Dear fellow tasters,
This is one long overdue post because it happened months ago but I still want to write about it due to its special nature. No, I’m not writing about a fancy restaurant or a street hawker place but a market. And it was a traditional market too, certainly not your clean and orderly supermarket or hypermarket. After several back and forth replies and mentions on twitter, I joined with some food bloggers and other foodies from the JalanSutra community to explore a North Jakartan traditional market, namely Pasar Muara Karang or Muara Karang Market. The mission: to fill our bellies with delicious market food.
Three of us arrived a bit early that fine Saturday morning and while waiting for the others, we decided to start the market tour with some Medan coffee and morning snacks from Muara Karang market food court. The coffee tasted just nice to give me the energy for the walk that followed. Meanwhile the snacks – kue lobak (fried carrot cake), ci cong fan, and ketan sarikaya (glutinous rice with sarikaya jam) were quite tasty and much enjoyable. We also tried and shared a plate of kwetiau sapi goreng (fried kway teow with beef) from a stall called Loliek which also tasted quite nice.
The tour then continued through crowded alleys of market vendors, to get to several humble restaurants near the market. Here, I simply tagged along because it was my first time going to Muara Karang market. Along the way, we picked out some snacks to share during our food stops, such as ketan kuning hitam (yellow and black glutinous rice), cakwe (Chinese cruller), kue bantal (pillow cake), and pisang nangka goreng ala Medan (Medan-style banana fritters).
At the next stop, Sinar Pagi restaurant, we ordered two specialty dishes to share, the nasi sayur (rice with assorted vegetable dishes) and lontong sayur (rice cake with vegetable curry and assorted vegetable dishes). Both actually consisted of similar dishes, but the difference was that the first was served on top of rice and the later was served on top of lontong (rice cake) with vegetable curry-like broth. I liked the later one because of the rich and savory broth.
Then we moved on to the Kwetiau Agogo restaurant which is notorius for the uncle who dances a-go-go while working the wok. Here, we tried the kwetiau kerang (fried kway teow with mussels) and kwetiau belacan (fried kway teow with seafood and shrimp paste). The kwetiau dishes were delicious, generous in portion and seasoning. The kwetiau belacan was much spicier than the kwetiau kerang, but both were very enjoyable. One person also ordered soto medan (chicken soup Medan style) from the neighboring stall, which tasted quite nice.
For the last stop, we headed to Nasi Anai Galung Pematang Siantar restaurant, still in the Muara Karang market area. We ordered to share the nasi anai (a different variation of rice with assorted vegetable dishes) and gulai kepala ikan mayung (crocodile fish head curry). I was feeling already full by then that I only ate a nibble of the nasi anai but the highlight was definitely trying the gulai kepala ikan mayung. It was definitely the first time for me and I don’t think that this particular dish is available in many places. The fish had a nice texture to it and although the curry broth was a bit salty, it was very tasty and a perfect company for the nasi anai and the spicy sambal. We also tried a refreshing and unique sarsaparilla-flavored soda drink here, called ‘badak’ (or rhinoceros), apparently produced and deemed very popular in North Sumatra.
By the end of the tour, I felt very full and guess what, each person only spent around 50k rupiahs. Behold the power of sharing. It was a fun morning exploring Pasar Muara Karang and had I not had another engagement for lunch, I would’ve followed part of the group that continued their journey to Hakata Ikkhousha ramen just across the street.
The taster’s notes:
Favorite dish – lontong sayur, kwetiau kerang, gulai kepala ikan mayung
What to try next time – other things to try around the market
Damage around 50k/pax