Wednesday, November 7, 2012

depot mie sawahan nasi goreng mawut

Nasi goreng mawut - Rp 18,000
If find it quite an interesting process researching the origins of indonesian dishes. Most of the time, the dishes will have a wikipedia entry showing extensive history of how it was created or how it was introduced to indonesia. Other times, when the dish is not very well known internationally, it will have articles in bahasa indonesia. But a small portion of the time, my search would come up with blanks, zilch, nada.

Nasi goreng mawut (or simply nasi mawut) is one of those dishes with sketchy background. And this would be the time when experience and local knowledge comes in handy. I can remember quite clearly that nasi mawut came into existence only about 20 years ago. Before then there was no such dish, it didn't feature on the menus of any restaurant. Another hint lies within its name, mawut is a shortened version of the javanese word semrawut, meaning chaotic, messy or disorderly. So, it definitely had its origin either in East Java or Central Java (East and Central Java are populated with Javanese people, whereas West Java is the native home of Sundanese people). But now is when bias comes into play, I'd like to believe that this dish came from Malang, Indonesia, if only due to the fact that google search results strongly suggest that nasi mawut is offered by mostly Malang restaurants.

As there isn't any article, in indonesian or english, about this dish, I can only imagine or dream of a time 20 years back, there was a resourceful cook, who didn't like to waste anything, but was left with a little bit of nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles) at the end of his shift, the cook thought what a waste it was and decided to combine the two to have for his dinner. The dish turned out to be quite delicious, and since it was so messy looking what with the noodles peeking in between the fried rice, the cook decided to christened it with the name nasi mawut.

One of the best places to have nasi mawut in Malang is a chinese food eatery called Depot Mie Sawahan. Their version is generous with its serving size and ingredients: flat egg noodles, chinese vegies, fried MaLing (chinese spam), fried omelette and prawns. The seasoning is a bit of soy sauce and garlic.

You may notice that the names of many small restaurants in Indonesia are pre-fixed with the word depot. The use of this word here is not like the conventional english word meaning large warehouse, it also doesn't have the same pronunciation. It is used to signify small eateries that are not as shabby as warungs, but not as fancy as restaurants either, so more like a cafe, but one that serves substantial meals instead of snacks. The pronunciation can be approximated with two english words: the + pot.

Bakmie goreng - Rp 20,000
As it name suggests, we would not be able to visit Depot Mie Sawahan, without at least one noodle dish. We would usually also order the bakmie goreng, theirs are quite delicious, with the same egg noodles used in nasi mawut, but are now slick with sweet soy sauce coating and accompanied with the requisite chinese vegies and fried omelette and the protein of chicken pieces. The dish will arrive with a small saucer of chilli sauce, but I like mine sweet from the soy sauce and not spicy, so it would usually be left untouched.

Pangsit mie ayam jamur - Rp 18,000
Their pangsit mie ayam jamur (wonton noodle) with al-dente thin egg noodles was also satisfying, topped with plenty of minced chicken, mushrooms, soft wontons, spring onions and fried shallots. Its accompaniment is a small red plastic bowl of chicken broth with more of the spring onions. Although their pangsit mie is quite delicious, my favourite would always be the one from chinatown.

Although this depot is serving "new" dishes like nasi mawut, its history is actually much longer than that, about 30 years older in fact. The owner's first shop was opened in the 60s, behind a mikrolet terminal. Mikrolet is a share taxi public transport system that is prevalent in indonesia. This first shop was forced close in the 70s by the Malang government due to re-development in the area. So the owner moved his shop to its current location, an area locally known as Sawahan, where it has been serving decent chinese food ever since. Finding this depot is relatively easy. Although its entrance is almost always blocked by a row of cars, all you need to look for is the red Honda sign from the motorcycle store next door. I find that the colour red is easier to spot and the sign is more prominent than the eatery's own blue sign.

Depot Mie Sawahan
Jalan Yulius Usman 15B-C
Open Monday-Saturday 7.30am-8.30pm, Sunday 7am-3pm & 5pm-9pm
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