“What’s good to eat here?” That’s the first thing a group of us from Singapore who were in Surabaya for the first time asked our local friend who was driving us to our hotel on the west side of the Indonesian city.
“Well, there’s the popular deep fried ‘flying fish’…” Ohhhhhh.
“There’s also ayam bakar (roasted chicken)….” Ahhhhhh.
“And our roast duck….” Drooool!
In the end, after being bombarded by a gazillion questions from his food-mad visitors, our friend simply realized that the best way to show us just how good the local food is was to bring us to a reputable Indonesian restaurant for dinner.
Pondok Tempo Doeloe: Traditional Indonesian Cuisine
Located down the right far end of the road from our Fairfield at Marriott Hotel and housed in a huge building with its own carpark, Pondok Tempo Doeloe prides itself on serving authentic Indonesian cuisine. It is part of the Ikan Bakar Cianjur (IBC) Group which has a string of restaurants in Surabaya to Bali that specializes in Indonesian cuisine.
We were there early for a 5.30pm dinner but the brightly lit and spacious restaurant filled up quickly even on a weekday night. The venue was also chosen as it could accommodate our large group of about 30 by joining three big tables on one side of the dining area. Being the visitors, we simply left the ordering to our host. Just bring it on!
The first dish to arrive was the much talked-about “Flying Fish” or Gurame Goreng, a deep fried fresh water carp marinated with a special sauce. The fish is so called as one side of its meat is curled up during frying as if it has a flying fin. The meat is not only tasty — especially when eaten with either sambal belachan or sliced red chili in black soy sauce — every part of the fish was super crispy and munching each bit of it was so good!
There was also another style of fish ordered – the Gurame Bakar, a Javanese-styled flame grilled fresh water carp that offered softer texture and a different spice flavor. Crispy as it was, it wasn’t quite as fun as when eating the flying fish!
Another great dish was the Ayam Bakar or Javanese grilled chicken marinated with spices that was truly fragrant and yummilicious. It was certainly a delicious flavor that many of us have never tasted before!
Just like with Chinese cuisine, the above meat dishes were best eaten with fluffy white rice. And of course, you also need to have some greens to balance all the fried stuff. Indonesian vegetable dishes are hardly different from Chinese favorites and so we had the likes of Sauteed Baby Kai Lan and Sauteed Kangkong, albeit cooked with a dash of sambal.
When it came to drinks, a team member who has been to Surabaya before highly recommended the Juice Alpukat, an ice blend avocado juice served with a dose of sweet syrup which we thought was gula melaka (palm sugar) at first but it was just something that is sweet. Well, I was skeptical at first. As much as I love avocado – more as a salad or sandwich garnish – drinking a whole cup of blended avocado didn’t sound quite appetizing. I was pleasantly proven wrong – the thick, creamy and sweetened “smoothie” was actually quite enjoyable and I finished every drop!
In the next few nights, we would continue to be taken to try out other authentic Indonesian dishes at other popular restaurants in the city. But just on our first night in Surabaya alone, the Flying Fish had us at hello! Here’s to many more!
Pondok Tempo Doeloe is at Jl Mayjend Sungkoko 206-208 Surabaya, Indonesia.