The Jakarta Post
Aside from fish, the Yongkie fish soup typically consists of shrimp and squid. (JP/Fadli)
Located in a border region and subject to strong foreign influences in the course of its history, Batam is a tourist destination of rich culinary diversity.
Hence, Batam cuisine is a blend of Arabian, Chinese, Malay and native flavors.
From the many options available, travelers to Batam should at least savor some of these signature dishes of the region:
Yongkie fish soup
Batam first developed as an industrial estate, therefore here were not as many culinary places to visit as there are now. The materials used to cook were pretty much limited to seafood like fish, shrimps, squid and gonggong (clams).
Yongkie restaurant is located in the Nagoya area of the city center. It has been around for more than 30 years. Its fish soup is made of tenggiri (wahoo) fish and is well-known nationwide. Despite having branches in other cities, the restaurant at Batam is still the favorite one because of its fresh taste.
Aside from fish, the soup typically consists of shrimp and squid. The tenggiri fish head soup, in particular, is cooked with tamarind. The sour taste dispels the fishy smell of the soup.
There is only one other branch in Batam, namely in the Engku Putrie area of Batam center, which offers much more space. In the afternoon and evening, both places are very crowded, especially with tourists.
Several national figures could be found frequently ordering the soup and asking for it to be send through air cargo services to be received on the same day. The price for a bowl of fish soup is Rp 40,000 (US$2.84).
‘Prata’ and ‘martabak’
Plain Prata (fried bread) with gule (thick curry) soup is a popular breakfast option. Although prata and martabak (stuffed fried pancake) originate from the Middle East, they have long become staples of Batam cuisine.
Belakang Padang Island, an island close to Singapore, is one of the best places to taste prata, coffee and teh tarik (milk tea).
Traveling to Belakang Padang Island from Batam only takes 15 minutes on a wooden boat and costs Rp 8,000 one way. Long before Batam became a popular destination, Belakang Padang Island was known first as an official district. Back then, Batam was only an island of forests.
The situation has changed since then as Batam developed rapidly, but Belakang Padang Island remains the same. Now, many Belakang Padang residents work in Batam city and return home for the weekend.
The Ameng Coffee Shop is a favorite place to enjoy black coffee or teh tarik. It was founded by a man of Chinese descent called Ameng. Three shophouses combined into one are still not enough to accommodate all visitors. The tables are always full, especially on weekends, because many Batam people come just to taste its coffee.
Prata and martabak make for fitting side dishes to go with its coffee. When the weather is good, you can vaguely see Singapore's Marina Bay Sands from the distance.
Mie Lendir Berkuah Kacang
When the late senior journalist and culinary expert Bondan Winarno came to taste this dish at the Harum Manis Coffee Shop, the only word that came out of him was mak nyus (yummy).
Mie Lendir Berkuah Kacang (boiled noodle with peanut sauce) differs from mie lender or typical boiled noodle from Medan, North Sumatra, as the peanut sauce is not as thick, yet has a strong scent of peanuts.
Served with sliced boiled egg as a topping, visitors won’t feel full even though they’ve eaten two portions. The plate is served with sliced cabe rawit (small hot chilies) on the side.
To enjoy it at the Harum Manis Coffee Shop, you’ll have to come early, because if you’re a little late, you’ll have to fight for a seat. The coffee shop is one of the favorites in the old town of Nagoya, which is also the business center of Batam.
Mie lendir isn’t the only special menu in this place. They also have good coffee made by the most senior barista on the island. Although the old man stands crookedly, he has a great hand at making coffee. (vel/kes)
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