December 22, 2011

Adventures in Mobile Food|Jogjakarta Documentary Photographer

For a week, I only ate from mobile food vendors here in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I allowed myself unlimited water from my house and one tea or coffee in the morning, but otherwise all my foods had to come from mobile vendors. (I did cheat with fruit once or twice, some chocolate and an extra tea or two. But all in all I stayed loyal to the cart.) My goal was to only eat from people who circulate all day selling food but I soon found that to be difficult. Sometimes there were long spells with no one passing by or rain sometimes made things scarce. Periodically, the same food rolled by incessantly; there is only so much siomay (dumplings) or bakso (meatball soup) I can eat. I changed my rules to only eating from carts or mobile structures, but they could be in one place selling.

Day 1

I got to try school vendor’s foods. These vendors wait outside elementary and middle schools. The foods have to be quick to prepare and cheap. I tried “tempura” which was weird processed meats that were deep fried in old oil and slathered with sweet chili sauce. Not my favorite. I also had siomay, a dumpling covered with peanut, chili, and sweet soy sauce.

I went to the beach and some beautiful waterfalls this day with some friends. I couldn't find any cart food for lunch and so I was starving by the time I ordered sate for dinner. I got two portions, which were pretty small anyway. But it was the best sate I have had in a long time because there was no fat, the peanut sauce was fresh and not greasy, and it had spicy, sliced red chilis on top. Yum!

This is ronde. Ronde is a ginger drink served in dainty miniature bowls. Besides the sweet ginger liquid, there are lots of assorted yummy things floating in the bowl, like bread and roasted peanuts. I only had one bowl; the other belongs to my friend.

Day Two

Rujak is mixed fruits and veggies with a pungent sugary, shrimp pastey, spicy dipping sauce.

Bakso for lunch. Meatball soup but I requested mine with no meatballs :-).

Got too hungry and forgot to take a photo for dinner. I ate nasi kucing (cat rice--which refers to the portion not the contents, usually with sambal or a tiny amount of noodles or tempe on top, all wrapped in a banana leaf or brown paper and newspaper, tofu, tempe and limeaide).

Day 3

I ate at angringkans a few times, carts that usually set up shop in one place all night but all the food is placed on top of their cart, which they use to wheel everything to and fro. I also ate from foot vendors, like the es dawet (coconut mild with palm sugar and glutinous droplets) seller. She sets up by the immigration office and always stays very busy with people waiting for indeterminable periods. She carries her supplies in the traditional way, with two pots evenly balanced with a stick over her shoulder.

Es Dawet, yum!

After not eating many veggies for a few days, I was excited to find this cart with many mixed vegetable stir fries!

I had some sate from the sweetest moving food vendor who comes through our neighborhood. Also I had an extra packet of "nasi kucing" from the night before.

I was hungry. Five minutes later:

Day 4

Bakso again, but bakso free with fried wantons instead. Pretty good as bakso goes.

Es dawet again. This one had fancier ingredients but wasn't as good as the stuff by the immigration office.

Gorengan "friedness." This is fried tempe and fried pineapple pastries.

Bakpaw or we call it baw in the US. This one was filled with a chicken stuffing and very yummy.

Fried rice and orangeade.

I had great exchanges with the mobile vendors. Everyone was happy that I was buying from them and wanted to cater to my tastes. I noticed that their prices were a bit higher and I wasn’t as full as say buying from stationary places, which tend to use more vegetables and complex ingredients. But they work hard for the money! At the end of the week, I was missing vegetables and feel carbed-out. I was also very proud of myself for pretty faithfully sticking to the diet and lasting the week!

Day 5

I tried “kue lekker” something undoubtedly from Dutch colonial days, it’s like a miniature crepe with sliced banana and chocolate sprinkles inside. The salesman was shocked when I said I had never tried it; he had assumed I was Dutch and craving comfort food.

This is chicken and noodle soup with a bit of green veggie and a fried wanton. You can see all the accompanying sauces and the orangeade.

I was starving by dinner time because I went to watch some documentaries first. I stopped at an angringkan to eat nasi kucing with fried tempe.

After those simple carbs, I didn't feel full. So I picked up some "grilled bread" or roti bakar on my way home. It's a big commitment because you have to buy the entire loaf of bread which has been slathered with various ingredients and some staples: margarine and condensed milk. I always get chocolate. I had some that night and throughout the rest of the week. I kind of felt overwhelmed and vowed never to buy roti bakar again if it was only me eating it.

Day 6

More bakso. Feeling the MSG. Also wondering if my continual intake of MSG has anything to do with my headache that won't go away?

Excuse the blur. This was super yummy. Grilled chicken, coconut milk rice and spicy eggplant with sambal, yum, yum, yum. I bought 2 portions of rice thinking I could save one for my first meal the next day but I ate both for dinner because I was starving. (That meant I had to eat more grilled bread for breakfast the next day, sigh...)

Day 7

The final day!

The first cart I could find had fresh coconut water with coconut flesh and palm sugar. It was such a pretty setting to drink under the big roots of the trees by the side of the relatively quiet road.

Then I had some nasi campur, which was a mix of stir-fried noodles, tempe and some broth from another dish. It was exciting to eat rice.

By dinner time I was starving again and went out, feeling disloyal to carts and looking for any food I could find. Luckily, a cart passed by just in time. I wanted to order fried rice. The cart owner had just made some and it was all ready to go. He had another customer that disappeared, so I got that fried rice.

I made it!

Below are a few photos of vendors from other days.

This lady comes by our house often. She and many other older women like her carry the snacks around in a large basket on their back, fastened with a sarong.

This is another rujak seller and his tools:

Does this give you an idea of what's available from mobile street carts in Java? Although, I felt annoyed by the excessive carbs, it's really amazing how available and convenient food is here. It gives take-away a whole new name. We can bring out own dish and have get some food right in front of our house.