quiet but between having to wake up every day at 6 – am pretty sure that one of the reasons I quit my job was so I’d never have to do that again – unrelenting meetings all day and Season 1 of Friday Night Lights waiting patiently but insistently for me back at the hotel, I just haven’t managed to keep up with the blog. I’m heading home tomorrow and we can catch up after.
In the meantime, have you ever been to an Indonesian mall? No? Well, I went so you don’t have to. You are welcome.
Starbucks featured something called a vanilla coffee jelly latte, which I tried because it sounded just gross enough to be interesting. It’s basically jellied espresso with milk and vanilla syrup. Over time, like if you are riding the Starbucks’ wifi for five hours while transcribing notes from a conference you’re blogging, the jelly sort of melts into the milk and it’s really not bad. I consulted the Starbucks website – and can I just say Salted Caramel Mocha? Yuck! (and also yum) – and there was no sign of the jelly drink. Tant pis, yanks.
By the way, all the ululating and testimonializing on the death of Steve Jobs to the contrary (and do count me in that number), the world is still a distinctly Mac-unfriendly place. I spent the entire week trying to send email from the institute where I was working to no avail. “It’s a Mac issue,” I was told.
But lest you think that once you’ve seen one mall you’ve seen them all, Bogor Botani does offer some surprises.
What I’ve been eating (and drinking) in Indonesia.
Egg rolls with peanut sauce.
Chicken soup with meatballs in a pastry bowl.
Chicken satay and cream of mushroom soup. The green stuff is avocado juice into which they inexplicably mix chocolate. Crazy but delicious.
Want a closer look?
Black pepper beef, vegetables and some little spicy meat parcel thing.
Bok choy and mushrooms.
And–the best for last–watermelon juice!
I was idly reading some papers on the way to the research institute where I am working for a few weeks when I noticed that the (private) bus in which I was riding sported a giant screen TV playing karaoke videos.
The videos all followed a fairly strict if prosaic formula: a blonde girl wearing feminine but not provocative clothes (snug sweater, knee length plaid skirt) tosses her hair while wrapping herself around pillars, columns or other handy bits of building. In some frames she wears a jaunty hat or cool shades. I half expected her to toss her hat in the air a la Mary Richards. The videos all appeared to be set at a Southern Baptist University during summer break (complete with clock tower looming menacingly in the background). The music was classic rock: Unchained Melody, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Chapel of Love. The videos had a washed out 80s vibe and seem to have been shot at random with no consideration of the songs they would eventually accompany. In one, the blonde walked hand in hand with a boy as the bouncing ball followed a song about a girl who was left at the altar by her true love. I am quite anxious to learn more about these videos. Who’s the blonde? Is she a household name in Southeast Asia? Where is she now? Tragically there is a dearth of information about 80s karaoke videos on the Internet. That’s crazy and must be rectified.
Back to topic. I’m not an expert but I imagine that none of this is beyond the pale karaoke-wise. If we’d been in a bar, with plenty of alcohol, beer nuts and a DJ, I would not have batted an eye. But did I mention that we were on a bus? At 7 am? I might add that no one was singing or even paying much attention. It was still awesome.
At the risk of alienating 2 million people, I have to say that Bogor is not the most interesting place I’ve ever been. Massive traffic and motorbikes buzzing around like angry flies, lots of little roadside stands and not much else as far as I can see. There is however a nice mall and the Bogor Botanical Gardens, which I visited yesterday. There is apparently also a gong factory, but I’ve not found that yet.
The Bogor Botanical Gardens hold more than 15 000 species of trees and plants, including 400 varieties of palm and 3 000 varieties of orchids. They were established by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1811 as a private garden for the Governor-General’s summer residence. They were opened to the public in 1817. Today, the gardens cover more than 80 hectares and include the extensive grounds of the presidential palace, one of six presidential palaces in Indonesia. These days, the presidential grounds are mostly occupied by a herd of spotted deer.
On the way to the park, we passed some guys selling baby rabbits and durian. Amazingly the bunnies didn’t choke to death on the dirty foot stench of this popular Asian fruit.
The first thing we saw on entering the Botanical Gardens were three giant dead fruit bats on the main path. Apparently people like to shoot them for sport and for food. Mmph. I must remember to blow up this photo and hang it on my door for Halloween.
I’m in Bogor, Indonesia for two weeks doing a consultancy for a forestry research institute. I’ve been staying at the institute’s guesthouse and it’s a bit of a quiet and empty place (they move me to a hotel tomorrow). Not many people around and since I Ieave the office at 6 pm and, thanks to lingering jet lag, am generally awake for most of the night, I have a lot of time on my hands. Due to some quirk of technology or censorship, my TV only gets two channels: E! Asia and the Asian Food Channel. I was pretty excited about the latter because who doesn’t want to learn more about the wonder that is Asian cooking? As it turns out, E! Asia and the Asian Food Channel are exactly the same as the regular channels, albeit with Chinese subtitles (and a Chinese Ryan Seacrest imitator who pops up from time to time on E!).
Last night, having overdosed on watching endless Kardashians on E! (what is the deal with those people?), I saw about 6 hours of cooking shows: License to Grill with Robert Rainford (“I loooovvve to play with anchovies”), A Cook’s Tour (Bourdain does Vietnam), Chuck’s Day Off, the Naked Chef, and others too numerous to mention. The only Asian show was Iron Chef Japan where one of the Iron Chefs challenged his rival to a face-off, so scandalized was he that the rival used olive oil in his cooking (and might I mention that he took the upstart dowwwntowwn)! That show is very entertaining if you’ve not seen it. There’s a lot of bowing, and quaint translations and discussion of innards (not gratuitously: they were on the menu). Continue reading