Ah Beng Indonesia
Many people will be familiar with the suite of popularised Indonesian meals: nasi goreng, mee goreng, gado gado and satay ayam (chicken satay). Yet our neighbouring archipelago nation has so many more impressive dishes to offer.
Ah Beng Indonesian is one restaurant championing the diversity of Indonesian cuisine. Since it first opened as Ah Beng Kopitiam in Langford in 2017, it has turned heads with its high-definition Indonesian cooking – whether they be lesser-seen curries and vegetable dishes or devastatingly good sweet pancakes.
It’s all part of owner David Wijaya and head chef James Kiing’s mission to introduce people to more Indonesian dishes. So when they moved from their low-key suburban outpost to Westfield Carousel’s rooftop dining precinct in 2022, they were understandably excited about accessing a bigger, more mainstream audience.
Their knowledge of Indonesian cuisine is as authentic as it gets. While Wijaya was born in Jakarta, he grew up with the cooking of Sumatra – in particular, the highly spiced cooking of the Padang region in the island’s west. His cooking doesn’t shy away from spice or flavour: a point ably proven by the mie pedas jeletot (handmade egg noodles tossed through a spicy sauce served with your choice of meat). There’s zip, too, in the sweet and spicy red chilli sambal that anoints the ayam geprak, another regional Javanese specialty starring twice-cooked chicken that’s been deep-fried and “smashed” in the name of texture. It’s not all fireworks though, with the (relatively) calmer offerings of ayam bakar (grilled chicken) and various satays.
It’s not all animal flesh either. When they relocated to Carousel, Wijaya and Kiing added 40-or-so vegan and vegetarian plates to the menu. Egg curries such as telor balado – deep-fried eggs turbo-charged with a thick, sweet sambal – are an essential order. There’s also a mushroom geprak to accompany the aforementioned ayam geprak, the chicken replaced by a king oyster mushroom that’s been soaked in a soy and mushroom broth, then given the same twice-cooked treatment as the chook. Vegan set meals are also offered with grilled mushroom and tofu standing in admirably for their meatier counterparts.
Ah Beng is a great place to explore the world of Indonesian sweets. A changing rotation of sweets is arranged in and by the counter, which has featured kuih dadar (pandan pancakes filled with desiccated coconut and palm sugar) and bolo kukus, a lesser-seen cupcake made with rice flour, palm sugar and fermented cassava that gives the cake its spongy texture.
While food is Ah Beng’s primary stock in trade, the restaurant represents Indonesia in other ways. The drinks list features plenty of Indonesian and Malay favourites including soda gembira (a sparkling, pink soda made with pandan syrup and condensed milk) and a Milo dinosaur (Milo milk topped with undissolved Milo powder). You can enjoy it all against the backdrop of Bahasa pop songs and walls covered in colourful murals.
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