Day 34: Indonesia
As we near the five week mark, I realize that I am taking a slight vacation from the somewhat rigorous nature of this project. The previous two days saw me drive a total of about 7 miles each way, eating in Culver City and Beverly Hills. Well today I’m driving somewhere that’s less than a mile from my apartment. You see, I’m temping at a television studio all week in the least glamorous department possible, doing the least glamorous work possible and I’ve decided to take a little break from long distance restaurants. But what’s so unglamorous about my temp job? Well, I’m working for a small division of business affairs which has two employees who have been working for a combined seven plus decades. One of them is in the hospital all week and the other is recovering from eye and wrist surgeries. To give an example of how bizarre it has been as her assistant this week, I have already spent time helping to pad her broken wrist from her cast, read her mail to her, take dictation on personal e-mails, call just about every one of her family members and get her an egg salad sandwich. I don’t intend to sound mean, but I really didn’t expect that being an assistant at a major television network for the week would involve geriatric care. I thought that maybe there would be, I don’t know…business involved. As of yet, there has been, literally and without exaggeration, none.
Simpang Asia in Culver City, CA. Mr. Meatball joins me for an easy dinner while GirlfriendBites is out with a friend and I’m excited to see a market attached to the small cafe style restaurant. That’s usually a decent sign, though not always. We order at the counter, then load up on chili sauces, hot sauces, vinegar and the like from the little table next to the seating area. We grab a spot in the corner and I’m brought kopi tubruk, an Indonesian coffee which comes with what I can only assume is a sort of sweet condensed milk. Lifting the lid off the cup reveals a dark, thick, murky brew of very strong coffee. I usually drink my coffee unsweetened, but decide to go all the way with the thick, gooey syrup. Once together, the drink manages to become sweet and bitter simultaneously and would be pretty enjoyable on the proper occasion. Mr. Meatball’s honey dew melon juice arrives thick and icy in its big plastic mug and tastes like some sort of a healthy honeydew Slurpee from 7-11.
Our appetizer of lumpia semarang, an Indonesian style egg roll is hot and crispy, with the flavors of chicken and vegetables being guided along by a flavor packed shrimp paste. Mr. Meatball notices that the shrimp paste seems to be the taste that sticks out the most, bringing us to the conclusion that such a small, powerful ingredient must have a Napoleon complex. A piled high plate of thick, large vegetable fritters called bakwan come next and are a perfect example of vegetables being treated with respect. For three dollars and fifty cents, they’re a great bargain as well. Next we slurp up the slightly sweet stir fried noodles called mie tek tek, which fall into the same gastronomic category of yakisoba and chow mein— vegetables and meats stir fried with noodles in a brownish sauce, ready to be customized to your specific tastes, which for me, is a thick dose of chili paste. We dive into the combination plate called nasi rames paddang, which is a sampler of beef rendang (slow cooked beef with spices and coconut milk), young jackfruit curry, balado shrimp and a spiced egg. Similar to how Chinese food is consumed in the states, picking at the various options, letting the flavors mix together on your plate and tossing various condiments wherever you see fit is both a personal and communal delight.
There wasn’t a disappointing dish in the whole meal and this is one of those places that, particularly with its close proximity to my home and very reasonable pricing, I will be returning to a lot. While I would not have missed this place without this Personal Food Project in Blog Form, I do have a lot more context and appreciation for the food because of it. I also love being able to grab what I’ve been told is pretty authentic Indonesian food in an area that is becoming surprisingly more diverse every time I bother to check. All in all, a nice end to my mini vacation from long distance driving and after a brief recharging of the batteries, I’m excited to dive back into the more exotic locations. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have to find out if any of the vending machines here sell Ensure.
10433 National Blvd # 213
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Food Breakdown: 2 non-alcoholic beverages, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees
Distance From My House: 0.8 miles