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Eating in Solo: Indonesian Food

Thom Stewart describes a day in Solo, Indonesia

The day started with tahu kupat, my favourite breakfast of fried tofu, pressed rice pieces, noodles and roasted nuts. After some sweet Sumatran kopi susu, and a late morning snack of fresh jackfruit (with that essential half-baked in the sun streetside flavour), it's time to think about lunch. Nasi liwet is always tempting, Solonese style coconut rice with green papaya and stringy chicken, but maybe a bit sweet when the soy-chilli flavour of breakfast is still in the mouth. Ditto for chicken sate with lonton rice, which I'll save for one of the later meals of the day. Ah, a simpler plate would be more enjoyable: just rice with chilli eggplant, and tofu stewed in red curry; oh, and with some fried tempeh. Perhaps washed down with iced tea or a herbal jamu like tamarind juice. That should do until sunset, provided a few sirabi (Solo pancakes with rice-custard) or kueh putu (milled rice steamed with Javanese sugar and coconut in a bamboo tube) are grabbed on this street or that. As the dusk call-to-prayer echoes around the town, the important question is where you want to settle for a bit of chat and digestion in the cool evening air. Is a sudden flash of rain, with drops as heavy as ronde peanut balls, going to stop you meeting people for that special fried noodle or meatball soup a few streets away? Or if the sate is still out of the question, too dangerously delicious, then you may have to move indoors for the first time since the morning to have some Padang style curry. Except grilled catfish with sambal, cool cucumber and mint, is really what the night calls for. And sitting at a lesehan, on mats by the side of the road, as the rain washes away the dust on the road, is so much more pleasant anyway. The only dilemma left at this point is whether to have hot ginger tea or jeruk, that always changing flavour that is neither lime, lemon, or orange. And it gives you time to wonder if there is any mango or durian left at home.

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