By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Iron-gut lovers of spicy food may have met their match at Indonesian eatery Ayam Penyet Ria.
Newly opened in Dandenong Plaza, this burgeoning chain serves genuine traditional cuisine that doesn’t sanitise the spice.
To spell it out, the chilli sambal sauces really have a kick. Yet many Indonesians ask more more spice, says owner Hana Tania.
Fortunately for the less hardy diners, the fireworks are optional and served on the side.
On the milder ranking is the delicious Soto Ayam – a beautifully-coloured turmeric chicken soup that lights up with a lemon tang.
It’s a hearty meal of chicken, rice noodles, shredded cabbage, fried shallots, celery leaves and a boiled egg.
Another highlight is Penyet Iga – ‘smashed’ beef ribs that has been slow-cooked twice for six hours, served with fried tofu and tempeh, a sambal side and rice.
The ribs, after their final frying, are battered several times with a pestle. On the plate, they’re tender on the inside with a satisfying crunchy exterior.
Perhaps one of the most famous Indonesian dishes is Gado Gado – a mix of raw vegetables and fried tofu and tempeh served in a warm peanut sauce with a mix of garlic and bitternut crackers.
It is popular as a shared entree, or can be enjoyed as a standalone main.
Ms Tania says genuine Indonesian eat-outs are rare in Australia, despite a large Indonesian community.
“We offer authentic Indonesian food – this is what you would find sold on the streets in Indonesia.
“It is the way my mother does the food. She has the secret tricks that makes the food special.
“Many other Indonesian restaurants try to Westernise it a bit, but I find a lot of customers like our authenticity.”
Ms Tania’s family has grown this 100-shop chain across South-East Asia from humble beginnings on the tiny Indonesian island city of Batam 20 years ago.
Up until 1998, her mother and father had been struggling to make ends meet in Java. Her mother had been a street-seller offering crackers and snacks, while her father’s business struggled during the outbreak of riots.
They moved north, opened a small restaurant to eke a living. But soon the fiery-spiced brand got recognised.
“In Indonesia, people are looking for the chilli – they like it as spicy as possible.”
The restaurant branched across the strait to Singapore, then Malaysia, Hong Kong and Brunei.
Ms Tania’s sisters and brother own their own restaurants in Indonesia. One of her sisters makes the spices that are sent out to all of the franchises.
Ms Tania is in charge of the Australian branch – personally ensuring the quality is high in the three shops in South Melbourne, Noble Park and now Dandenong.
The franchise is set to open in Sydney in coming weeks.