The smell of meat grilling over charcoal is a signature of markets and street-food vendors all over Southeast Asia. According to Tony Darwinto, owner of Fluffy Lamb at the Fremantle Market, coals are as essential to Indonesian street food as any spice or chilli. So much so, he imports a particular variety from Indonesia.
“Cooking over this kind of charcoal brings out a special flavour that you just don’t get from gas,” says Darwinto. “It takes longer and is more expensive, but there’s just no substitute for that authentic aroma.”
It may sound obsessive, but this attention to detail is necessary when your entire menu centres around two dishes: charcoal-grilled chicken satay and marinated lamb. Both play exceedingly well with the house peanut sauce. As far as accompaniments go, choose from either steamed rice or grilled banana leaf parcels of rich bone-marrow rice flavoured with saffron and chilli.
Diners that like it spicy can help themselves to a communal bowl of Fluffy Lamb’s signature “four tribe sambal” – a potent mixture laced with kaffir lime leaves and minced chilli, among other ingredients.
Darwinto has a deep knowledge of regional Indonesian cuisine and describes his style of cooking as “sutra” – a unique hybrid that combines the aromatic, fragrant and often searingly hot cuisine of Sulawesi with the savoury notes and spice typical of his native Sumatra.
The combination hasn’t just turned the heads of local fans of Indonesian food, but the Indonesian government, too. Fluffy Lamb was one of a handful of Indonesian eateries worldwide picked to feature in the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism’s recent Wonderful Indonesia campaign.
Being chosen to act as an ambassador for an entire nation’s cuisine is a pretty impressive achievement for anyone, not least a self-confessed “charcoal jockey” with no formal kitchen training. Such acclaim might tempt some in a similar position to switch to a larger venue, but Darwinto won’t be moving any time soon.
“Street style is better than a restaurant,” he says while turning satays on the smoking charcoal grill. “This sort of stuff is meant to be a street food.”
Shop Y112, Fremantle Market, corner of Perry Street and William Street, Fremantle
Sat & Sun 8am–6pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on August 28, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.