Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 29 January 2015 • Destination
The day was piercing hot, I needed to stay indoor to hide from the sun. I heard about Jalan Juanda that’s packed with kopitiam or coffee houses in Melayu Peranakan culture. Spending time in a kopitiam in Pekanbaru when I had nothing to rush for sounded good.
When you talk about kopitiam, you usually talk about the coffee culture. Since coffee doesn’t go well with my bodily system, I only ordered the one mixed with milk in Megaria, one of the popular kopitiams in town. It was too sweet for my liking, as drinks are usually in a lot of destinations outside of Jakarta. Beats my why, they like them that way, but I didn’t.
To sort of neutralize the sweetness, I ordered their mie pangsit keriting (curly noodle with wonton), and it was lunch time anyway, my tummy was growling for something to grind. The reddish diced meat sure looked like pork, but when I told the seller that I don’t eat pork, she convinced me that it was chicken glazed in red to make it look good. Well, the noodle dish was savory, but to be honest I don’t remember how exactly it tasted, other than it was good.
A couple of other visitors were having lunch in Megaria, mostly men. They sat on the red plastic chairs, chatted and watched the TV hanged in one corner after meal, before they went back out to whatever their activities were. The kopitiam lady couldn’t hide her curiosity upon seeing me taking pictures of their humble coffee cup, noodle bowls and the whole interior.
“Oh, sorry, I need the pictures for my blog,” I explained, which was then welcomed with a friendly smile. As it turned out, they were used to be reviewed in magazines, but still she was posing sheepishly for the camera when I asked for a picture.
This Megaria kopitiam with the address of Jalan Juanda 99 is the younger branch of another Megaria down the street, on Jalan Juanda 60 that belonged to the lady’s mother in law. “Our kopitiams have always been known for the mie pangsit keriting. People come here for that,” she said. It’s a recipe created in the ‘70s and people still come for it until today.
Megaria is keeping an old habit of closing a few hours in the afternoon for the staff to have a breather. Not having other places to go to, plus I was waiting for my friend Kandi to show up, I found myself another kopitiam a few steps away. Kola Kola, a new favorite by Pekanbaru coffee people, opens all day long.
I couldn’t just sit there without ordering anything, so I had a toast with sarikaya jam. And then Kandi came when I was about to sip the ginseng coffee. I expected something weird tasting, or maybe bitter, but surprisingly it was sweet and reminded me of caramel. There was only a hint of the ginseng taste.
If you’re not into sweet coffee, make sure you order it ‘tanpa gula’ or without sugar.
Kandi was, too, glad to be in a kopitiam, hiding from the torrid heat of the afternoon. So we took our time chatting and making sketches, not bothering with the kind of grumpy waitresses. Kola Kola is bigger in size, perhaps twice the Megaria, hence it felt much emptier and dull when there’s only a few people visiting.
These kopitiams are usually packed in the morning for breakfast and after office hours before people go home. Similar to that of Jarod in Manado, it’s one of the melting pots of the city.
I had a breakfast experience at King kopitiam, also on Jalan Juanda, when I just arrived in the city a few days earlier. Hesty, my host, recommended me the porridge in this packed kopitiam – it was packed perhaps partly because it was a Sunday. It’s served with raw egg that eventually cooks within the boiling hot porridge. This was something new to me, and I thought was a Pekanbaru special. Much later I found out that you can find this kind of porridge in a lot of places throughout Indonesia, even in Jakarta where I live! As someone who’s not so big on porridge, it should mean something when I say this porridge at King was delicious!
Back to that day when I took shelter in kopitiams from the screeching sun.
At 4.30 p.m., after Kandi and I took a stroll around Jalan Juanda, all the kopitiams were open again. We were curious about the original Megaria at number 60, so we hopped there and ordered the porridge. It was my second Pekanbaru porridge during the trip. But this one was different. It was much darker than what I had at King, from the soya sauce. Wow, again, something too sweet. The porridge wasn’t hot enough to cook the egg, so it stayed half-done until I stopped eating – couldn’t finish it all.
As we walked out of the kopitiam and the vicinity to end the slow day, more people were coming in, some still in their working attire. Although Jalan Juanda area is the Chinatown of Pekanbaru, people of various ethnicities came down to sip the coffee, the food and the small talks, even business talks among them. As the sun was setting, the city of Pekanbaru turned cooler and we headed back to Hesty’s house with a few happy sketches on our little notebooks.
Have you tried any kopitiam in Pekanbaru, Riau? What is your favorit menu?