The Jakarta Post
When most people hear the word lapo (Batak-style restaurants), they probably think of North Sumatran pork dishes.
With warung Padang (Padang-style food stalls), the famous beef rendang and pop chicken (traditional West Sumatran-style stewed chicken) and other traditional Minangkabau dishes likely come to mind.
However, some innovative restaurateurs are trying to change these perceptions by establishing halal lapo and vegetarian Padang restaurants.
The newly opened Bonga-Bonga Lapo on Jl. Cipete Raya in Cilandak, South Jakarta, has replaced the pork and dog meat commonly found in lapo and is proud to call itself a “halal lapo”.
Chef Rahung Nasution said that he and the restaurant’s founders, actor Chicco Jerikho and film producer Anggia Kharisma, wanted change the perception that a lapo only served pork and dog meat dishes.
“It is a misunderstanding to associate lapo with dog meat and pork dishes.Lapo, lapau, or lopo [when translated from Batak to Indonesian] means kedai [shop],” Rahung told The Jakarta Post via email on Sunday.
“That could also mean a restaurant, shop house, or a coffee shop,” he added.
Rahung added that they kept the name lapo as it was correct in the Batak language, despite the public’s perception of the word.
Other than not using pork, dog meat or blood, he said the restaurant did not significantly modify the traditional recipes and served authentic Batak meals.
“The only thing we modify is toning down the use of spices so our meals can be enjoyed by people who are unaccustomed with Batak cuisine,” he said.
One diner, Alvan Hafiz, 32, a graphic designer, said the only difference between Bonga-Bonga and other lapo he frequented was that there were no pork dishes.
Meanwhile, couple Rinawati and Jimmy opened Namy House Vegetarian on Jl. Kusuma, Grogol Petamburan, West Jakarta, in November last year, hoping that it would encourage more people to eat vegetarian food.
“A lot of people are reluctant to try vegetarian meals, so we opened this restaurant with the consideration that Minang dishes are very well known and the favorites of many people,” Rinawati said.
She added that her customers could still enjoy rendang made with mushrooms or soybeans. She added that since some vegetarians did not consume root vegetables, they did not use any onion or garlic in their seasonings.
“We want to embrace those who are strict vegetarians, and also those who have not tried vegetarian cuisine before,” Rinawati said.
Meanwhile, the newly opened Loka Padang restaurant in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, has gone one step further in their recreation of Minang dishes by offering vegan Padang cuisine that does not include milk or eggs.
Loka Padang chef Putri R. Mumpuni said the restaurant was founded to cater to the growing trend of people becoming vegans, not just vegetarians.
“Developing the taste for Loka Padang was a challenge as I had to produce true vegan meals without reducing the authenticity of Minang tastes,” she said, adding that they only switched the protein [from animal-based] to plant-based sources.
She said the restaurant also opted to not to use imitation meat, unlike some vegetarian restaurants.
“We do not want to lie to our customers [by using imitation meat],” she said.
“So when we want to make Padang satay, for example, we look for the best kind of mushroom that fits,” she added.
Ogie Kuniarwan, 26, a Minang person from Batipuh, Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, who now works in Jakarta said that, “I think vegetarian Padang cuisine is unique. It could make Padang meals way healthier,” adding that people usually associated Padang food with high cholesterol.