Kare Ayam Kerobokan: The epitome of Indonesian street food
We were approaching the end of the month, practically broke, but we insisted on an adventure.
The place was legendary. Everybody’s talking about it — “the crazy good curry shack by the road that opened only at night”. We were particularly excited by the word “shack”, for it meant it was kind on the wallet.
It wasn’t difficult to find the place, it was swarming with hungry customers by the time we arrived, which was somewhere around half past seven. Parking was exceptionally difficult, and we had to practically jam our bike between other bikes like sardines in a tin. The cart had a bright yellow wooden board which was visibly striking, even from across the street. On it were the words “Kare Ayam, Ayam Pedas, Soto Ayam, Rawon, Pecel, and Gado2”. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is their entire menu.
We took a quick glance on what’s inside the cart, and were instantly love-struck by the mouthwatering goodness that laid before our eyes. That didn’t help with the process of making up our minds on what to order, so we asked them what the customer favorite was, and ordered it.
Seating was a bit problematic as well, as one would have to essentially fight with the other customers for a spot. It’s like the saying “the early bird gets the worm”, only we’re talking about a delicious bowl of curry here. It’s also not a place for prolonged leisurely conversation, you simply eat and then you’re out.
As you can see, lighting on the tables were horrendous, you barely saw what you ate. Also, it was only when I saw the meal that I realized the delicious chilli-glazed chicken we saw in the cart was not part of the dish, we figured it was probably the “Ayam Pedas” (Spicy Chicken). Still very much tempted, we each ordered one. Visually, it was to die for.
I added some chilli sauce to the soup, only to realize it was already spicy by default. Oh well. I downed my first spoonful. The soup was surprisingly very watery, almost to a transparent red hue. The curry, I then deduced, was not the curry I had imagined it to be. When we heard the word “curry”, we would usually think about the famous Indian dish. Well this curry was different, it had a very distinct local flavor, almost a complete mimic of “lodeh”, a traditional Javanese dish based on coconut milk and a garlic-chilli slurry, often mixed with vegetables. This one substituted the vegetables for chicken.
It was underwhelming, but delicious nonetheless. The “Ayam Pedas”, was unlike its name suggests, not spicy at all (for me at least). The glaze had a good amount of tomato in it, which sweetened the chicken a little (to my disliking).
In total, we spent IDR 27k each, 14k for the “Kare Ayam” and 13k for the “Ayam Pedas”. Not too shabby for its price, but I think I’ll return to Indian curry for now.