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Sumatra, Indonesia

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so maybe you would like to know what's cooking in nortern Sumatra? chances are, unless you work for a disaster relief or humanitarian NGO (or maybe you're an armed rebel) you haven't been to Aceh.

people in indonesia eat with spoon and forks, no chopsticks, no knives. and the odd thing i found is that people use the spoon to eat, and the fork as the separator implement. i'm lefty so it throws the whole thing off.

i can't recommend a place in particular, because i've only really eaten from mobile carts and places with no signs. to see what's cooking anywhere you only have to roll down the street, very slow and look in the windows. everyone puts their kitchen out front (shouldn't we all) and you can see exactly what they have. they'll pile up noodles, soya beans, eggs or line up the fresh fruit they use for juices. once i took a hard boiled egg and everyone was all, no, you don't want to eat that. why not? "because it's a duck egg, over there are the chicken eggs." but no, i went with the duck egg, and as expected, tasty, rich, just a little salty. yum. even though these ducks do NOT look healthy.

they'll also have the fried fish heads, whole shrimps with their skin fried into a blob, goat with bones and other stuff in the window that usually sits around all day with a little candle nearby, so i might not recommend it unless your stomach is prepared. if you order noodles, they cook it up in a big wok. you can try asking for "not spicy" but so far, it hasn't worked. they add little round peanuts with the skin on to most dishes, and shallots, or crispy thingies called "beef floss" as adornment.

then there's the cart guys, who are just everywhere. in jakarta, i would recommend gado gado. it's a whole mess of veggies and fried rice, and since they cook it there it takes a while, but guaranteed fresh. and you can take away pretty much anything in a banana leaf inside brown paper folded up similar to a chinese take-out containter. so if you don't want to eat with skinny cats nibbling at your toes...

my best meal so far in Aceh was the Soto Ayam, or chicken in coconut/lemongrass broth. i don't know how else to describe it but simple, delicious. not many vegetables around here, just the fried potato balls and the occsasional green. there was a little lime and hot sauce on the side.

the more common acinese meal involves a miriad of little places of fish, meat, potatoes and greens in a variety of coconut, peanut, or just plain spicy sauces. you eat with your hands, so you get a bowl of water to wash up. pictured here is the grilled chicken, little skinny pieces of chicken buried under full chiles, friend shallots and these mysterious fried leaves (anyone know what these are?). they are supposedly meant to "counteract the fat of the chicken" though i've seen these chickens running around, they are definitely not fat. so you dig in the leaves and it makes a rustling sound, like you hear walking through the woods in autumn. post-1563-1242978443_thumb.jpg

On my last day we went to a soup, or Sop place. i noticed on the way in, these huge beef bones, with knuckles, must be the knee or something. post-1563-1242978514_thumb.jpg if you order the beef knuckle soup you get the whole shabang, with a straw into the marrow. you cut off any meat left on the bone with a knife (first time i've seen a knife served at a table), dip it in the soup. here's the picture from the menu. post-1563-1242978478_thumb.jpg totally weird. i tried to take real pictures, but it's hard to ask someone, "may i document you eating this weird shit?"

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