TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Under the buzzing metropolis of Taipei is a hidden gem of the Indonesian community, a culinary trip waiting to be discovered.
Traveling the world is still highly inadvisable as the pandemic drags on. However, this provides an opportunity to explore the local attractions of Taipei itself, some of which can transport us to another country without having to leave Taiwan.
Indonesia is known for being full of diversity and rich in culture. The country's cuisine has been in the spotlight since Rendang (slow-cooked beef) and Nasi Goreng (fried rice) were voted the world's best and second-best dishes, respectively, among CNN's World’s 50 Best Foods in 2017. If you have not had an opportunity to try these Indonesian treats, they are available in the heart of the capital: Taipei Main Station.
Taipei's "Little Jakarta" is always busy during the weekends, with mostly Indonesian migrant workers going there to eat authentic Indonesian foods and buy imported necessities during their weekly holiday.
A buffet offers different options for people to try. (Taiwan News photo)
Several Indonesian eateries, such as Indo Arema, Syariah, and Indo Jaya Bu Lastri, can be found at the Y section of the Taipei City Underground Mall, right below Beimen Station and connected to Taipei Main Station. These restaurants serve many types of Indonesian dishes and beverages. Below are our top recommendations:
Soto Ayam (Indonesian chicken noodle soup)
East Javan Soto Ayam (Taiwan News photo)
The traditional Indonesian chicken soup, served with shredded chicken, boiled egg, and vermicelli noodles and topped with fried shallots or parsley, is a comfort food for every Indonesian. The soup itself is boiled for a couple of hours with ginger, fresh herbs like coriander, and turmeric, giving the broth its bright yellow color and herbal scent.
The East Java version of Soto is clean and citrusy with a bit of lime. The flavors are enhanced when the soup is eaten with white rice. Some people prefer to soak their whole portion of rice in the soup, and some just have it on the side. Shrimp crackers can be dipped in the soup to give an extra crunch.
Bakso Sapi (beef meatballs)
Bakso Sapi (Taiwan News photo)
Beef and starch are formed into greyish meatballs served in a rich broth with leeks and fried shallots. Tofu and fritters are added along with a bit of vermicelli or yellow noodles.
Bakso comes in a variety, including Bakso Mercon (meatballs filled with chili sauce) for lovers of spicy food or Bakso Beranak (meatballs filled with smaller meatballs) for those with a large appetite. Eating them with chili sauce is definitely recommended for those who love a bit of a kick!
Soda Gembira (happy soda)
Soda Gembira (Taiwan News photo)
A glass filled with a thick red-and-white solution is served with ice and soda water on the side. First-timers might be confused about how to drink it, but it’s simple. Soda is poured into the glass and mixed in until a pink beverage forms.
The sweetness is believed to make people feel happy and refreshed afterward. But for some, it might be a bit too sweet for their taste buds.
Es Cendol (ice cendol)
Ice cendol filled with green rice jelly, palm sugar, and coconut milk (Taiwan News photo)
Es Cendol is one of the most beloved beverages/desserts in Indonesia. The combination of green rice flour jelly, palm sugar, and coconut milk might sound strange at first, but it makes people want to keep sipping until there is no more left.
The fragrant taste of the palm sugar is not as sweet after being mixed with coconut milk, and the rice jelly lends a texture that is fun chew on.
Indonesian foods tend to be more flavorful and might be a bit overwhelming for those who try them for the first time. It's recommended that each person order a different dish to share around the table so everyone can have a taste of everything.
All Indonesian restaurants in Taiwan serve halal food. (Taiwan News photo)
Restaurants in the area serve many of the same dishes, and all are halal-certified. However, some restaurants only provide Indonesian menus, so it may be best to ask employees for help ordering in Chinese or English.
After some gastronomical exploration, there are a couple of mini-markets within a 12-minute-walk in the direction of Taipei Main Station. There is also a large Southeast Asian supermarket, Index, where a lot of mostly Indonesian goods can be found. Shipping services are also provided in the store.
We also recommend a restaurant named Batavia-Taste of Asia, situated just a short walk from Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall MRT station Exit 3. It serves different types of Soto, made in the style of the Betawi ethnic group, as well as other kinds of special Indonesian dishes — such as Nasi Uduk.
Nasi Uduk, coconut rice with fried chicken, egg, and tempe. (Taiwan News photo)
Approximately 500,000 Indonesian workers and students are registered in Taiwan, the most of any foreign nationality. Along with an increasing number of immigrants come more options of authentic Indonesian cuisines and goods around the Taipei.