Padang: A Hand-Eating Lifestyle

WEST SUMATRA – Possessing over 40.000 sq km width, there are not only several numbers of wonderful lakes stretched in the bay of the entire province that can be enjoyed, but also mesmerizing volcanoes, mountains and prominent landscape that become the apple of all the pleasure seekers’ eyes. Known for its nasi Padang, it is no wonder that Padangnese people emphasize coconut milk and spicy chili as the main ingredients. If looking the way Indonesians especially Padangnese people eat, using one’s hand is very common and considered as a custom since the beginning of its civilization. This is why foreigners are curious enough to feel the experience.

1. Karupuak Sanjai

Beginning in the 1970s, karupuak (means keripik in Bahasa or cassava chips) has swiftly become one of the most-to-buy souvenirs as it comes from Bukittinggi region. The epithet ‘Sanjai’ is believed to be the name of the street (located at Manggis village) or region in the northern part of Bukittinggi city. Prevalently, the cassava chips is divided into three kinds: one is blatant and white, another one is salty and yellow, and the other one is spicy-salty and red. How to produce the yellowish and salty chips is by marinating it with the mixed seasonings of turmeric, garlic, and salt before it is fried. Meanwhile, to have the spicy one is only by adding chili, shallot, garlic, and sugar while being fried.

Karupuak Sanjai


2. Lemang Tapai

For Minang people, a plate of lemang tapai will be a perfect dish for fast-breaking periods in West Sumatra.  Lemang is made of glutinous rice cooked by using hollowed bamboo sticks wrapped in banana leaf and served along with tapai (fermented glutinous rice with yeast – then steamed). There are two ways of eating the dish either by mixing it up like kolak (Indonesian dessert consisting of coconut sugar and milk) or slicing the lemang with glutinous rice as the condiment.  What makes it special is the harmonious combination between lemang and tapai, carrying out toothsome and sour taste that will make you drooling away.

lemang tapai


3. Galamai

Sometimes spelled as kalamai, it is one of Minangkabau’s traditional cakes that Is usually served in most traditional wedding events (kenduri in Minangkabau culture), and hospitality to the guests (as a dessert). Made of sticky rice’s flour and sugar palm, its blackish-scary presentation may look unappetizing. However, such sweet and lovely taste are two impressions you will know after tasting it. Despite its simple ingredients, making the cake especially the dough requires a group of people as the cooking process is time and effort consuming. For those who want to explore the delicacy, it is fortunately to find the dish in most cities of West Sumatra.



4. Sala Lauak

Having a meaning as fried fish, sala lauak drives most of food lovers into addiction as its golden-brown and ping-pong look, super crunchy and savory flavor cannot be easily forgotten. Made of salted fish mixed together with rice flour and garlic as the seasoning, it creates two kinds of textures starting from the outside up to inside. Commonly, it has firm texture outside but tender inside. No wonder if several people call the dish as sala keras (hard sala). As it has lite ingredients, no wonder if this type of meal is an epic complement for breakfast especially for West Sumatra society.

Sala lauak


5. Soto Padang

Soto, Indonesian’s national dish (using broth, meat, vermicelli, and vegetables), is perhaps too ubiquitous for Indonesians as it has too many variations depending on the ingredients. In West Sumatra, it uses the tenderloin part of beef as the core ingredient garnished with pinky-crunchy fried crackers. Besides, it involves pekak or bunga lawang (known as star anise) spice that is usually included for making curry, giving a unique feature of soto in Indonesia. Fortunately, for those who want to try soto Padang, it is not really necessary to go Padang as there are many Padangnese cuisine scattered across the street in every region of Indonesia.

soto padang


6. Sate Padang

While hearing the word sate or satay, what pops out into people’s mind is the succulent meat covered with peanut sauce, sweet soy sauce, and shredded fried shallots that is definitely tantalizing. But in Padang, the satay uses beef or beef tongue that is boiled twice to create such juicy texture plus yellow-thick-spicy sauce as the main characteristics. As the sauce is made of around 19 kinds of spices, no wonder if the taste is very rich and sensational. Like soto Padang, people can also find sate Padang in every region of Indonesia especially at the corner of the street.

sate padang


7. Rendang

Becoming one of the most outstanding dishes served in restaurants across Indonesia, rendang has successfully gained its fame not only in the scope of national cuisine, but also international cuisine. Its brown-blackish color, spicy, and succulent meat perhaps looks scary in a glance, but never judge the taste from the presentation as it has the aroma that will cast away your first impression. Along with the beef, it involves a paste of mixed ground spices and coconut milk to strengthen the taste. According to Minangkabau culture, rendang has four elements resembling its society while scrutinizing from its ingredients that is known as musyawarah.



8. Dendeng Balado

It is Minangkabau’s signature dish that is also famous not only in West Sumatra but also in every region of Indonesia. Dendeng is referred to thin-sliced meat preserved in the reddish mixture of sugar and spices before dried during the frying process. In Minangkabau, this dish is varied into two kinds, named dendeng balado and dendeng batokok. Both of the dishes share geographical identity as well as the ingredients. However, the difference stretched in between is just the way the meat is processed. While making dendeng batokok, the meat needs mashing as batokok (in Minangnese language) means mashed.

dendeng balado


9. Gulai Cancang

Like in Aceh, West Sumatra also wants to show up its gulai cuisine involving coconut milk, red chili, and adas (fennel) as the main spices. It is believed that the dish is really appropriate while served in rainy days as the mutton or goat meat can make the body warmer. Cancang, according to Minangnese language, means chop. As gulai is always completed with chunks of meat, it can be described as the chopped meat completed with spicy coconut oil. Usually, Minang people use mutton or lamb as the main ingredient. But, it can be replaced by another type of meat depending on each person’s taste.

Gulai Cancang


10. Gulai Itiak

In many countries, duck becomes one of the must-have ingredients especially in China. In Indonesia, especially in West Sumatra, another type of gulai can be found while eating nasi Padang. Literally, itiak in Padangnese language means bebek or duck. Commonly, the young type of duck is used as the ingredient served with thick-greenish chili sauce and garnished with several slices of cucumber. If looking at the picture, perhaps people assume that the spiciness will be very dominant. However, the chili itself brings out the sweetness within the dish, making it blend perfectly and distinctively as Indonesian’s spices are the secret ingredients for most Padang cuisine.

Gulai itiak


11. Ayam Pop

Seeking at the way it is presented, can you find another dish similar to this one? If paying attention closely, the chicken is like the kind while having Singaporean chicken rice, isn’t it? -Its white, healthy-looked, and thick texture successfully make those food hunters crave for it. However, while in Padang, ayam or chicken pop gets along with coconut juice plus cassava leaves and red chili sauce as the companions. Besides, it is not steamed just like the way most chicken rice dishes cook the chicken. In most nasi Padang restaurants, the chicken pop is often stacked in plates, usually at the top.

ayam pop


12. Nasi Kapau

Kapau is known as one of the regions in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. In most food stalls, the dish is displayed with stages and rows of large bowls as well as saucepans consisting of Padang cuisine. In a glance, it is pretty hard to mention at least one difference between nasi Kapau and nasi Padang. According to Padangnese people, there are some points that you may notice. Firstly, nasi Kapau uses 80% of the coconut flesh to emphasize the flavor of the dishes. Secondly, the presence of potato in nasi Kapau’s rendang menu makes it slightly unique. And lastly, the roasting process of meat before served in several dishes is not commonly found in nasi Padang.

nasi kapau


13. Kalio Baluik

Compared to sushi dishes that use eel as the food star, baluik (eel) in Padang cuisine is also the thing-to-eat dish while having a plate of hot rice in Padang. Considered as an exotic food in the eyes of most non-Padangnese people, perhaps several people may doubt the taste judged by the way it looks. Small kinds of eels found in Payakumbuh’s riverside are fried along with the simple seasonings such as red and green chili. As the duration of cooking process is not a waste, many variations of baluik dishes can be made either mixing it with rendang or having it as the snack.

kalio baluik.jpg


14. Palai Rinuak

Coming from Maninjau region, palai (means pepes in Bahasa or roasted fish) and rinuak (a type of small fish smaller than anchovy in Maninjau lake) is successfully a worth-trying seafood dish covered with banana leaf. Its yellowish color perfectly enriches the marine ecosystem in West Sumatra, becoming another opportunity for the local chefs to turn the fish into such scrumptious and delectable taste. The role of coconut in the cuisine is definitely big to determine how it will be turn out. Unfortunately, rinuak fish is only in Maninjau lake. Some people living outside West Sumatra can substitute the fish with anchovy.

palai rinuak


15. Teh Talua

Recognized as one of Minang’s traditional beverages, teh talua is a debut of Minang’s traditional beverage. While looking in a very short time, it is similar to teh Tarik and Cappuccino. The involvement of chicken or duck egg yolk during mixing is what makes this drink not a mainstream from its competitors. Miraculously, the fishy smell from the yolk faded away with the touch of hot tea liquid and congealed milk. For most Minang men, the tea is believed to boost a stamina. Besides, the often have it before and after working. Thus, a motto “drinking without teh talua is not drinking” is quite suitable to describe the situation.

teh talua



6 thoughts on “Padang: A Hand-Eating Lifestyle

    1. Unfortunately, yes. It is one of seasonal dishes in Padang especially in the period of fasting.

      How long have you been in Indonesia, anyway?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My trips to Indonesia is much more limited compared to my wife. I’ve been to Bali twice & did Padang/Bukittingi early last year. Since AirAsia flies to a lot of destinations to Indonesia, I’ll definitely be doing one city a year!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Is your wife an Indonesian? So sorry to hear ’bout that. Wish I could have time to go traveling 😦

        Anyway, how long have you been a travel blogger? Because I’m quite interested in it.


      3. Haha no we’re both Malaysians but she has gone on many family trips to Indonesia before.

        I’ve been a travel blogger over a year now & you should keep on writing as long as it helps inspire other people to travel 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ha-ha I’m still working on my travel-food blog. Hope that my posts will make you drooling away lol ..

    Where exactly do you live in Malaysia? I once have been to KL a few years ago. And I found it truly amazing 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s