The Jakarta Post
'Sate matang' with peanut sauce. (Shutterstock/ferryzal)
Fifteen years after a devastating earthquake and tsunami destroyed most of Aceh in 2004, many surviving residents in the region have risen up from the rubble to heal and start their lives anew.
Aceh, famously known as Indonesia’s “Veranda of Mecca”, has since been reborn as the country’s premier religious tourist hub, boasting a host of modern amenities and infrastructure.
The province is also popular among tourists for its eclectic selection of street cuisine. From goat curry to satay, to various specialty coffee brews, Aceh offers a peerless trove of culinary goodness waiting to be discovered by adventurous food aficionados.
North Aceh regency is home to local eatery Sate Matang Rex Peunayong, famous for the eponymous sate matang – a savory goat satay served with the typical condiments: peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce.
Where sate matang veers from the more conventional satay recipe is its accompanying bowl of soup, made from goat broth. Locals usually dip the satay into the broth for extra flavor, and eat it along with a plate of warm rice.
Contrary to popular belief, the word matang here does not refer to the Indonesian word meaning "well-done", but rather to Matangkuli district in the regency.
The restaurant boasts affordable dishes on its menu, making it popular among locals and tourists alike. As such, those visiting the restaurant should always anticipate a crowd.
Read also: Aceh wants 150,000 foreign tourists in 2019
Provincial capital Banda Aceh is known for Warung Nasi Hasan, which offers an affordable range of authentic Acehnese cuisine, including pliek u (vegetable soup with coconut milk) and goat curry.
Many public figures regularly frequent the restaurant to have a hearty bowl of goat curry for lunch.
Besides goat-based dishes, Warung Nasi Hasan also offers an entire seafood menu, including roasted fish and lobster.
Similar to the typical Padang restaurant, waiters at Warung Nasi Hasan will bring various dishes to the table, allowing diners to pick what they see and immediately enjoy their preferred food without having to order first.
Banda Aceh is also home to Nasi Gurih Faisal, a local eatery specializing in the titular nasi gurih – coconut milk-based rice served with seasonings made from various spices.
The typical nasi gurih is also served with several side dishes such as Acehnese jerked meat and beef rendang. The restaurant recommends a slice of fried tuna meat slathered with a special sauce as the ultimate accompaniment to nasi gurih.
Nasi Gurih Faisal is situated right in front of the city’s most prominent landmark, the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, making it an obligatory stop on every tourist’s itinerary.
Finally, no jaunt in the Veranda of Mecca is complete without indulging in authentic Aceh coffee, a particular favorite among millennials in the region.
Although makeshift coffee shops can be found almost everywhere along the shoulders of many major thoroughfares in the city, Moorden Cafe stands out for its unique specialty brews.
The cafe is famous for "nisapresso" – an espresso shot mixed with neera, palm nectar fermented into alcohol. The espresso shot is served in a small cup, directly over a layer of neera.
According to several coffee shop owners in the city, the coffee beans are typically harvested from their own plantations in the mountainous region of Gayo in Central Aceh. (rfa/kes)
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