Los Angeles Part 1: Simpang Asia
By Lydia on August 7, 2009 2:02 PM| | Comments (1)
Sometimes it takes a trip away to make me happy to be home. On returning from Los Angeles, city of strip malls, Grand Rapids feels cozy and welcoming, with malls a safe distance away. I will say, however, that most trips leave me rather jealous of the dining and grocery options of other cities. I don't want Grand Rapids too much bigger, but I want it more diverse. LA felt, in that respect, very refreshing and exciting. Do I need to say I had never visited before?

Two restaurants in particular have stayed in my mind, a hip, new place called Street which purports to serve street food from the global culinary ether, and a cafe/grocery called Simpang Asia which serves straightforward Indonesian food.  Thumbnail image for Simpang Nasi.JPG
Nasi Bungkus, seen above, is coconut rice with chicken liver curry, beef rendang and a deep fried, hard boiled egg, all wrapped up in a banana leaf. This is akin to my preferred method of eating average (buffet style, anyone?) curry: mash it up together, but comparisons to adequate food to no justice to this nasi. The rice was creamy in flavor and texture and the rendang was almost like brisket. Now I accept that many people don't like liver, but I love the option of ordering it, especially in a fabulous yellow curry with "long beans," and Courtney can attest to the fact that I never once asked if she wanted to try it.

We really only managed half our dishes each, which seemed to make the dudes working there very upset. But I swear to you, bleached, braided rat-tail guy, it was delicious.

The grocery attached to Simpang Asia was fabulous, three cramped aisles of Japanese, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese packaged foods. Courtney, with a whole kitchen to stock, got to pick from one million rices, dals and noodles, vinegars, oils, candies and snacks, but I had to content myself with a stinky packet of shrimp paste and a jar of mysterious green sambal: presents for the nice boy feeding my cats.

Yes! I'm so glad the semi-liquid/gel groceries made it on the plane! Maybe when I go back to the Indonesian place I'll get some mystery ingredients to mail you. Or pomegranate molasses. Tell us all what you make with the shrimp paste.