During my recent trip to North Kalimantan organised by WWF-Indonesia, I had the opportunity to spend a night in Tarakan.
The island of Tarakan is located in northern Borneo, just across the border from Sabah, Malaysia.
After enjoying our evening view at Pantai Amal while devouring countless numbers of crunchy fried shrimp and hard clams, I thought I had enough.
However, my friends convinced me to eat something or at least try something new. How often do I get to visit Indonesia, let alone Tarakan right?
We were then brought to Coffee Malabar Tarakan at Pamusian, Tarakan Tengah.
At a glance, it looked like a typical hispterish, Insta-worthy dining place. They had funny and interesting quotes about coffee on the wall, antique decorations, unique lighting and old doors for the ceiling. The patrons all seemed to be relaxed and enjoying themselves.
There were plenty of choices of Indonesian, western and fusion cuisines. Too many for me that I couldn’t decide what to have.
After few suggestions from my friends, I decided to give nasi gudeg a try. Without even asking any more details, I just left my taste buds and gastronomic experience in the hands of my new friends.
My first nasi gudeg at Coffee Malabar Tarakan
When my order finally arrived, the first thing I tried was the gudeg. Originally from Yogyakarta and Central Java, gudeg is made from young unripe jackfruit stewed for several hours with palm sugar and coconut milk.
So you can imagine my first thought was that it was sweet.
Some of the additional spices for gudeg are galangal, bay leaves, garlic, shallot, coriander seed and teak leaves. Teak leaves give it its reddish-brown colour, making it looked like stewed beef.
The nasi gudeg was also served with other side dishes such as opor ayam, telur pindang and krechek – all of which were new for me.
Let me start with opor ayam; it is basically chicken cooked in coconut milk. For Malaysians, imagine ayam masak lemak but with less ‘lemak’ or coconut milk.
Telur pindang looked like my favourite Chinese tea egg (where a boiled egg is cracked and cooked again in tea) but without the herbal fragrance. The telur pindang is boiled slowly in water mixed with salt, soy sauce, shallot skins, teak leaf and other aromatic spices.
Last but not least, my first ever nasi gudeg came with krechek. To be honest, I could finish all of my side dishes including the gudeg, but not the krechek.
When my friends asked what I thought about the taste? I honestly answered, “Unique.” For me, its almost-rubbery texture was unfamiliar hence making it unique. It is made from skin of a cattle, cooked in a coconut-milk based stew.
Glancing over at my friends’ orders, I thought ‘Dang, I should have ordered the Nasi Pecel’. It came with pecel, a salad dish made of cooked vegetables with peanut sauce, steamed rice and other side dishes.
There were other dishes on the menu as well such as Crispy Cheese Chicken Rice, sandwiches and burgers.
Sampling the different coffee beans from all over Indonesia at Coffee Malabar Tarakan
Coffee lovers would definitely love Coffee Malabar. You can choose your beans, which come from different parts of Indonesia.
Did you know that Indonesia was the fourth-largest coffee producer in the world in 2014? They have more than 20 varieties of arabica coffee being cultivated in the country.
Even if you are like me, who doesn’t like arabica in general due to its acidity, give Indonesian arabica a try. Their arabica coffee generally has low acidity compared to those from Central America and East Africa.
Coffee Malabar offered the choices of Luak, Bali Kintamani, Toraja Kalosi, Java, Aceh Gayo, Flores and Papua coffee beans.
Each came with descriptions of aftertaste, acidity, roasting and popularity levels.
I chose the Bali Kintamani; it was thick with a rich herbal aroma. It also had a slight citrus-y aftertaste.
There were plenty of other drinks as well and the one caught my attention was Iced-blended Avocado with Coffee.
As much as I wanted to be daring in my dining experience, I only had room for one and it was for nasi gudeg and its unique krechek.