Who does not love Padang food? Please raise your hands…! I love Padang foods. Period. Look at those greasy and spicy Padang foods in front of you, they will never fail to make your mouth watering. Padang food would refer to cuisine from West Sumatra (Minangkabau). I don’t know why people always call it Padang. Padang is only small part of the Minangkabau Land or West Sumatra province. Other places in West Sumatra also have similar cuisine; or even more. For example dendeng batokok from Sijunjung. Ah, maybe that’s to make people easier to remember the name. So, just call it Padang food.
During my time living in Kedungtarukan, I ate nasi Padang at least once a week. There’s a delicious warung Padang closed to my place called “Bunda Kanduang.” I loved the food there. The chicken barbeque was big and yummy – as well as other menu. I licked my fingers after eating them. Never thought or cared if I felt sluggish after eating them – it may due to the MSG content or my digestion used too much energy to process that food in my tummy.
Padang foods invade all over Indonesia; from Jakarta to Papua. For people who travel to areas where it’s hard to find Halal food, will be very happy to see Padang restaurant nearby. In her book “Indonesia Etc”, Elizabeth Pisani wrote that she could find Padang restaurant in any places she went in Indonesia. A friend in Pontianak told me a story when he’s traveling to Singkawang. The people in Singkawang, when they refer to halal restaurant always say “Restaurant Nasional” aka national restaurant. Mostly are Padang foods.
Padang food is presented differently from other cuisines in Indonesia. The waiters will usually bring you all foods into your table –fish dishes, beef, chickens, eggs, etc. You can choose whatever you want. At the end, you only need to pay for what you eat. I brought two friends from Thailand –Reena and Matika to Rumah Makan Padang Sederhana in Surabaya last time and they’re so surprised how Padang foods are presented. But they loved them.
Despite of its delicious and rich taste, Padang foods are blamed for the high cholesterols contents. They are blamed for using coconut milk and over-cooked so that those foods contain no nutrient at all; only bad cholesterols. “No wonder there are high stroke incident in Minang, and that’s why Stroke Hospital was founded in West Sumatra…”
For me it’s more than that. It’s not about using coconut milk or being over-cooked. But also other factors. Padang foods have less vegetables. So, the food itself does not balance at all. As far as I notice, there are only five main vegetables in Padang foods: cassava leaves, long string beans, young jackfruits, and egg plants. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see steam green beans cooked with salt. That’s all. And, long string beans and young jackfruits will be cooked in the thick coconut milk soup. Super delicious!!!! And the egg plant, will be cooked as terong balado – they first fry, then cooked in the chili sauce. Super hot!
One time in Payakumbuh, I had dinner with several Minangkabau people. Some of them were really surprised when they saw me munching raw carrots I bought from the market. They raised questions, “is that delicious? I never eat any raw carrot….” I gave them a try. They kinda love it. Raw carrot. Dr. Eki – the head of the Health Agency seconded me. Most Minangkabau people do not know much or eat vegetables other than those five vegetables I mentioned above. It is so much different compare to other counter parts in Indonesia like Javanese or Sundanese. Their diets are more balanced.
These foods were not a problem long ago. Because, most people conducted a very active life. They work in their lands. They walk or bike everywhere. But these days, most people conduct sedentary living where they conduct less physical activities. They drive everywhere. So, I guess, don’t only blame the food.
The moral story of people in Minangkabau “to invade” our nation is that… we can learn from their spirit of “merantau”, and they invade us through our belly.