Masjid al Hikmah’s Indonesian Food Bazaar and Ping Pong Tournament on Sunday was the most culturally immersive food event I’ve been to this summer. Think of it as a Church potluck fundraiser—but with everybody from Indonesian grannies to young men cooking up satays, soups, beef rendang, and other Indonesian delicacies. It took place outside a mosque in Long Island City in the sweltering heat. Many people like this big dude in the Beer Lao T-shirt sought relief in a cold, sweet, shockingly green cup of es cendol. The pandan and palm sugar flavored dessert-beverage is a great way to cool down. I suppose the green wormy things also make it fun to drink.
Gudeg, or stewed young jackfruit, was being served by several vendors. I didn’t have any, but I marvel at the sweet, slow-cooked fruit’s meatlike appearance.
This bakwan cost a mere $1. The golden-fried veggie fritter is a common snack on the streets of Jakarta. Rather than go with the sweet sauce that was initially offered, I chose chilies.
This is Ami. He’s from West Sumatra and he knows how to grill a fish. Even though a girl raved that it was “best fish she ever had,” I decided to get something else from Ami’s table.
A $2 sample plate of udang goreng, or sautéed shrimp with chili sauce, was supremely shrimpy, thanks to Ami's leaving the shells on. Crunching into the meaty shrimp coated in a sweet-sour sauce studded with vibrant red chilies was pure bliss.
After walking around a bit I found myself in front of Ami’s grill again. “It’s the last one,” he said. “Gimme that grilled fish, gimme that ikan bakar, gimme that grilled fish,” I replied. (OK, fine I didn't really say that, but I wish I had.) After all, it was only $6, and it looked damn good.
As you can see, it was so big I barely got a picture of the whole thing. It was bathed in mixture of kecap manis (a sweet thick soy sauce), kecap asim (its salty, unsweetened sister), and some jalapeños. Ami chose jalapeños because he said some people can’t handle really hot peppers. For a moment I thought I wasn’t at an Indonesian Food Bazaar, but I shrugged it off and we dug in.
The fish was so good—crispy exterior, flaky tender meat, combined with the peppery, sweet, salty sauce—that this is the only photographic evidence of our eating it. Many thanks to my friend Willyum’s wife, Naomi, for expertly stripping the flesh off the bones.
One of the best things about an event like the Indonesian Food Bazaar is the variety of items and the opportunity for grazing that it affords. For my first dessert I chose one of these cucurs, or sweet rice fritters, because I’d never seen anything like them.
Here’s a closer look at one of the sticky glutinous cakes.
And closer still. It had a pleasant chewy texture and a sweet caramelized taste that was no doubt due to liberal use of gula jawa, or palm sugar.
I also had one of these sweet sticky rice thingies coated in coconut and doused with more sugar syrup. Due to an impending food coma, I didn’t get the Indonesian name. I capped the afternoon off with a durian shake. We even got to watch some ping-pong.
Many thanks to Dave Cook of Eating in Translation for hipping me to this wonderful event. He says it might have been the last event at the mosque for the summer. I sincerely hope he’s wrong.
Masjid al Hikmah
48-01 31st Avenue, Long Island City NY 11103 (map)