Sunday, May 08, 2005

Simpang Asia

I love Simpang Asia [10433 National Blvd, Palms, (310) 815-9075] for so many reasons. It's Indonesian, food-inside-a-grocery-store, family-run, dirt cheap, and extremely delicious. Not least, it's a place to get excellent vaguely-Chinese food on the extremely Chinese food-challenged Westside. The old Simpang Asia was mostly supermarket, with a deep selection of Malay/Indonesian ingredients (candlenuts anyone?), Dutch colonial treats such as Droste cocoa, and crazy Indo instant noodles with 5 (!) different spice packets inside. Now they have expanded into the next door shop, painting it green, adding extra menu items and knocking out the wall to make a pleasant room with plenty of space. Good thing too, because ravenous Indonesian food-lovers fill the restaurant. Here's what I like to eat there:

Nasi rames

The basic meal at Simpang Asia, rice with a little bit of several dishes. The beef rendang is excellent, as is the chicken curry, and the keropok (shrimp crackers) served on the side are a crunchy contrast. Good sambal/chilli sauce in a little plastic pottle. Go early or they will run out of tempeh and tofu.

Lontong cap gomeh
The soupy vegetable curry beloved of my childhood years is served with a bunch of the aforementioned rendang and kari ayam/chicken - the combo nature of the menu is great for variety but forces a purist to keep things separate on one's plate. Bits of the weird pressed rice cake to keep Atkins at bay and fill you up.

Nasi rames padang
Another tasty combo platter featuring jackfruit curry and a tasty hard-boiled egg with curry sauce.

Nasi bungkus
Emerging like its spiritual homologue - the Cantonese glutinous rice dish called lor mai kai - this banana-leaf parcel encloses several of the delicious curries from other combos plus the spicy egg. Worth the extra coin for steamed-in flavour.

Chicken satay
Not quite as skinny and thoroughly marinaded as those I recall from family barbecues, this is still very good satay with tasty peanut sauce. West Sumatra style satay awaits another visit.

Kwe tiau goreng sapi
Fried fat rice noodles/fun cooked over very high heat in the style of Malay char kueh teow and Thai kee maw. I really wanted this to be the canonical char kueh teow I've dreamed about since moving to the U.S. but they didn't use enough lard in the frying plus the other ingredients were different (no Chinese sausage, shrimps or squid). This could be the Indonesian regional variant, it's still a delicious plate of noodles.

Other combos I haven't tried are generally rice variations such as nasi uduk with coconut, and the turmeric-yellowed nasi kuning. I am keen to try the ayam kalasan, crispy fried chicken. Lastly, I must mention two spectacular drinks.

Es cendol (chen-doll) is filled with little green worms made from mung bean flour. The drink is flavoured with dusky brown palm sugar for that Southeast Asian touch.

Es alpokat is even more amazing, an improbably delicious avocado and crushed ice concoction marbled with palm sugar and blended to the perfect milkshakey consistency. I think this is my favourite drink in L.A.!


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