Written by @Lan & Edited by @Joehairie (Photos by curiostraveller.com)
“I am not a glutton, I am an explorer of food”-Erma Bombeck
A journey is incomplete without some great food and so our journey in East Java did have some stops here and there, enjoying the best of Indonesian cuisine. One of the most memorable dining experience was at the Kantri Restaurant which is located along the main road of Singosari, Malang-Surabaya. We just had some big breakfast and all the sudden we were hungry again and so our guide cum driver decided to made a ‘pit-stop’ at Kantri Restaurant. The menu seemed to have mostly fusion food but somewhere in between the pages I managed to see one alluring dish named as Ayam Bakar Kantri.
Indonesian cuisine is known to have complex flavour as their dishes uses certain ingredients and bumbu spices mixture. This resulted the dishes having rich flavours, mostly savory, hot and spicy as well as combination of basic tastes such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter. There are 7 main Indonesian cooking methods are frying, roasting, grilling, sautéing, roasted, boiling and steaming. For this particular dish in this post, it’s roasted.
Ayam Bakar means “Roasted Chicken“. There are plenty version of Ayam Bakar here in Indonesia. This one is dubbed as Ayam Bakar Kantri (Kantri is the name of the restaurant), unfortunately no one is able to inform me the origin of this dish, perhaps it is something being elevated from Ayam Bakar Taliwang, Ayam Bakar Kecap or whatsoever. Never mind about the origin, most important is how Kantri Restaurant ably to satisfy my craving for roasted chicken. Yes, I am #1 fan of roasted chicken!
While our guide and my editor @Joehairie ordered for something fusion, I opted for one serving of steamed/white rice and Ayam Bakar Kantri. I consumed plenty of Ayam Bakar somewhere else in Indonesia, though most look the same, each actually tasted different! In Indonesia and Malaysia culture, we have a term called as ‘Air Tangan’ (Best translated as ‘Personal Touch’).
‘Air Tangan’/ Personal Touch
This term means each dish no matter how much identical to the other dish (in different eateries), the person who is in charge of cooking it have his or her own ‘personal touch’ thus creating different taste and presentation. We all always say that ‘Mom is the best cook’ as she, according to our own thoughts, do have her own ‘personal touch’. Ayam Bakar for example is basically roasted but the taste of the meat and its condiment (sambal) will surely taste differently, one restaurant might purposedly charred the entire chicken part, while some leave it with less char.
Such decision will result in different texture of that Chicken, not to mention the taste coming from so called ‘secret ingredients’ or Bumbu or spices being used in the marinating process. So no matter how many times you get to see Ayam Bakar in Indonesia, remember, each of them tastes differently so grab one if you feel like to. Back to Ayam Bakar Kantri, I’m curious to know what is so exceptional about this dish. That’s what in my brain when I ordered this dish!.
Ayam Bakar Kantri
Finally the dish brought to the table by one quiet but polite and non-stop smiling waiter. The portion, well I say it’s big enough and presented nicely on a banana leaf with the plate at the bottom. Apart from the roasted chicken, the dish that was served to me came with some Ulam-Ulaman, a traditional salad produced from selected greens with cuts of cherry tomato as well as cucumber and the highlight being the Sambal (Gravy made of Shrimp Paste, some named it as Sambal Belacan/Terasi as in Indonesia and Trassi as in Dutch).
The chicken was marinated with the mixture of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and coconut oil. The bumbu spice had a mixture combination of ground shallot, garlic, chili pepper, coriander, tamarind juice, candlenut, turmeric, galangal and salt. The ayam bakar tasted sweet because of the generous amount of sweet soy sauce either as marination or dipping sauce, a common thing in Java.
Do take note though that the ayam bakar in Padang, Bali, Lombok and most of Sumatra are usually spicier and more reddish in colour due to the generous amount of chilli pepper, turmeric and other spices, and the absence of sweet soy sauce.
The skin, a bit charred and I like that! The charred skin was due to the Kecap Manis or sweet soy sauce being used during marinating and it burnt quite rapidly during the roasting process. The meat, absolutely tender and tasty, with all that tastes of spices playing on my tongue. I definitely was able to taste all that ground shallot, garlic, chili pepper, coriander, tamarind juice, candlenut, turmeric, galangal and salty and sweet.
I can finish eating the dish alone without taking the white rice but being Asian, I ate smaller portions of that chicken, combining it with the rice and some Sambal. The Sambal was extremely hot and spicy, that’s why it’s given in small quantity. Should you come here and need more of the Sambal, simply ask and they will be more than happy to serve you with more Sambal!
The Salad, fresh and I love the greens as it tasted uniquely different. There’s even pickles, a small portion of Bird-eyes chilies, an extra condiment that served with diced cucumber and carrot, splashed with some vinegar, giving that acidic taste. It went amazingly well with all other condiments. It gave that extra spicy and soury taste. The Sambal is spicy enough but given the fact that some people might dislike the smell of Sambal but still in need of spicy taste, then this bird-eyes chili in the pickles will surely do the job.
Overall, I am satisfied with this particular dish named as Ayam Bakar Kantri. Though it might have been elevated (at least in its name), the taste was uniquely different and I love the various texture of that Chicken, crispy and charred on the outside while inside, tender and juicy! The Sambal and pickles gave additional ‘kick’ to the entire dish, being Asian, I love spicy food. I am pretty sure that no other restaurants will be able to have the same taste as in Ayam Bakar Kantri.
Each restaurant will have its own uniqueness in creating their own version of Ayam Bakar. The Kantri Restaurant certainly knows how to play the game as it has one of the best Ayam Bakar that I have ever consumed. Will I still be looking for another version of Ayam Bakar? Certainly, an absolute yes, especially in our coming trips to Indonesia. All versions will have similar presentation but believe me each tastes different as what I have recently experienced in Kantri Restaurant.
Score for its taste and presentation: 9.0/10 (Ayam Bakar Kantri)
Price: IDR 17,500 per serving
Jl.Raya Singosari 169 Losari, Singosari
Tel: +62 0341 458 757