Sunday, June 04, 2017


This is all about barbecue.

In its purest form, barbecue is roasting meat over low fire, with the barbecue grill later invented to catch the meat from falling into the fire, which perhaps evolved the barbecue spit to further secure the meat.

Barbecue apparently came from the word "Barbacoa" which originated from the Caribbean and later imported by the Spanish conquistadroes to Europe.

Barbecue was brought to Asia through the island of Java most probably by Indian and Arab traders. Wikipedia has not yet figured out the link between the Caribbean barbacoa and the Indian-Arab traders but what matters is thus was "Satay" came to be --- 3-4 pieces of beef or mutton skewered on the "tingting" of coconut fronds and later on bamboo sticks, and the satay later crossing to Indo-China and into Malaysian and Thai cuisine.

JALAN SABANG (Jakarta, Indonesia/31 May 2017)

Satay is as Indonesian as nasi goreng and I've had it in all my Indonesian trips. The last one is particularly memorable at the Food Street Capital of Jakarta itself in Jalan Sabang which is only 100 meters from my hotel. I was undecided [where's the best satay stall?] and intimidated [too many street musicians] on my first attempt and I have not seen a bottle of Bintang being served [it being the ramadan season] so I retreated to the secluded comforts of the pricey Beer Garden Menteng, more for the beer than the satay although I did have two sticks of satay ayam.

The next night, I decided to try the bars at Jalan Jaksa but the place was empty so I retreated to Jalan Sabang and finally got the courage to order five sticks each of satay ayam [chicken] and satay kambing [mutton]. "You want beer?" asked the waiter and that was it!

The satay was served in an orange plastic plate as I was midway into my big Bintang bottle and I am not disappointed. The meat were grilled just fine and came with a liberal dousing of ketjap manis [palm sugar-sweetened soy sauce] which in my opinion is better than the usual peanut sauce. I ordered another plate and should have had another beer if not for the Grab bike driver staring at me and the street musicians who suddenly found me.      

SOI RAMBUTTRI (Bangkok, Thailand/02 June 2017)

Satay is of course a common street food fare in Bangkok. The question is where to have it and for this trip, I decided to try Khaosan Road which is just a walk from my hotel. But since the place has become a circus, I went to the the other side on Soi Rambuttri, reputed to be the pre-"The Beach" Khaosan Road which I think is not but indeed an oasis of street food. I first tried a stall selling chicken/beef/pork satay for 10 bahts per stick, cheap and beautifully presented with a cherry tomato and a slice of okra skewered in but on the bland side. In my opinion, the all-chicken [wings, tails, breast] stalls are better, perfectly grilled meat with subtle flavors that went well with my 80-baht pink mai tai from the VW Cocktail Bar, for a price range of 10-20 bahts depending on the chicken part.

I also tried a high-end joint and was extremely disappointed with their 70-baht beef and sausage skewers which are mostly "porma" and felt robbed after falling for a 140-baht "sex on the beach" also-pink cocktail [never mind the beach but where's the sex?].     

Next time, I'll focus on the chicken and the 70-baht Chang bottles sold off the street.

TOMAS MORATO AVENUE (Metro Manila, Philippines/03 June 2017)

Back in Manila, an impulsive left-turn to a food bazaar along Tomas Morato Avenue introduced Bulan and me to the best isaw ever.

In terms of the usual satay, the Filipino BBQ that is mostly marinated to diabetic sweetness is no match to its Indonesian and Thai counterparts. I dare say the chicken inasal as a saving grace, and that skewered pork intestine [the isaw] in one of the stalls of Savour Manila which is really great! It tastes clean [no aftertaste that makes you think you might have eaten something that should not be there] with a mild sweet flavor and lightly charred. And it came with what may be the best dip ever too --- mildly sweetened vinegar-based mix with hints of crushed garlic, chopped onions and crushed black pepper. It went well with the beer.

I'll come back even if only for the isaw [and for the beer and music too]!   

Thus was last week across three countries and as I said, this is all abut barbecue.

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