I had a great opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at local food preparation on a recent trip to Indonesia. The city was Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is generally considered to be a center of culture on Java, the most-populous of the Indonesian islands.
The folks at Gudeg Yu Djum were kind enough to invite us back into their kitchens. It is a family business that has become so popular that it’s a local chain throughout Yogyakarta. Their food gets distributed daily to the various outlets around the city. They’ve been serving up a Yogyakarta tradition for decades.
Nasi Gudeng took some explanation for those of us unfamiliar with Indonesian cuisine. “What, this is fruit?” was the reaction of most of us.
Like many Indonesian dishes, Nasi Gudeng is a combo meal with various sides accompanying the main event. In this case it’s nangka, or young jack fruit. By the time it’s boiled for hours in salt, brown sugar, and coconut milk, the young jack fruit no longer resembles its former self. Then it is called gudeg and it is tasty.
I ate a plate of it combined with nasi (steamed white rice), arek (coconut milk soup/sauce made with brown sugar and salt), hard-boiled egg, and krecek (beef skin). Chicken or tofu can accompany the gudeg as well.
As we walked through each of the rooms behind the eating area, I saw a different part of Nasi Gudeng being prepared. In one dark room an old woman was cutting the banana leaves used to line the plates. In another, a bare-chested young man shoveled hot coals to keep the arek cooking. Further back, several people were cramped into a windowless room, all preparing and cutting the raw chicken. In a separate room the cooked eggs and chilies were kept.
Backpacking around southeast Asia, we often only see the finish product, the delicious meals we eat in cafes and street carts. Seldom do we get a chance to see what goes on in the kitchen.
My visit into the kitchen of Gudeg Yu Djum in Yogyakarta was part of the international blogger trip to Indonesia hosted by the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. All contents and opinions are my own.