Traumatizing Noodles & the Noodles Guru

It has been more than six months since I visited Warung Chili, or Warung ‘Mie Pedas’ (hot spicy noodles) located in Taman Griya, Jimbaran, Bali. The Chinese Indonesian owner wasn’t pregnant the last time I was here, and here she is with a big bump.

“Hey, what happened to your belly?” I ask her. I don’t remember her name.
“I just swallowed a whole watermelon,” she says with a big smile. “Where have you been? I didn’t know you were still alive!”

The small warung has a wide selection of noodles, udon (Japanese big noodles), and rice. Their rice dishes are not very special, but their noodles are another story. Even the cheapest noodle dish, ‘Mie Ayam’ or noodles with seasoned minced chicken in chicken broth, IDR 13,000, tastes clean and just right. I order their signature ‘Mie Pedas’, as usual. Here, you can choose from seafood, chicken, or both to go with your bowl of superhot noodles. There is some sourness in the delicious red hot soup; my guess is they mix it with kimchi paste. It’s so hot my lips swell just after a few spoons. My eyes get teary and my nose running. Maybe because I have not eaten such spiciness for quite a while, I give up after eating 2/3 of it.

“Your noodles are so mean!” I say to the pregnant lady. She laughs victoriously.
“That was nothing, really. Only Level One!” she says. By ‘Level’, she means level of spiciness of the hot spicy noodles. She says that the level can go all the way  to Ten.
“You must be kidding me!”

A guest who has been listening to our conversation and has just finished her bowl of regular noodles is interested in trying hot spicy noodles. She orders one.

“You shouldn’t,” the Lady Owner says. Eh??? Why not? This is what I love about this place. The owner doesn’t just sell her stuff for money. She doesn’t only think about number. Most importantly, she is a culinary master, specifically in the area of noodles. She has been to Korea and Japan to study noodles, and has had years of experience with trials and errors in experimenting with different types of noodles and customizing them to her Indonesian customers’ taste. Not only does she know how to make a delectable bowl of noodles, she also knows very well how to enjoy it best.

“If you order another bowl of noodles after you finish your first, the second one won’t taste as good as it should be. This is because you have lost a certain degree of appetite after your first bowl. It’s better to order double bowls at the same time, trust me!” and thus the master goes.

She continues:

“And if it is your first time trying ‘Mie Pedas’, NEVER go beyond Level One, otherwise it will be a traumatic experience.” She reports that the majority of her customers who did not listen to her advice never came back for ‘Mie Pedas’ ever again.

‘Mie Pedas’ at Warung Chili always looks intimidating, I can verify that. Actually eating it is another challenge. Then, the aftermath is a warm sensation in your stomach that will stay overnight, and in the morning you will crave for more. Man, I am traumatized or what!

Even the most understanding soul needs comfort food…

I am not by any means the most understanding person in the world. By ‘world’, I mean my small circles of kinship, friendship, or work. I just enjoy exercising my brain by looking into people’s personalities, trying to connect the dots how certain personalities tend to react under certain circumstances. Even when I do it earnestly, without pretense, in some cases it can be tiresome. Especially in a situation where you know what’s going on, but for some reason you should keep the knowledge for yourself in the name of harmony. The idea of being a harmony keeper, and not exactly a harmonizer, is something I often detest. Maybe this is why some people tend to eat more when they are stressful. Comfort food is harmony keeper’s best friend! This kind of food helps stabilize the psyche, whatever the physical impact is. And tonight, my best friend is not Sherly or any of my colleagues; my best friend tonight is a bowl of oxtail soup from Warung Ahong, Jimbaran.

The oxtail soup (without rice) at Warung Ahong is IDR35,000, much less expensive than the one in MM Juice, and more homey. Warung Ahong doesn’t always have the best of everything. I like their seafood fried rice, but their ‘kweetiaw’ (large rice noodles) tasted like the Indian Ocean the last time I had it. S-A-L-T-Y. Their ‘karedok’ (fresh vegetable salad in peanut sauce) is not special. My neighbor Sherly always – like ALWAYS – orders sauteed beef vegetables. I know, we have to try more varieties!
Oxtail soup always reminds me of my late Mbahti, grandma who made the best oxtail soup in the world: with the best oxtail, diced potatoes, and lots of red beans! The oxtail soup from Warung Ahong is far from perfection, but for a moment I feel that life is worth living anyway. I’m not sure if harmony has been restored, maybe that should wait. I just know that I should go to bed earlier tonight and bounce back in the morning. Good night, loves!

Brunch with good friends? Go Oriental!

When I lived in the US, one of my favorite weekly routines was going to this Chinese restaurant where you could eat all just by paying USD 7.00++. But of course, ‘all-you-can-eat’ wouldn’t be so much fun without a bunch of good friends. We always failed to remember the name of the restaurant; we called it “Chinese Place.” And our Chinese place never failed to make us – stressed out grad students – as happy as toddlers!

There are not too many ‘all-you-can-eat’ places in Indonesia, alas! I’m not very sure why, but I suspect not many restaurant owners are willing to risk hosting too many greedy eaters and hurting their revenue. To me, this shouldn’t be the case, because satisfactory ‘all-you-can-eat’ is addictive. Happy customers will keep coming back, and will invite more and more friends to join them, and so the word of mouth goes. For this reason, I hail Golden Lotus restaurant at Bali Dynasty Hotel on Kartika Street, Kuta, Bali. They offer all-you-can-eat dim sum every Sunday from 10:00 to 12:30 at IDR95,000 nett (around 10 bucks).

I got there a few minutes past ten. The hostess greeted me warmly and a pot of hot jasmine tea was ready on my table less than a minute after I was seated. As my friends were still stuck in traffic, I didn’t have to wait to start my small feast. I decided not to take any rice as I wanted to stuff my stomach with as many varieties as the restaurant got to offer. I took a little soup as opener. Not bad.

There are two food corners: the regular corner (with fried rice, porridge, soup, a selection of fried dumplings, spring rolls, egg tarts and dessert) and the steamer baskets corner where the real deals are. Chicken feet is a must-try. Steamed buns are available with option of fillings: chicken, beef, pork, and vegetables. What else? Various kinds of ‘shaomais’ and dumplings: prawn, chicken, pork come in satisfying sizes. Oh, and the squid in oyster sauce and chili is soo good too! It’s hard not to be greedy!

Eight steamer baskets were already empty on my table when my companies finally arrived. And the journey continued. All-you-can-eat is always more fun with good friends. We ate, talked, laughed, ate, talked, laughed, ate again… and two and half joyful hours passed! No time to take pictures of the dessert, because no matter of how good the main course is, dessert is always the happiest time for me, and I enjoy it heartily. But I let you know what I had: mix fruit in lychee syrup and ‘matuan’ or fried dough filled with red sweet bean paste, Indonesians call ‘onde-onde.’ Schweet moment!

I’m hoping there will be more all-you-can-eat restaurants available in the future. For now, Golden Lotus, you are my new Chinese place!