I’m in the jungle, damn it.

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post for a while, but I always put it off because I never have good enough internet access to upload and format photos on new posts. So screw it. From now on, no photos. If you want photos, go visit my instagram (@rrsuro), my twitter (@rrsuro) or my facebook page. Plenty of photos there. This is where I write.

It has also been more than a month since I’ve started my Young Explorer’s grant project. It’s too late and too much damn work to do a recap and tell you about everything that has happened so far (because a LOT has happened), so screw that too. No recap. So friends, if you want to hear my best stories from the last couple months, send me an email and ask me. I’d love to hear what you’re up to as well.

So today, I’m starting over. I’m going to write every day, and I don’t care if you read it or not. I’m doing this for me. I might not post something every day (because sometimes there really is no internet), but you better be damn certain I’m going to write SOMETHING every day. Even if it’s a sentence or two regarding my thoughts of the day. I’m in the jungle damn it. This is MY Walden pond, except way better because it’s actually in the middle of nowhere and not 2 miles from Concord, Massachusetts. I’m also not locked into a cabin.

Do I sound a bit icey? That’s probably because I totally am. I’ve had it with the smoke and the fires. Yesterday, I was driving my motorcycle down the street. I was very stressed, and wanted to take a deep breath. But a split-second before I did so, I realized that taking a deep breath would be terrible for my lungs, with all of the smoke on the street. UGH. I can’t even take a breather because of the smoke.

I know I said no photos. I guess I lied. But this one was easy because I just linked it from facebook. If you can’t tell, I’m not very happy about the smoke.

Overall, I feel pretty powerless to do anything about it. Meanwhile, people are burning their trash in the middle of the streets, releasing copious amounts of further smoke into the air. And later, those same people complain about the smoke. I am ready to go back up to camp. There’s less smoke there, and fewer people. Both great things. The only reason I came down in the first place was to deal with (yet another) permit I needed to get. This time for a local assistant that will be helping me on my long term orangutan follows.

His name is Midi. He’s an old dude from one of the villages, rocking a scraggly gray chin-puff beard and a pretty badass parang (the indonesian version of a machete). He’s going to be our porter when Evan (my assistant) and I are out following orangutans. We’re only carrying enough food for 5 days at a time. So when we are running low, Midi is going to go search for us in the forest and give us another 5-day resupply. The forest is a big place however. Without the right tools, he would never find us. Which is why I’m equipping him with a radio and a GPS unit. The way it works is this: he communicates with us via radio, I let him now our coordinates, he enters them into the GPS, and boom, he can find us. The only issue is that he doesn’t really know how to use a GPS yet. I’ve already gave him a training session at his village. Now that he has a permit to come to the forest, I can train him 100% until he’s a Robert-and-Evan finding machine.

I’m heading back up to camp tomorrow. Let you know how it goes.

 

Street Food Guide to Jalan Jaksa

 

 

A Kaki Lima Food Cart

A classic Kaki Lima: Three wheels and two human legs. Food from one of these is legit street food. (Photo from indofoodia.wikia.com)

The most recognizable variety of street stall is the Kaki Lima, which means “five legs”. The first three “legs” are the three bicycle wheels on the cart. The other two “legs” are the legs of the person pushing the cart! While the carts can all look very similar to each other, each one specializes in a particular food item, usually written with tape or sticker letters on the glass pane of the cart.

  1. Gado-Gado (Corner of Jl. Agus Salim and Gg. 12 Kebon Sirih Barat I)

A plate of Gado-gado

It’s got veggies, proteins in the form of eggs and tofu, a chewy platform (rice or lontong), and some crunch (kerupuk): is this the perfect food or what? (Photo from Wikipedia)

By far, my favorite street food item is Gado-Gado. Actually, on most food carts, it’s usually written on the carts as “Gado²”, which I find amusing.  It’s basically an Indonesian style salad, and contains a variety of items such as potatoes, string beans, spinach, baby corn, cabbage, cucumber, tofu, tempeh, and hard-boiled eggs. The veggies can vary depending on the food cart, but in general the dish always includes hard-boiled eggs and tofu. Most varieties in Jakarta also include rice or lontong (rice cake) in the Gado-Gado. And as for the dressing, (and this is my favorite part), it’s all covered in freaking awesomely delicious peanut sauce. I may have an addiction to peanut sauce actually. To top off the dish, we get the Indonesian functional equivalent of croutons: Kerupuk, a deep-fried chip made of starch and prawn paste. Actually, labeling it as the equivalent of croutons is unfair to the kerupuk…it accomplishes the same function of croutons – adding texture and “crunch” to the dish – but with substantially more deliciousness. I always eat tons of Gado-Gado when in Jakarta, because it’s rather hard to find in Kalimantan. If you want to try Gado-Gado in Jakarta, do yourself a favor and skip the gourmet and tourist-oriented restaurants, as you’ll likely receive watered down, “westernized” versions of the dish. The real Gado² is found on the street.

2. Ketoprak (Corner of Jl. Agus Salim and Gg. 12 Kebon Sirih Barat I)

A plate of Ketoprak

Make sure you get a hearty serving of Peanut sauce, as that is what really makes this dish. (Photo from Wikipedia)

There is one other dish, very closely related to Gado-Gado, which I also love: Ketoprak! It’s basically like Gado-Gado, but it swaps a few of the veggies and rice for rice vermicelli noodles (locally called bihun). Just like Gado-Gado, the entire dish is drowned in sweet, delicious peanut sauce. I actually just tried Ketoprak for the very first time this past week, so I haven’t made up my mind whether I like it better than Gado-Gado or not. So I suppose the only solution to this dilemma is to have BOTH and have them OFTEN!

3. Satay Ayam (Jl. Wahid Hasyim, between Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Agus Salim)

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Meat on a stick covered in Peanut Sauce…what’s not to love?

My other favorite street food in Indonesia is Satay, a skewer of seasoned and grilled meat, covered in…PEANUT SAUCE. If you sense a pattern here, yes, I LOVE peanut sauce, and my favorite dishes are definitely biased towards dishes involving it. Satay (sometimes spelled Sate) is available in different meats. Chicken (satay ayam), beef (satay sapi), and goat (satay kambing). My favorite by far is Satay Ayam, and lucky me because it’s the most common kind. Satay is the kind of food that I rarely consume as a stand-alone meal. You can certainly eat it this way, and if you sit down at a Satay joint and order it in-house, you’ll get Satay paired up with rice or longtong, certainly a filling enough meal. To me however, Satay is the perfect “to-go” food. When I’m busy with errands on the streets of Jakarta, and hunger kicks in, nothing is better than running into a Satay food cart and ordering a half-dozen satay ayam skewers dibungkus (which means “wrapped up to go”). They grill them up quickly and give you your chicken skewers inside a paper bag 1/3 filled with peanut sauce. As I make my way to my destination, I shake and dip the skewers inside the bag to ensure they are generously covered in peanut sauce, and eat them one by one. They actually give you the skewer-filled paper bag inside of supermarket-style plastic bag, which makes carrying it easy, and you can conveniently dispose of the empty skewers inside the plastic bag as you walk. When I’m finished, I just dispose of the entire thing at the nearest trash can. BOOM, that’s what I call the perfect street food.

DIRECTIONS:

To get to the Gado-Gado and Ketoprak (they are right next to each other) from Jalan Jaksa, walk down the street (in the same direction as the traffic). On your right side, you will see an alleyway named Gg. 12 Kebon Sirih Barat I. Follow it all the way to the end, and upon exiting, you will see two food carts to the left. These sell Gado-Gado and Ketoprak. The Gado-Gado one in particular is great because they use an extremely large pestle and mortar to grind all of the spices.

As for the Satay, there are multiple places all along Jalan Jaksa and Jalan Agus Salim. There is one place in particular however, that seems to be the most popular spot. It’s located on Jalan Wahid Hasyim, between Jl. Agus Salim and Jl Thamrin (the big street where Sarinah mall is).

Check out the map below for the locations: