Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pondok Kaki Lima at the Duarte Inn - Duarte



On a crisp and clear Saturday morning, near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, in the sleepy city of Duarte, behind the low-slung archway of the Duarte Inn, on the grounds of its concrete parking lot, makeshift tents are erected, umbrellas are unfurled, picnic tables are unfolded, and food is prepared.

This is the weekly ritual for the vendors of the Indonesian food fair, known as Pondok Kaki Lima.



The phrase, loosely translated, means "Shack of the Five-Legged Vendor," in a quaint reference to what the residents of this island nation call their food hawkers. To explain the origins of the name: the two front wheels of the traditional food vendor cart, summed with the single wooden peg used for a kickstand and the hawker's own two feet, counts for the five legs in the colloquialism.



The owner of the Duarte Inn, himself an Indonesian, has welcomed a few enterprising home cooks and some ex-restauranteurs to his hotel's backyard to emulate these hawker stands -- in some part to bring the diaspora of Indonesians living in L.A. area together, and in another to share the bounty of the Indonesian kitchen to the general public.

The sense of community in the crowd is palpable, and like a church picnic, people greet each other with sing-song familiarity. And although comparisons will be made to the Wat Thai Temple's weekend food fair, Pondok Kaki Lima is a smaller and more intimate gathering, with only about a half-dozen vendor tents.



On this sunny Saturday morning, business was as brisk as the air. Each stall was swarmed with hungry customers, mostly ex-patriates eager for familiar foods.

One sate vendor, who had propped up three Charbroil grills in a row on his flat bed tow, was squinting behind ribbons of white smoke, feverishly turning the skewered meats over fire, trying to keep up with the orders. Behind him, the low frequency thumps of an unseen boom-box warbled out synthesizer-laden Indo-Pop, with too little treble and an excess of bass.

Another vendor called Kristy Kup, which was a Glendora restaurant before it shuttered its doors, was also particularly busy. They were nearly out of their best-seller, Nasi Gudeg ($6) when we swooped in and took the last order of the afternoon. Their chafing dishes were practically licked clean after our styrofoam container of food was assembled.



Gudeg (pronounced goo-dug) is simmered young jackfruit with a pinkish brown pulp that has the appearance of shredded beef but a flavor that is sweetly floral. Rice always accompanies the dish, but also included is a chicken drumstick, a hard-boiled egg, and a block of dense tofu, all cooked in the same pot.

Nasi Gudeg would not be complete without Sambal Goreng Krecek, a caustic stew of softened beef rinds and chili. Boiled down to a jelly-like consistency, this cooked cow-chiccarone moves and slips around in the mouth, spreading the latent burn of the brew like a mop. If that weren't enough, a dollop of homemade sambal is also served, in case you want to set your whole head on fire.

For snacking, Kristy Kup also sells Pastel Ayam ($1.25 each), the Indonesian version of the empanada. The homemade and braided pastry shell is stuffed which chopped egg, carrots, peas, ground chicken, and bean thread noodle. The parcel is then deep fried to a flaky, golden brown.



When I ordered mine, the lady directed her husband to fry up a fresh batch. He did so dutifully, taking a few pieces out of a tupperware cointainer, carefully lowering them into a wok, and tossing them in the hot oil.



An order of these Indonesian "Hot Pockets" includes a thick, spicy, and vinegary peanut dipping sauce tied inside a plastic baggie. I immediately took refuge under one of the dining tents and consumed the pastels while still piping hot. It's the perfect finger food -- crunchy, simple, and with every dunk in the sauce, dangerously addictive.



Nasi Rames ($6), bought from another vendor is a combination of four different dishes set around rice. I chose Sambal Telor, which is a deep-fried hard-boiled egg, covered in a sweet but stinging red sauce of tomatoes and chili. Empal, marinated beef fried crisp in oil, tasted like sweet and seasoned jerky, but much more tender and moist. To round out the meal, I also picked out a chicken drumstick, which was stewed in the same sauce as the egg, and simmered kale, a dish that's similar to Southern collard greens in Pot Liquor.



For dessert and to douse the fires now burning a hole on our tongues, we ordered Es Shanghai ($1) from another vendor. It's shaved ice topped with jackfruit, grass jelly, lychees, young coconut, and sweet beans, finished with a generous drizzling of flourescent pink rose syrup and condensed milk.



I took a plastic spoon to task, breaking up the shaved ice mound to distribute the syrup and ingredients into a slush. Slurp after freezing slurp, the dessert cooled my palate and soothed my lips.



Another vendor sold Indonesian groceries, with various items laid out haphazardly on a fold-out table. Krupuk, crunchy fried chips made from tapioca flour, and dark bottles of Kecap Manis, a thick soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar, were in high demand.



This same stand sold Teh Kotak, which literally translates to "boxed tea," and comes $2 for a pack of six. We bought it as our beverage for the lunch, sucking down the sugary brew through the small straw as chasers to our dessert.



For those who might be interested in experiencing Pondok Kaki Lima but are intimidated with the potential language barrier, I've compiled a small crib sheet with some basic Indonesian to English translations:

Ayam = Chicken
Babi = Pork
Bubur = Rice Porridge
Es = Shaved Ice
Gado Gado = Salad with Peanut Sauce
Goreng = Fried
Kambing = Goat
Lontong = Compressed Rice Cake
Mie = Noodles
Nasi = Rice
Sambal = Chili Paste
Sapi = Beef
Sate = Satay
Siomay = Dumplings
Soto = Spiced Soup
Telor = Egg
Udang = Shrimp

Saturdays from 10 a.m–2 p.m.
Duarte Inn Parking Lot
1200 Huntington Dr
Duarte, CA 91010

47 Comments:

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Kirk said...

Great post Elmo - Another destination for us in LA! I'd heard about this on Chowhound, but your post fills in all the blanks.

 
At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Joy said...

Wow, the food looks and sounds amazing -- I am overwhelmed with culinary desire! Must have Indonesian food...

Unfortunately, Duarte is a pretty long haul from Irvine. Do you know of any Indonesian restaurants in Orange County? The only cite I can find online is to Asian Deli Indonesian Cuisine in Orange -- have you been? Do you know of anything closer to me (Irvine)? Thanks for yet another great post, btw.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kirk,

Yeah, I made mention of it on Chowhound a few times without actually having been...so I thought it was about time I went myself and post a report.

Joy,

Duarte is quite a ways away from Irvine. I'll attest to that! Unfortunately though, O.C. has no Indonesian restaurants (that I know about). Asian Deli, sadly, moved over to Diamond Bar a few years ago. The closest place for us in O.C. to get Indonesian food would be Toko Rame in Bellflower, which I drive out to if I ever get cravings!

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Seth Chadwick said...

Elmo,

Another success for you. I could live on the Indonesian empanadas. :o) As always, you have great photo blogs of the food and they are fantastic shots.

J. and I will have to make our way over there sometime soon.

Thanks, again!

 
At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

elmo,

Just came to know about your blog today. Used to lived in Irvine and wish I know about your blog when I was there. You have good recommendation on all the wonderful food places. I even been to a few of them. The Indonesia empanadas look the same as our Malaysian 'Karipap' but the filling are meat and potatoes. Wish I can sink my teeth into one now.

Thanks Elmo

Wan

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Seth,

Thanks for the comment. Duarte is a long schlep from O.C., but if the weather is right, it's a nice little Saturday of tasting exotic food.

Anon,

You and me both...I wish I had an empanada, pastel, or karipap right now. I think I'm hungry.

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger rick james said...

wow... who'da thunk behind that hotel is little indonesia... that's cool, when i went to malaysia they had those market places full of vendors and really good food... thats where all the locals go

thanks elmo, good reason to check out duarte.

i don't think i've ever been disappointed with anything coming in an "empanada" pastry shell.. you could probably put "natto" in there and it might even taste good... maybe not..

 
At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Joy said...

Dang, Bellflower is not that close to me either -- 30 miles translates into Way Too Long right around dinner time. Still, I'll have to convince Mr. J to make the trip with me one of these days. Do you know if Toko Rame is open for lunch on the weekends?

Even best case scenario, we still wouldn't get there often. So I guess I'll have to buy a cookbook or two and try experimenting at home. >rubs hands in glee< Do you know of any good Indonesian cookbooks you'd recommend? I've only ever made nasi goreng before -- a strange recipe, compared to others I see online (it has tofu and coconut, for one thing), so it may be totally inauthentic, but I love the results.

The dishes you describe look much more complicated, but hey, that's just more fun. Can you recommend any good OC sources for the unusual ingredients I'm sure to need?

 
At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elmo! I enjoy reading your posts on Chowhound and even more so your blog! My parents are from Indonesia and although born in Malaysia, I pretty much grew up here. But judging from our mutual fascination in all things edible...food obsessions must run deep in our culture! What a wonderful obsession to have.

Tenom Dude

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DCCF,

Hey, I'd try natto empanada...but wait, before I say that, maybe I should try natto first. I hear it's like eating rotten mucuous.

Joy,

Indonesian cookbooks eh? That's a good question. I don't believe I've actually seen an Indonesian cookbook in stores, aside from a few recipes here in there in Southeast Asian themed cookbooks. The best way to cook Indonesian, believe or not, is to use the pre-prepared bumbu (seasoning packets), like the one here -- and following the directions on the package. The pouch contains a spice paste that you use as base for different dishes. The one in the picture is for Soto Ayam, one of my favorite dishes -- a lightly curried chicken soup eaten with rice. 99 Ranch on Culver has this exact package in the spices aisle.

As for actual from-scratch-recipes, this site has recipes that look quite authentic and most of the directions are thorough and complete.

Happy cooking!

Tenom dude,

Selamat Datang! Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoyed my blog enough to stick around. I've got a few more posts in the pipeline.

 
At 10:23 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Joy,

I forgot to answer your other question about Toko Rame. They are indeed open for lunch on the weekends. But call before leaving the house to make sure they are open - Indonesian businesses can sometimes close for religious holidays not on Western calendars...wouldn't want you to make a trip out there for nothing.

 
At 1:00 AM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

(I just checked your blog a few minutes ago, and was shocked to see a new post with 11 comments already! Usually, I check Monster Munching at least once a day to monitor whether you have posted yet, so I don't know how this one got past me!)

I love street vendor food! Street vendors provide an "authenticity" to eating experience--and the food tastes much better from them for some undefinable reason. This post definitely satisfied my hankering for a trip to Lil' Indonesia / Duarte on the Elmo Monster Express. And best of all, I got to see my old friend, the "sambal egg" again!

Terima kasih Elmo Monster, for the incredible lesson in the rich and vibrant Indonesian cuisine and language.

 
At 1:29 AM, Blogger rick james said...

yeah, natto's supposed to be an acquired taste... cept i don't have plans to ever acquire it cause its freakin' nasty...

 
At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Joy said...

The site you linked to has some great recipes, many with pictures (although I wish they were as big as the ones on your review). It's a great place to start. Amazon shows a fair number of Indonesian cookbooks, but it's so hard to know which ones are good without knowing how to cook (or at least, recognize) the cuisine in the first place.

I also found that my old standby Adriana's Caravan (www.adrianascaravan.com) carries a whole range of Indonesian ingredients, condiments, etc. in case I can't find them around here. The only catch is going to be substituting unusual vegetables and fruits.

Then I'll compare my sophomore efforts to what I eat at Toko Rame. Thanks for getting me started on this, what fun!

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

PE,

Thanks always for dropping by and leaving such kind comments. Yup...for some reason I can't get away from that Sambal Telor (egg)...it's not that I eat it all the time either. But its pretty darned good!

DCCF,

IIRC, natto was the one thing Tony Bourdain did not like on his "A Cook's Tour" trip to a ryokan in Japan.

Joy,

Oh my! You're right! Amazon does have an impressive collection of Indonesian cookbooks indeed! My local Barnes and Noble is quite sad by comparison...of course this should be no surprise to me. They didn't even have The Little Saigon Cookbook, which I was eager to leaf through!

On that note, I found that Saigon City on Brookhurst and McFadden in Westminster carried a vast assortment of Southeast Asian ingredients. I think I remember even seeing some of the more exotic stuff like palm sugar and terasi (Indonesian fermented shrimp paste). But Adriana's Caravan has a good selection of items as well! Thanks for the link!

 
At 11:38 AM, Blogger Tokyoastrogirl said...

Woah- everything looks delicious- especially the fried empanada-like things....I'm afraid I'd be unable to eat just one! Dipped in a peanut sauce? Forgettaboutit!

Thanks for the lovely photos.

 
At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I really just like your blog!

Sage

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Tokyoastrogirl,

That peanut sauce makes anything irresistable!

Sage,

Thanks for dropping by!

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger rick james said...

elmo,

YES!!! i knew i had something in common with Tony Bourdain and it wasn't AM/PM Nachos... you're the one who had to find it...

now, i can proudly tell my friends and family... "well, you know... Tony Bourdain and I both find Natto pretty disgusting, eh hem..."...

elmo, what do you think i have in common with Prevaz Musharef?

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I'm positive that President Musharraf also likes chili, cheese, and fries...but not necessarily together, in one dish.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger melati said...

Elmo,

First time here, and I love love loved this post. I am setengah indonesian, but was born in Jakarta and lived there for many years before my family moved to the states.

As far as Indonesian cooking is concerned, the reason why there aren't many cookbooks around is because every Indonesian cook makes each differently, from each and each time they make it.

I had to watch my mom cook for years before I kind of got the hang of the essence of each dish.

But your advice about the bumbu is really great for people trying out indonesian recipes. Just remember, coconut milk is your friend, and so is simmering for a very very very long time, especially when it comes to opor, rendang, and sayur lodeh.
The cheaper the meat, the better. Even with it comes to sate!

Great job with the translations, too. :)

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Melati,

Selamat datang! Terima kasih for writing in. I'm from Semarang myself, but have lived in California for most of my life.

If it surprises you, I haven't actually attempted to cook Indonesian food myself yet. Nothing I can make, I figure, can equal my mom's cooking, which I enjoy every chance I get.

 
At 8:19 PM, Blogger enchantedwonder said...

Elmo,

Selamat Malam! Terimah Kasih for the fantstic post. Went down to the Indo Festival in Long Beach today, and it is so wonderful to find something closure and each weekend no less! Beautiful. Your Blog is wonderful keep it up!!!!

--Enchanted

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

enchantedwonder,

Thanks for visiting! Can you tell me more about the Long Beach Indo Festival? What was it and what was it like?

 
At 4:33 PM, Anonymous rudytjip said...

Back in early July, I was told that the Pondok Kaki Lima weekly bazaar was shut down because they didn't have the proper Health Department permit to sell food there.

But, it was back in business by July 22, although not all the old kiosks are back yet. I was told this info by the people who run Paradiso Restaurant, which by the way is a pretty good Indonesian restaurant right in front of that Duarte Inn location.

Try their martabak manis. Yum, yum!

I'll anxiously await elmo monster's review of Paradiso restaurant.

 
At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi thanks for the blogs...which really helpful and precise as well. I guessed this "Kaki Lima" not every week and only happen once in awhile, right? I'm Indo girl and pretty much have tried some of the places you've listed in your DOI. I like to try different places too as long as they have hot sauce I'm game...I need my spiciness in my food aye :) And for Joy 11:42AM, you can try "Toko Rame" in Norwolk, which the closest Indo's rest. from Irvine (which I live in Irvine too). Thanks again elmonster for the post....happy eating & blogging!!

 
At 4:46 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

rudytjip,

It'll probably be a while before I get to try Paradiso. It took me almost a year to get my lazy butt to Duarte from Irvine. It's quite a drive you know! But I'm glad that it's there and also that Pondok Kaki Lima happens every Saturday, even when it rains (so I'm told).

Anon,

It happens every Saturday! Check it out! Well, I'm not so sure if they are there on Christmas. Everyone needs Christmas off. But yes, it is quite a drive from Irvine though...a llooooooong drive in fact!

 
At 11:59 AM, Blogger Laga Lady said...

I just found your blog... a year late! But I wonder if you've heard of or eaten at Pondok Salero (sp)? I think it is in Fontana somewhere???

 
At 1:15 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Laga Lady,

Finally, you found me! And here I was all along.

I've heard of Pondok Salero (I believe I saw an ad in a local Indonesian magazine), but I haven't been. Here's the address though:

Pondok Salero
2105 Foothill Blvd, La Verne, CA
(909) 392-3841

 
At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool website! Love the food pics.
Watch out for those vendors giving you Indonesian coins instead of quarters! It was IRRITATING for me to get this, wake up people, you are an embarrassment and not to mention, once more---irritating!!! They are thinking penny pinching and pound foolish ... Otherwise, please enjoy the food ;)

 
At 6:47 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Just went out there today 2/16/08 and it was great! Take it from somebody who lived in Jakarta for nearly a decade. Very authentic, very delicious.

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Roy van Broekhuizen said...

I have been there numerous times and a great reminder of how much I love Indonesian food. I grew up in Jakarta and lived there from 1948-1957 when my family fled Indonesia and went to Holland on a Dutch ship. We immigrated to the US in 1961 like most Indos (mixed group of Dutch and ethnic groups living in Indonesia). The last 3 years I have been back and forth to Indonesia 19 times as tsunami relief coordinator for Saddleback church in Lake Forest, CA, and live in Irvine, CA, so Duarte is far but worth the trip. I am very fortunate that I can eat the real stuff when I am in Indonesia but this is the best place here in SoCal. My wife and I started a handbag factory/training center to continue helping tsunami survivors and since our startup, Laga Designs International, Inc. in August 2006, we are now able to support 150 Acehnese. Please read our story at www.laga-handbags.com. Best wishes to all. Roy van Broekhuizen

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger BJ said...

WOW!!! If you think Duarty is a distance from Irvine, try the commute from Utah, hahahaha!!!
Ever since moving to Utah I have missed going to the Food Court on atleast a weekly basis. Utah sorely lacks the food I miss the most and I got hungry just looking at your pictures. Cooking the dishes yourself just isn't the same.
Thanks for the weblog. I'll try to keep track regularly.

 
At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Angie said...

I wanted to know what's the usual price range? It's been sooooo long since I'd had Indonesian but.... gas = too expensive soo... yeah. And yes coming from Irvine is quite a length away.

 
At 7:14 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Indonesian coins?! Wow. Well, I guess correct change or a watchful eye is the best defense against that. I've never once got shortchanged -- and if I did, I hope it was accidental.

Jeff,

I concur. I grew up with this food, and yes, very authentic. Gotta be, since it's cooked by Indonesians for Indonesians.

Roy,

So you are a regular like I am. We've probably seen each other and didn't know it.

BJ,

Utah is quite the distance. Well, from the looks of it, PKL will be here for quite a while...so it just gives you more reason to come and visit LA as a tourist!

Angie,

The prices are in line with most Indonesian restaurants. The goal of the founder (the guy that owns the Duarte Inn) is that nothing must be more than a certain amount. I think this amount is $6 or so. But still, I've seen dishes at $7 or $8. Rules, I guess, are meant to be broken. Just like any swap meet, there are good bargains and not-so-good bargains. Just trust your instincts.

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger Sindy said...

hi elmo, do you know if this is still going on? i realize that it's been 2 yrs since this post was written. thanks!

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Sindy,

Still going on and still going strong!

 
At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there last Sat and they have moved indoors. This is my first time there and the food is great! I ordered combo with Rendang beef, and two other unknown sides, plus satay. Total cost is $14. Getting little bit expensive but i think it's worth it.

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger enchantedwonder said...

Does anyone know if it has been reenstated as of yet? I saw something that it had been moved indoors, supposed to open on the 4th of October but nothing concrete... I so hope so!!!!

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger enchantedwonder said...

Does anyone know if it has been reenstated as of yet? I saw something that it had been moved indoors, supposed to open on the 4th of October but nothing concrete... I so hope so!!!!

 
At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Indonesian said...

lol...i dunno there were a lot of indonesian food lovers there on US specially on Socal.

well im from indonesia, and found this blog by accident when i search for indonesian restaurant for my Friend who live in Anaheim.

lol great blog, and thank you for promoting indonesian food. ^^V

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Chel said...

Hi Elmo,

I'm going to LA this weekend and y mom really wants to go to this place. I was wondering if it still there until now? and is it every saturday?

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Hi Chel,

It's on every Saturday (this Saturday for sure) for the foreseable future. Have fun!

 
At 6:42 AM, Blogger joop said...

for those that are in need of "indo", and reside in los angeles.... "singapore banana leaf" in the farmer's market at 3rd and fairfax :)

 
At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

are they still open?

 
At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Need Indonesian spices, deli snacks, cookbooks, etc. There is a store in Bellflower, named Holland American Store that carrys both Indonesian and Dutch goods, very closeby to Toke Rami Restautant in Bellflower. Both Toko Rami restaurant and Holland American store are located in city of Bellflower. Holland American store phone# (562)925-6914 located at 10343 E. Artesia Blvd., Bellflower, Ca.
Have a good day & God's blessings to U all. :)

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last week I spoke with the lady who started the operation of this weekly event.
Unfortunately, the City of Duarte wants the Pondok Lima to be open only once a month on a Saturday, and not every Saturday as usual. This is a stupid thing to do as the City is losing money due to all the people not spending any when there is no Pondok Lima Market.
For all who read this, spread the word and maybe we get the best place to eat Indo food, back.
Kees

 

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