Instead of staying in a hotel, my parents and I slept over at my Dad's High School buddy's house through out our entire days in Washington D.C.. Oom Benny is what I called him. He lives in a big, yet very compact, house at Maryland with his wife, Tante Ita, and his descendants, Rilo and Monic - along with an Indonesian housekeeper who excels in cookery named Mbak Darmi.
When we arrived at the house, we were welcomed with a feast. And not just any kind of feat, but a feast of Indonesian food. Where else can you find Bakwan, or Corn and Vegetable Fritters, in Uncle Sam's Country, am I right?
Seafood Soup, Bakwan, Telur Asin, Fruits
Who wouldn't love warm soup and Bakwan after a 16-hours flight? It was amazing to be able to eat Indonesian food at a foreign place, especially America. The outside temperature was very low at that time, making the soup tasted more delightful.
I scoop a small amount of rice, then some vegetable and tofu from the soup, followed by a piece of Bakwan. The food tasted great! Even though the Corn and Vegetable Fritters tasted a bit different compared to the one that we have in Indonesia, due to the higher quality of vegetables used to make it here, it was so good to be indulged with warm rice and hot broth.
|A bowl of Bakwan, or Vegetable Fritters|
Gado-gado with Bumbu Pecel, Tempeh Goreng, Kentang Balado, Daging Manis, Ubi Goreng
The next morning, we woke up to a buffet of homemade Gado-gado, courtesy of Mbak Darmi, and some Tempeh Goreng. Tempeh Goreng is one of the most popular dish that Indonesian people consume. It is made from fermented soy beans. When we make Tempeh Goreng, we usually deep-fried it with some batter. The outcome is a crispy and pillow-like savory food.
|First breakfast meal|
On the one hand, Gado-gado is also one of the most well-known dish in Indonesia. It consists of mixed boiled vegetables topped with nut sauce, Bumbu Pecel as we Indonesian call it. For those who wonders how to make Bumbu Pecel, here is a quick recipe:
Get yourself some fried groundnuts paste, shallots, garlic, chili pepper, Kaempferia galanga (kencur), salt, palm sugar, boiled water, and citrus leafs. Combine them all together, then boil the mixture. And there you have it, your very own Bumbu Pecel.
|Mixed steamed vegetables|
My personal favorites are the Tempeh Goreng and Ubi Goreng, or Deep-fried Sweet Potato. What more do you want other than a wide selection of Indonesian dishes to start your day?
After we had our breakfast, Mom, Dad, and I immediately wore our puffy wind-proof jacket and head outside to discover the city. We went to the Smithsonian, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial (literary my favorite national memorial, because there were lots of reading materials on the walls surrounding Abraham Lincoln's statue) and other monuments and memorials.
|A bowl of sweet beef|
|Fried sweet potato|
Lontong Sayur, Opor Ayam, Sayur Lodeh, Kentang Balado, Ubi Rebus, Telur Asin, Kerupuk
Mbak Darmi is the person behind these lovely Indonesian dishes. Every morning, she wakes up early to prepare food for breakfast. The dishes varies everyday, depending on the food stock that they have in the house. Yesterday morning we had Tempeh Goreng, but the next day, we were served with a set of Lontong Sayur.
|Anybody care for a bowl of Lontong Sayur?|
You see, some of the dishes that I stated above are the basic food stuff to make Lontong Sayur. Literary translated, "Lontong" means shaped rice, while "Sayur" means vegetable. Lontong Sayur is a traditional dish in Indonesia that you can find at a wet market, traditional market, or even at a food vendor on a street. It consists of shaped rice, vegetable soup (usually made with coconut milk), and chicken curry (or Opor Ayam).
|A bowl of Lontong, or Shaped Rice|
|Chicken Curry, or Opor Ayam according to Indonesian|
|Spicy Diced Potato|
|Vegetable Soup with Coconut Milk|
Lontong Sayur is best to be consumed with some Kerupuk - some are more familiar with Prawn Crackers, some other refer to it as Crackers. As much to my surprise, Oom Benny store a jar of Kerupuk in his house.
|A box of Kerupuk, or Deep Fried Crackers|
|Steamed Sweet Potato|
|Hard-boiled Salty Eggs|
Bubur Ayam, Pisang Goreng
The third breakfast is my favorite breakfast ever since I stayed at Oom Benny's house. We had Bubur Ayam, or Chicken Porridge, and Fried Bananas. The dish is very simple, yet very satisfying and stomach-filling. The thing about Indonesian chicken porridge is that it is served with other side dishes, rather than just some shredded chicken meat. We usually eat the porridge with some chicken broth, onion crackers, cahkwe or Youtiao (deep-fried dough), spring onion, and fried soy beans. Pretty luxurious, don't you think?
|Ready to mix your own porridge?|
What amazed me is that all of the side dishes that I mentioned above were available during that day. I mean, where can you find cahkwe in America if you don't make it yourself? True, maybe they have some in Chinatown, but who knows? If Mbak Darmi made the cahkwe all by herself, then I give her a standing applause.
I remember how cold it was outside - the temperature was below 10˚ Celsius, I was wearing my wind-proof jacket inside the house. To be served warm chicken porridge at that particular temperature was priceless.
|Fried beans, onion crackers, and spring onion to garnish your porridge with|
|A bowl of warm chicken broth|
|Add some generous amount of chicken meat and cahkwe to your porridge|
Fried Rice, Sunny-side-up, Rujak
We started our day with a Sunny-side-up. It was our last day at Washington D.C. and we planned to go to the Smithsonian after breakfast. The parents and I had a spoonful of fried rice each, while Rilo and Monic pour themselves some Cherrios and fresh milk. There were pickled carrot and cucumber available to accompany our fried rice, but I don't like them much so I sticked to the eggs.
|Mixed Vegetable and Chicken Fried Rice|
After we finished our main course, we had some Rujak for dessert. Rujak is a popular traditional dessert among Indonesian. It consists of fruits and sauce. But not just any kind of sauce! The sauce itself is also called Rujak, it is made from palm sugar, tamarind, peanuts, and chili. It tasted sweet and hot at the same time, making the flavor combination unlike any other.
|A wide selection of fruit and vegetable to eat with Sambal Rujak|
|The almighty Sambal Rujak|
With this meal, our stay at Washington D.C. came to an end. My parents and I packed our luggage and put them in Oom Benny's car. Both families hopped into the vehicle and drove away to the Smithsonian for our last trip together.
We spent hours at the museum, admiring Jet Fire (remember that rusty old alien from the movie Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen? Yeah, I saw the aircraft, ha!) and Space Shuttle Discovery. McDonald was where we had lunch. The fast food restaurant was packed with people that time, so we had to eat on a separated table.
Alas, we bid our goodbyes when it was passed midday because Mom, Dad, and I had to board the plane that will be taking us to Orlando in a few hours. It was a fun and blissful experience staying with Oom Benny and Tante Ita! Not a single day I wished to move to a hotel that has a view of the White House, or the national monuments.