Epicurina Highlights

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What is Nasi Liwet Sunda?

Nasi Liwet Sunda differs quite strikingly with its counterpart, the more famous Surakarta's Nasi Liwet. If the later is a dish consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk and served with chicken and pumpkin opor (white curry), Sundanese Nasi Liwet is a one pot cooking consisting of rice and seasoned with spices like galangal, lemongrass, and Indonesian bay leaves. To further enhance the flavour, usually parts of ikan asin, or salted fish are thrown in as well. Until recently, Nasi Liwet Sunda is not sold commercially for its exclusive preparation.

Just like many Indonesian dishes, Nasi Liwet originally are peasant's meal. It is cooked in a heavy pot called "kastrol", prepared raw at home and is slow cooked on open fire while the farmers are doing their daily chores. During mid day when it's time for break, the Nasi Liwet would then be ready to consume. It's a communal food that hardly ever made for single portion, hence there are no small kastrol except for two portions which makes commercial selling a bit tricky.

Back at the rice field, though people might not eat at the same time, the continuously heated Nasi Liwet provides simple yet delightful lunch to the hungry farmers. And since it's a peasant's lunch, it is hardly ever made at home on other occasions, except when the kastrol are not brought with the farmer to the field; or includes any kind of meat, as it is considered exclusive and pricey for daily meal.

The modern version sold in restaurants however, usually consisted of a newer, and more lavish ingredients and side dishes, like mushroom, jambal roti, and gepuk (Sundanese version of empal daging). This innovation in Bandung, as far as I can remember was started with the opening of Bumi Joglo restaurant in Dago area that specializes in Nasi Liwet.

It hasn't gained much momentum however, until the opening of resort-restaurants around Garut which relies on this dish, and was well accepted thus creating a new hype. Asep Stroberi ("Astro") is probably the most famous name of restaurants serving this Nasi Liwet in Garut nowadays, and they are continually opening up branches which attracts weekend tourists from Bandung and locals from Garut and surrounding area as well.

Nasi Liwet is now quickly replacing the previous hype of Nasi Timbel as the icon of Sundanese food; it is now sold in many Sundanese restaurants with national chain, like Ikan Bakar Cianjur (IBC), and Alas Daun, that extend its reach up until Bali. As for myself it's a welcomed alternative after Nasi Timbel rules the Sundanese restaurants for more than a decade without worthy contender.

It also reminds me of the good old days of visiting relatives in their rice field, and having this wonderful simple meal together at lunch.

For a good and original version of Nasi Liwet Sunda in Denpasar, you can visit Alas Daun; the new restaurant that replaces Ampera -- a big name in Sundanese food restaurant chain, at Jalan Teuku Umar, right where the Ampera was, beside the Soes Merdeka cake shop.

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