The Indonesia islands are the famed “Spice Islands” of ancient lore giving it a very exotic allure. Its cuisine is unique with names that are difficult to pronounce and very diversified choices reflect the huge area that this gigantic archipelago occupies.
Indonesia is located north of Australia and south of Malaysia and the Philippines. The country is often confused with its southeast Asia neighbours, but if you try their cuisine it is unlike its closest neighbours. For a taste of Indonesia get to Pondok Indonesia located on West Broadway close to Oak Street.
Pondok Indonesia has been in business since 1989 and this is its third location as it grows into a bigger space with each move. Another long-term ethnic restaurant with a very loyal following as the owner/chef Katherine Tanurahardja can attest, it continues to be a family owned and operated business.
Most people will relate Indonesia with the island of Java, where majority of the country’s population lives. Pondok Indonesia serves Sunda style cuisine, which is popular on the western side of the island of Java. This is where the owner and her family resided before emigrating to Canada a few decades past. The Indonesian cuisine served is 100 per cent authentic.
First up for appetizers were the Lumpia Istimewa – Indonesian style spring rolls stuffed with minced chicken, shrimp, bamboo shoots and tofu served with a light peanut sauce. A personal guideline for the potential food quality is the taste of the spring rolls in Asian restaurants. These were an excellent start and had a good balance of flavours with a crispy outside and lots of filling inside while being perfectly cooked. Make sure you dip them in the lighter peanut sauce for a fuller flavour. They were slightly sweet and all four were gone in a flash!
Second appetizer was the Gado Gado – Indonesian style vegetable with hard boiled eggs, potatoes and tofu topped with special peanut sauce and fried shallots, and it was very tasty! There were many textures with a good crunchiness factor. The tofu was a great complement, cabbage lightly cooked, peanut dressing a huge hit and the shrimp chips disappeared right away!
A typical Indonesian main is the Bami Goreng – “hawker” style stir fried egg noodles with shredded cabbage, green onions and tomatoes. It was cooked to perfection with different textures present with each bite. It wasn’t spicy and each forkful was delicious. The sweet soy seasoning was also a nice complement.
The next entrée was the Rendang Sapi – Spicy beef simmered in coconut milk and Indonesian chilies, garlic and shallots. You can vary the spice level when ordering, which is great for those who can’t handle the heat (or those who want more of it!). This was another dish with great textures and tastes that delivered a complex profile. You can really taste the coconut, ginger and lemon, and the crispy shallots on top were a good touch.
It’s always a good idea to try and balance your meal with some vegetables, so we got the Buncis – green beans sautéed with prawns and tofu in a sauce of dried shrimp. The beans were crunchy and yummy. The shrimp and tofu cooked well with the dried shrimp offering texture. The overall saltiness from the beans was very appreciated on the palate.
It’s always fun to try other ethnic offerings of fried chicken, so we got the Ayam Goreng Kuning, and it was a hit. This is Bandung style (city in western Java) fried chicken, which was very juicy and tender. The dish is made by cooking the chicken twice, simmering the meat and then deep frying, and the whole process definitely retains the taste. It’s not an exotic sampling, as the chicken taste is highlighted, but different than any other fried chicken you may have eaten.
We couldn’t leave without sampling a couple of Indonesian desserts. First was the Es Cendol – an iced drink with tapioca panda pearls, palm sugar and coconut milk, which is a popular street food in Indonesia. You need to stir it first then serve into separate dishes, but you’re not going to want to share it! It’s not too sweet and there’s a strong coffee taste present from the palm sugar even though there’s no coffee in it. There’s also a lingering taste of caramel. Could it be a perfectly refreshing summer dessert? The tapiocas offer a different texture and much like bubble tea.
The second dessert was the Bubur Ketan Hitam – warm black sweet rice topped with pandan leaf infused coconut milk (the picture doesn’t do it justice). Like the Es Cendol dessert, you need to stir first (turning it purple) and share with your table. It’s warm and extremely flavourful, not overly sweet with a strong coconut flavourful and a little bit chewy because of the rice.
The West Broadway location has paid parking underneath that will be validated by the restaurant. They have entertainment after 9 p.m. on weekends consisting of karaoke and dancing and they serve alcoholic (full liquor license) and non-alcoholic drinks. If you require gluten-free choices this can be accommodated by speaking with the server. In addition, they have a wide range of vegetarian dishes available.
If you can’t decide on which dishes to eat, they have a number of combo offerings ranging from $29 to $35. There’s also a great selection of authentic Indonesian desserts. Entrées range from $8 to $18 and the portion sizes are generous. With a total seat capacity of 150 people, you won’t have a challenge being seated.
Address: #202 – 950 West Broadway, Vancouver
Monday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.