The most famous dish in Indonesian cookery is the Javanese ‘rijstafel’, a banquet of a meal based on boiled rice and up to 30 side dishes that take in veggies, fish and meats.
In Palma of the late 1950s and early 60s there were no Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Thai restaurants, but we did have an Indonesian one.
It was called Casa Bambu, it was in Portopi and it was Palma’s first Oriental restaurant — and the only one until Ramon Chiang and his nephew Yeung opened Gran Dragon in Terreno in 1968. That started a flood of Chinese restaurants that were soon all over Palma.
Casa Bambu was run by an American-Indonesian woman and her daughter and although they had other dishes on the menu, everyone went there for the ‘rijstafel’ with its tureen of soft long grain rice and 17 side dishes.
I can’t remember the price, but for most of us it was an expensive meal and a once-a-year treat. We went there on birthdays, anniversaries and for other special events — but only if we were feeling somewhat flush.
Two other Indonesians opened at a much later date but by that time there was a huge proliferation of Chinese restaurants and the ‘rijstafel’ places didn’t make much of an impact, although I had the ‘rice table’ at both.
Today there are no ‘rijstafels’ that I know of but we do have a good selection of South-East Asian dishes that can be eaten at a wide variety of places that don’t claim to have any special connection with Asian cuisine.
But today’s restaurant is a franchise with a quite definite South-East Asian link — the street food of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
As their advertising says, it’s a good way of experiencing South-East Asian food without any of the jet leg.
In restaurants like this I always go for those dishes I already know in order to have some idea of what the cook’s culinary skills are like. My two choices were a chicken pad thai and a nasi goreng.
Pad thai is Thailand’s national dish and a fixture on the menus of all Thai restaurants throughout the world. It is one of the most ubiquitous of all the noodles dishes, and pasta freak that I am, I always order it. Tuk Tuk’s was a tasty version that was most enjoyable.
I’ve eaten nasi goreng at the homes of Dutch and Belgian friends, but this was my first one in a restaurant.
It’s a fried rice dish more akin to Japanese cuisine than Chinese and was especially flavoursome.
Both dishes were tasty and enjoyable. The nasi goreng rice was very much like Japanese fried rice and we liked that very much. The pad thai noodles were nicely done and the coin-size slices of chicken (somewhat too few of them considering the €11.50 price) were silky soft. The egg content of both dishes had faults. The fried egg atop the nasi goreng was done a la plancha and the white and the yolk were much too solid. You want a barely set white and a runny yolk. The pad thai omelette was whole piece. It should be chopped up in the kitchen. The cañas are much too expensive for what is basically a fast food outlet.
Tuk Tuk Asian Street Food, Calle Cecili Metel 3, Palma. Tel:871-523860. Check for closing day. The dining area is a large one and there should be no need to reserve a table, although it’s always better to do so at the weekend.
· Nasi goreng, 9.95 euros
· Chicken pad thai, 11.50 euros
· 2 cañas, 6 euros
Total cost with VAT: 27.45 euros.
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