A trip to West Sumatera is never complete without indulging in its wide array of delicacies starting with the famous Nasi Padang. It has become a rite of passage for any traveler, local or foreign, to be served with the bountiful dishes from fried quail to fish egg stew in almost always spicy fashion. During my three days in the Minang heartland, I took the opportunity to seek other culinary delights and also commit myself to find their best kept secret. Here are 7 exquisite cuisines to savor in Bukittinggi and Padang.
1. TEH TALUA
Fancy having some egg in your tea? Then you’ve come to the right place. Teh telor, literally translated as egg tea, is prepared by mixing an egg yolk, preferably duck egg, with brown sugar in a cup before pouring steeping hot tea. The unlikely concoction is then thoroughly mixed before gulping it down your throat. It is believed to relieve muscle aches (I could attest to that) and increases a man’s virility in the long run. The tea tastes creamy and fatty, coming from the egg, which was doubly pleasant considering I was also enjoying this cuppa at a hut overlooking the cool and misty Danau Maninjau.
Kelok 37, Jalan Padang Lua – Maninjau
Also widely available at most stalls or restaurants in Bukittinggi and Padang.
2. AYAM POP
The problem with the abundance of dishes served in Nasi Padang is that it can get quite repetitive but some restaurants go the extra mile to offer their piece de resistance to the masses. In the case of Family Benteng, the legendary ayam pop’s popularity has reached far out to every corner of the Indonesian archipelago. The “naked” chicken looks uninviting but what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up in flavor. It undergoes a rigorous series of seasonings before cooked in hot coconut oil to give that extra “pop” to your mouth, as it name implies. Four pieces for me somehow was still never enough.
RM Family Benteng
Jalan Yos Sudarso No. 3, Bukittinggi
Daily: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm
3. GULAI ITIAK LADO MUDO
Another Nasi Padang specialty found in Bukittinggi is Gulai Itiak Lado Mudo which is duck cooked with a very thick green chili stew. One would expect the duck to be smothered in spiciness beyond belief but somehow the chili was mild with a hint of sweetness. The duck meat looks quite impoverished but its as close as you can get when it comes to organic meat as the ducks are reared hormone-free, kampung style. The Minang sure know their hospitality since you’ll be enjoying your meal under a wooden hut by the mountain river the bottom of the Sianok Canyon.
Lesehan Lansano Jaya
Jalan Raya Lambah – Maninjau Lambah, Ngarai Sianok
4. ES DURIAN
On the second day of our trip, we descended to the coastal town of Padang and the natural thing to do when faced with the heat of the tropics is to seek out a refreshing dessert. Fortunately, Padang has one of those dessert shops frequented by celebrities and luminaries yet still gets the seal of approval from the locals. The Es Durian is likened to the cendol but the absence of the green “jelly worms” is supplanted by a thick slab of durian kampung. Its cold creamy sweetness appeals to the both durian lovers and haters so never pass this up when you’re in Padang.
Es Durian Ganti Nan Lamo
Jalan Pulau Karam No 103 B, Padang
5. SOTO PADANG
Soto is a type of soup widely found throughout Indonesia and Malaysia best eaten for breakfast or tea. Like laksa, it has regional difference and Soto Padang uses thin glass noodles instead of vermicelli. Crunchy beef bits ala bacon in the soup is another major distinguishing factor while locals eat it with rice and crunchy crackers. I’m not so much of a soto connoisseur so I can’t say which one is the best since I kinda put soto as a normal Malaysian/Indonesian dish like fried rice or fried noodles.
Jalan Letjen S Parman No 112, Padang
Daily: 7:00 am – 9:00 pm
6. GULAI KAPAU
Of course Bukittinggi wants to have their own variation of Nasi Padang. So they came up with Nasi Kapau – steamed rice served with the creamy yet spicy (what dish isn’t?) gulai kapau, a veggie stew made up of jackfruit, long beans, cabbage and bamboo shoots. The accompanying dishes are typically Nasi Padang but with slight modifications to suit the taste of the highlanders. I felt it was too fatty to my liking since the dish was on coconut milk overkill but the other plates negated that taste, acting like some sort of a counter-balance not only to my palate but also my tummy.
Nasi Kapau Uni Cah
Jalan Raya Padang – Bukittinggi Km 4, Bukittinggi
This is a kuih that surprisingly looks like its Malaysian pastry counterpart, akok, from the state of Kelantan. Heck, even the home of bika in the village of Koto Baru is similar to the Kelantan capital, Kota Bharu. Coincidences aside, this giant coin-shaped pastry is given the wood-fire grill treatment in a claypot to create that fluffy and smoky flavor. I don’t really know what it is made of but I can taste hints of banana and coconut in it. All you sweet-toothers can rejoice because the bika here is made with white or brown sugar so you can try either of both!
Jalan Raya Padangpanjang – Bukittingi Km 10, Koto Baru