Wednesday, June 4, 2014

makassar street food

Before we went to Makassar, I agreed to not bring my bulky DSLR camera. It was my first trip to the city, so I was torn about it. But with the aim of having the least fuss as possible, I relented.

With that goal in mind, I took less photos than I normally would, became a bit more discerning. I realised when I have my DSLR strapped around my neck, I was a woman possessed, I would shoot at everything and anything. It was more of an assignment than a holiday with the constant looking for something interesting to shoot. Sorry hubby... I’ve seen the error of my ways.

During our time in Makassar, a relative took us around the restaurants, cafes, food places that locals go to. He’s a local and a foodie so we ate really well the five days that we were there.

The first one that piqued my interest enough to take photos was a popular Makassarite snack called pisang epe. Its popularity with street vendors perhaps has something to do with its simplicity. Pisang is the indonesian words for bananas. To make pisang epe, all one has to do is to grill some bananas over charcoal until the it's somewhat crispy on the outside, flatten them and plate them with toppings such as durian, coklat (chocolate), coklat keju (combination of grated cheddar and chocolate), or gula merah (a caramelised palm sugar).

The most popular location to get your fix of pisang epe in Makassar is at Pantai Losari. Although you won’t be able to dip your toes in the sand in this beach, it’s a go-to place for tourists due to the large “Makassar” and various other signs. At sunset, the view is somewhat picturesque and draws a few more tourists than in the daytime. The street vendors are also more active at night time.

We went there late afternoon when it was still light outside but sunset is just around the corner. As soon as we sat ourselves down on one of the numerous benches in the area, a street vendor from across the road Jalan Penghibur saw us and rushed over to take our order. They are pretty competitive, so they are always on the lookout for new customers. I expected them to be pushy like how it can get with most tourist places, but for some reason they weren’t. After he took our order of three servings of pisang epe -- one with chocolate, with chocolate & cheese, and with palm sugar -- I went back with him to his cart to see how it's done.

Next to his cart were a few rudimentary tables and chairs for customers who prefer to eat next to the cart, rather than beachside. I talked to him briefly while he made our banana dessert. He pointed to the tall palm tree nearby and told me, "I've been making pisang epe since that tree was but a sapling" -- decades ago he said -- "when there's no streetlight in the area". He went on to explain that to make pisang epe, first you have to have pisang kepok. Pisang kepok is a specific banana cultivar in indonesia, similar in shape to that of Lady Finger bananas. Secondly, you have to have it slightly under-ripe, yet not too under-ripe else it won’t be sweet. The slightly firmer texture allows the bananas to withstand being flattened after being grilled without getting all mushed up.

The overall effect is sweet yet firm bananas, made even sweeter by the toppings. Though it was really much too sweet for me, it was a hit with the kids.

Pisang Epe
Anjungan Pantai Losari
location on google maps

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