After we ate at Lumpia Semarang at Gang Lombok, we went eating for lunch at Pujasera Tay Kak Sie – a sort of food court nearby. We ordered food at Nyoto Roso stall. They sell swikee, which is frog’s legs soup cooked with fermented beans (tauco) and another dish called pimbak.
What is pimbak?
From the appearance, pimbak is similar to swikee – both are soupy, brown, flavored with fermented soybeans, and sprinkled with lots of fried garlic and Chinese celery. The only difference is that pimbak is made from softshell turtle.
Softshell turtle is different from ocean turtle. It lives in fresh water, usually muddy river. In the past, it used to be wild and was considered a pest. But nowadays there are some farms specialized in breeding it. It is a delicacy and considered a super food in Indonesia, especially among Chinese Indonesians.
The softshell turtle meat is boiled in spices like ginger and pepper for a long time, making it soft and herby.
I think the texture of the softshell turtle is similar to fish, though the taste is closer to mutton. There was no odor at all, so I think boiling it with herbs and spices really works. The meat pieces have lots of gelatinous bits – not a surprise, as it is high in collagen.
After eating it, I felt my body gradually becoming very warm. The taste was actually ok, and the broth is very savory and garlicky especially with the added chili sambal and lime juice. But I don’t know why, the more I ate it the more I felt bad. Probably because I used to have a tortoise as a pet 🐢 when I was a child. So, this felt like eating my own pet. Thus, I am not sure if I will eat it again in the future. But, if you are feeling adventurous and, in the area, you can give it a try and see if you like it.
After lunch, we went exploring Klenteng Tay Kak Sie, which is just next to the food court. Although not so big, it was a beautiful temple.
Anyway, it was a nice relaxing afternoon and we headed back to our hotel to rest. See you at the next post!
When we were in Semarang, we visited one of the famous markets there, Pasar Gang Baru. It is located in the middle of Chinatown and open in the morning. Here you can find any meat products, fruits, vegetables, basically almost any kinds of ingredients that you will need to cook Chinese Indonesian food. Since, the majority of the customers are Chinese Indonesian, you can find a lot pork product.
Even if you don’t buy anything, the market is fun to explore and you can find myriad of local produce in any colors and shapes.
What was unusual for me to see was a seller of sea grapes – called latoh. In Indonesia, many people miscall sea grape as seaweed. The seller said you could eat it raw with freshly grated coconut and chili. This particular dish is popular in the northern coast of Java and is called urap latoh. It’s similar to Balinese rujak bulung.
We found a vendor that sells various Indonesian bread and cake like kue moho, cucur, and risoles. Kue cucur is a type of cake made from rice flour. It is popular not only in Indonesia, but also other countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei. Of course, each country has slightly different recipes, but the shape and ingredients are more or less the same.
A bit further, we also found another kue moho seller and she is very sweet. We bought a lot of from the auntie. My mom said that kue moho reminded her of her childhood. It is similar to bakpau but with rougher texture (in Indonesia we call it “nyereti”). This bread is also used as an offering in the prayer altar by the Buddhists. It is one of the examples of foods brought by Chinese immigrants. The original name in Hokkien dialect is morhor. Unlike the normal kue moho which is empty, the auntie also has kue moho filled with mung bean. The texture was so soft and fluffy.
There was also a vendor selling yellow tofu as well as brown tofu (not pictured). She said the brown tofu is actually spiced and used for making bakmoy – pork and prawn cake soup. There were also several stalls selling ready-made food. You can just buy it to be reheated later at home and eaten with white rice.
Pictured below is laksa. Laksa is peranakan noodle soup while perkedel is potato fritters. It’s possibly from the Dutch frikandel, only in the past people could not afford meat and substituted it with potato instead.
We bought from a lady that sells pepesan a parcel of pepesan telur ikan. Pepesan is ingredients wrapped in banana leaves then grilled with charcoal. This one was made from fish egg and lots of chilies. It was delicious.
We spotted a lady selling jajan pasar/ lenjongan. This was special because it has ketan biru a.k.a. blue glutinuous rice. No, the color is not superficial – it is from bunga teleng or butterfly pea flowers.
My mom bought a bundle of blady grass (in Indonesian we call it alang – alang). According to Chinese Indonesian, blady grass can cure sore throat or just soothe throat in the hot summer. So, my mom was planning to boil it at home with some rock sugar.
We also bought from a very nice uncle a lot of meatballs. I think he sold the most complete selections of meatballs in the market, around 20 or so. He also sells homemade tauco (fermented bean paste for cooking). We chatted for quite a while and he even gave us his name card and some food recommendations. “Behind the market there is a very good siomay vendor called Siomay Cap Kauw King” he said. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go there. What I enjoy from talking to the locals is that they always know how to give you good recommendations.
At the end of the market there was a young guy selling what he called “kuotie”, although it was actually not kuotie. Kuotie is more like fried gyoza. This one was more like a chai kueh, a steamed pastry with sweet radish filling. Nevertheless, it was good. I wish I bought more!
Overall, it was a very fun experience to visit Pasar Gang Baru. I always love traditional market. Although many people, especially the youngsters, think it’s dirty, I enjoy the experience. I like it when I get to see new food ingredients that I never know before, or even just chatting with the vendors about everyday life, politics, or random stuffs. A traditional market is where you see real life: no fancy stuffs, straightforward, people trying to make a living.
If you go to Semarang, of course it’s incomplete if you don’t eat lumpia Semarang. The most famous lumpia vendor in the city is called “Lunpia Semarang Gang Lombok”. It is also the pioneer of lumpia in Semarang.
What is lumpia Semarang?
Lumpia Semarang is a type of spring roll which is originated from Semarang City in Central java. Typically, it is filled with rebung (bamboo shoots), egg, ebi (dried shrimp), and meat (normally prawn or chicken). The wrapper or skin is made with flour and it looks similar to crepes. There are two versions of lumpia Semarang: basah (steamed) and goreng (deep fried). The basah version is similar with popiah. In Semarang itself lumpia is sometimes spelled and called “lunpia” or “loenpia”.
Lumpia Semarang Gang Lombok began about 100 years ago with the love story of a Chinese man called Tjoa Thay Joe and a Javanese woman called Warsih. At that time, Tjoa Thay Joe was selling food with pork and bamboo shoots, while Warsih was selling food with prawn and potato. They fell in love and co-created a new dish combining the ingredients that they sold before: prawn and bamboo shoots, and have them wrapped in flour skin.
Little did they know, a legendary food item in Indonesia’s culinary heritage history was born.
When we arrived at Lunpia Gang Lombok, the queue was crazy. A lot of people elbowed each other inside. The more “peaceful” people stayed outside LOL. The cook was super busy. He told us that we needed to wait 1 hour…huk! That’s how busy it was. A guy was even buying 10 boxes of lunpias – one box can fit 6. But well ok, for the most famous lunpia in Semarang, let’s give it a try.
While waiting, we just headed next door to another old school player in the field, Es Campur Gang Lombok. We ordered the normal es campur and it came in a plate full of crushed ice, pink sugar syrup, candied mango, papaya, cincau hitam (black grass jelly), and manisan kolang – kaling (candied palm fruit). The price is quite high because they made everything by themselves from scratch. I like the candied mango and palm fruit! You can also buy a jar of their candied mango – I think it was about IDR 50k or so.
After refreshing ourselves with the ice as well as chatting with a random uncle, we checked on our order. Yayy it was done!
We ate them all in the car before even taking picture of how they look, SORRY! The filling was bamboo shoots and dried shrimps (ebi). The lunpias were cooked with charcoal, not a gas stove, so they taste smoky – yum!
With that being said, I think the flavor is not that phenomenal. Something was missing, like not really enough umami flavor. Also, the deep fried lumpia skin or wrapper is not as crispy as I expected. So, if I can sum up all the pros and cons of this place, here are what I can come up:
It is the oldest and original lumpia (or lunpia) maker in the city
Old school atmosphere and authentic experience
The lumpia has nice smoky aroma
The queue is inhumane – it might not be ideal to include in your itinerary if you have limited time
The lunpia goreng (deep fried spring roll) is not very crispy
Expensive for what you get (IDR 17.5k per piece)
Of course, this is all just my own opinion. If you have never tasted lumpia before and if you visit Semarang for the first time, you might still want to check it out for the authentic experience. In a way you can help preserving one of the oldest culinary tradition in Java.
The mission of this Central Java trip was only one; to eat as much as possible! My family is the type that really enjoys local delicacies. Whenever we travel to other towns in Indonesia, we never ever need fancy food in the restaurants; what we want is the authentic, home-cooked food, be it in the traditional markets, street stalls, or local eateries. So, the next morning we headed to Pasar Gede. According to the locals, if you want to go for a feeding frenzy, this is the place that you got to be!
I found some nostalgic food in the market. A lady sold some parcels of banana leaves and blendhung. My mom asked what inside the banana leaves was and she said it was “bothokan daun so and lamtoro”. Bothokan is Indonesian dish of which you wrap some ingredients, depending on what you make, inside banana leaves and steam the parcel. I was scratching my head and wondering what daun so meant. My mom said it’s the same as daun melinjo (the leaves of gnetum gnemon). Lamtoro is bean from lead tree, it is also called white popinac seed or jumbie bean. Blendhung is a sort of snack made from boiled hominy, topped with freshly grated coconut. I often ate it when I was a kid and usually added a pinch of salt and sugar. It’s very simple, but it brings back a lot of memories of my childhood.
We also found something called brambang asem. We bought a portion for only 2000 Rupiahs (a bit more than 1 Eurocent😂). Brambang asem is actually rare to find nowadays. But, in Pasar Gede you can still find plenty of them. It consists of steamed sweet potato leaves, tempe gembus (sort of tempe made from soybean dregs), and sauce made of tamarind, chilies, palm sugar, grilled shallots and terasi (shrimp paste). You usually eat it with hands. It was finger licking good! We also bought sosis solo and arem – arem. Sosis solo is a kind of rolls with chicken filling. The skin is made from a batter with coconut milk. That’s why it’s very savory. Arem-arem is a sort of stuffed rice cake, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The rice was perfectly cooked, and the chicken filling is spicy.
When we walked further, we saw a stall selling black paste, that looked exactly like the paste of pecel ndeso that we ate the previous night. Then there were some ladies selling lenjongan. Lenjongan is various Javanese sweets, usually served with toppings such as freshly grated coconut and palm sugar syrup.
We followed the market maze then, we stopped by a lady selling various kinds of crackers and snacks. We bought a lot from her; gula kacang (peanut brittle with palm sugar and ginger), kering kentang (fried potatoes with spicy palm sugar glaze and kaffir lime leaves), slondok (spicy tapioca cracker), keripik usus (chicken intestine crackers), pork crackling, rengginang (rice creacker with palm sugar syrup), etc. The kering kentang is truly a champion. I wish I bought more.
Towards the back of the first floor, we found a stall on my list; Dawet telasih Yu Dermi. Dawet is traditional Javanese drink consists of tapioca pearl, rice flour pudding, coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, glutinous rice, and pandan rice flour dumplings. But the one that Yu Dermi is selling has one more special ingredient: telasih (lemon basil seeds). She also uses caster sugar instead of palm sugar as the sweetening, so the color of the dawet was bright white. It was so refreshing. Beside her stall, there was also a woman selling fried chicken and all other chicken stuffs. Mom bought some. In my opinion it was a bit too salty.
We were told by one of the assistants at Yu Dermi that at the corner of the market there is a stall selling very delicious babi kuah (pork stew). Unfortunately, we were very full, and I have had stomachache since the second day of my holiday. So, we decided to save it for next time. Before leaving the market, I bought some bamboo wares: bamboo rice basket, rice sieve, etc. And right before we walk to the exit, we saw a lady selling cabuk rambak – another rare dish. It consists of ketupat (rice cake), sauce made of sesame seeds, candlenut, and coconut, and karak (rice cracker). It was good but not my favorite.
We stopped by the Royal Palace. I don’t know somehow; we were too lazy to come in. Nearby the palace there a tree with weird-looking fruits. My mom asked one of the ladies sitting there, what it was. She answered “pelem”. Pelem is a Javanese word for mango. Hmm…I don’t think it was a mango😂.
I am crazed with clay dishes and in Solo they are ubiquitous. So, we visited a roadside stall that is owned by a couple. They are very friendly and chatty. We ended up buying quite some from them.
When you go to Solo, do not forget to go to Pasar Gede. This is where you can really see and interact with the friendly locals and of course, sample delicious traditional fare.
Galabo is a street food court where you can find many Solo’s famous food vendors selling at the same spot.
My dad got pecel ndeso, which is red rice dish served with raw vegetables and topped with black sesame-based sauce and gendar (Javanese rice cracker). It tastes savory with nice crunchy texture from the vegetables. Normally when you buy pecel in other cities, it is served with white rice. So, for me this dish is quite unique. Red rice is also more nutritious than white rice, so it is healthier than white rice.
I got nasi liwet, which is rice cooked in coconut milk and topped with sweet and spicy chayote stew, shredded chicken, yellow tofu, and coconut cream. It was rich, creamy, and extremely delicious!
My sister got timlo from the stand of Timlo Sastro – the pioneer of timlo. At first, I thought it was just a chicken soup or so – just with a different name. But I was wrong! It has tomato slices, egg, wood ear fungus, risol (sort of rolls). It was soothing and tasty too. For the drinks, we had wedang uwuh and jahe panas.
Wedang uwuh is made from the bark of secang tree. When it is brewed with hot water, the color becomes red. It is usually mixed with cloves, cinnamon bark, rock sugar or palm sugar. Jahe panas is hot ginger tea. In Indonesia, we usually use different kind of ginger as in the Netherlands. For drinks like this we use jahe emprit. It is smaller than the normal ginger but tastes 10x spicier and stronger.
We also got bakmi Jowo, which is Javanese noodle soup, and sate kere. The last one is quite special because I can’t really find it outside of Solo. The famous vendor is Sate kere Yu Rebi. One stick cost around 1000 Rupiahs. “Kere” means poor because unlike normal satay that is made of meat, this one is made from soybean dregs (tempe gembus). But don’t get me wrong, the taste was super good, especially served with peanut sauce. The texture is somehow between tofu and tempe – soft and smooth. with a prominent soybean taste.
Actually, each stall has their own independent eatery within the Solo city. But Galabo is a place where you can sample each of them at one spot. If you don’t have much time and want to try Solo/ Surakarta’s specialty at once, you should come to this place.
If you like antiques and vintage curios like me, you have to go to Triwindu market. Located in Solo, Central Java, you can find a plethora of old Javanese bric-a-brac. I went there during my trip to Indonesia. It is a bit messy with so many vintage curios piled on top of another, but it is a paradise to me. I went like oh what’s that! Oh, I want this, I want that! But of course, I know myself…I admit I am quite poor in haggling. That’s why I got my mom there, she’s the haggling master.
I got a kue satru/koya mold and a pair of wayang golek (Javanese puppets). Kue satru is peranakan cookies made of mung bean or tamarind with crumbly texture. Usually the mung bean version is also called koya.
To be honest, the offered price is generally on the higher side in the Indonesian standard. Perhaps because there are quite some tourists visiting this place. I got it cheap though because of my mom. You also need to have trained eyes to know which trinkets are truly antiques or just replicas. Nevertheless, if you are into vintage decoration, you should visit it and perhaps bring home one or two items.