Tuesday, March 12, 2013

malang, an unfinished list

Mount Arjuna-Welirang in the background
Did you know the word malang in bahasa indonesia means poor, wretched, unlucky? If so, why would anyone want to visit a city called Malang?

Malang is one of those undiscovered gems. It manages to retain the country feel of a small town, yet it's the second largest city in Jawa Timur (East Java). It's surrounded by at least 5 volcanoes, some of which are visible from Malang on a clear sunny day. The many volcanoes are go-to places for avid hikers, the more popular of them is Gunung Semeru that erupts regularly almost every year.

Malang Town Hall (circa 1935, courtesy of wikimedia & Tropenmuseum)
The city of Malang's architecture is a hotchpotch of old and new. The majority of old dutch colonial buildings are still standing today, with a bit of facelift or two. Take the Malang Town Hall for example, what it looks today is exactly the same as what it was in 1935, plus a coat of paint or two.

But the real attraction of Malang is the food. Their unbelievable deliciousness, where regional east javanese cuisine reign supreme. For now, the multinational food chains are kept at bay.

To be absolutely accurate, the word malang from the city of Malang is actually taken from the sanskrit Malangkucecwara, which literally means god destroy evil. It turns out Malang is not unlucky after all.

I tried to visit as many warung, depot and restaurants as possible during my brief visit, and have written as much. There are still so many more food places I didn't get around to. So, this list would hopefully be a constant progress, with more updates sometime in the future.

The following food places are the ones I grew up with, the ones I feel nostalgic about every time I'm away, the ones the locals go to.

My favourite noodle shop in town is Mie Gajah Mada. Order the classic pangsit mie ayam (kering) for the maximum enjoyment of the al-dente noodle. Accompany it with a serving of pangsit goreng and flush everything down with a glass of soda gembira.

A very close second is Pangsit Mie A Fuk. The noodle here is thin and flat, like the thinner cousin of linguine. My preference is the classic cwie mie ayam. The other versions are a bit too embellished and sometimes salty for my liking.
Soto Ayam Lamongan is the most beloved soto shop in Malang for a reason. This shop has been in business since 1971, serving exclusively soto, nothing else. When it's this delicious, you don't need other dishes.
When I was young, I didn't love the rawon from Depot Nguling. But I've grown to love it and now it's my favourite rawon in the world. Even indonesia's ex vice president agreed when he visited Malang years ago.

An unpretentious little warung serving the most delicious semur daging in Malang is none other than Warung Brintik. Try the semur with kikil (beef tendons). Their rawon is quite delicious too. Its location is mere minutes walk away from Depot Nguling above.

My absolute favourite place for some babat rawis or babat hitam (tripe) is Depot Soto Rampal. Here, the tripe's seasoning and spices render them the sweet savoury taste I love. And it doesn't hurt that Depot Soto Rampal also dishes out various delicious dishes, among others are their soto daging, nasi campur and bali telor.

Who doesn't love fried chicken? At Ayam Goreng Tenes, the chicken is crispy fried on the outside yet the meat is tender and falls away from the bone. The ayam kampung used here means you have to order more chicken pieces than you would normally, but trust me it's worth it.
I've only been going to Bubur Ayam Agus for about the last decade, so I don't have the same nostalgic feeling about it as I do the other food places above. But I am a fan of the bubur ayam here, it does a great job soothing an upset stomach after weeks of eating all kinds of spicy food. 

Depot Mie Sawahan dishes out affordable chinese food, noodles, fried rice and the like. It's my dad's go-to place for the best bakmie goreng in Malang. My preference is the nasi goreng mawut.

On to dessert, but what does a fluro pink noodle and bread have anything to do with it? They're but two of the many ingredients of my absolute favourite and must-eat dessert, angsle. The only place to go to for it is Ronde Titoni, no other place can compare.
There's a few terang bulan vendor in Malang, like the Holland Martabak & Terang Bulan. But, the one I've been going to forever for my fix of this sweet chocolatey-cheesy pancake is Terang Bulan Madonna.

Greasy and satisfying, that's martabak kambing. The most popular can be found at Martabak Agung, where the recipe dates back to 1971 and the current cook has been frying these parcels of goodness for the last 20 years.

I found Surabi Imut on my recent visit to Malang. Here they make the pancake dessert the authentic way, using unglazed earthenware, and it has fast become a local favourite.
All the fantastic food mentioned above can be found in the google map below.


  1. What a wonderful round up for a city. I love to hear that multinational food chains are kept at bay. I wonder if it is a conscious effort or an accident?

    Not long ago a new McDonald's was meeting very fierce local resistance here. Most McDonalds are shutting down here rather than new ones opening up. Many businesses and local people did not want it to open. But eventually McDonald's won and they opened. Hopefully this does not spell disaster for the many local eateries.

    1. We've got a McDonald's in Malang and various other western junk food places, but here they do not eclipse any of the east javanese regional cuisine. They're more of a novelty than anything, a place to take the kids for their birthdays, a luxury, not at all cheap eats like they are in the western world.

  2. huwaa bubur agus, rawon brintik, soto rampal, depot sawahan, dan ronde titoni still top list kalau mau kulineran di malang.


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