Sampling Doha’s Finest Finger-Licking, Flavoursome Indonesian Fare
Run by Qatar Museum, the 'Years of Culture' initiative* - an annual cultural exchange programme designed to connect people, develop understanding between cultures, and deepen cultural ties between nations - has placed Indonesia in the spotlight for 2023. The schedule for the year, in both Qatar and Indonesia, includes a variety of events, experiences and exhibitions, celebrating each country's traditions and customs, heritage and beliefs, social values and norms through art, music, literature, language, religion, politics, fashion, sports and, of course, food.
What better way to celebrate and understand a nation than through its cuisine? After all, traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation are not just part of our cultural identity but also hold keys to our heritage and history, beliefs and values.
So, in the spirit of promoting culture, we have been out sampling some of Doha's finest Indonesian restaurants, which we now present to you.
But before we get down to the nitty-gritty, here's a little information about Indonesian cuisine as a taster:
Indonesia is the world's largest island nation - an archipelago of over 18,000 islands and islets, 6,000 of which are inhabited by over 275 million people. The island nature of the country and the external influences from India, China, South East Asia, Japan, Africa, Arabia and Europe have created, through the course of history, a truly diverse nation. Indeed, the people of Indonesia are made up of thousands of distinct native ethnic groups and hundreds of linguistic families with varying customs and traditions that weave their way into the country's shared identity. With such a diverse population, it is no surprise that the cuisine in Indonesia is a melting pot of flavours - also helped by so many native herbs and spices grown on the islands.
Indonesia's cuisine is identifiable through the many richly herbed and spiced rice and noodle-based dishes, broths, curries, salads, banana-wrapped plates, peanut dressings, and spicy condiments (Sambal). The nation's national dishes are the world-famous Nasi Goreng (flavourful spicy fried rice cooked with sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis), shrimp paste, meat and vegetables, topped with a fried egg and served with cucumber and tomatoes), Gado-Gado (a salad of raw and par-boiled vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce, served with fried tofu, hard-boiled eggs and tempeh - a soya bean cake), Satay (marinated meat, skewered and grilled, generally over coals, and served with a peanut sauce), Soto (traditional Indonesian broth) and Rendang (meat slow-cooked in coconut milk and spices). However, there is also a veritable myriad of regional dishes that make up the nation's most popular foods - Rawon (beef stew), Pempek (fried fish meat in tapioca), Bakso (meatballs), Bakwan (fried bean sprouts and batter), Karedok (salad with a spicy peanut sauce), Mie Kocok (beef and egg noodle soup), Gudeg (jackfruit curry), Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), Mie Gareng (fried noodles) and Nasi Liwet (coconut rice with vegetables and chicken) to name but a few.
Meals are usually a communal affair in Indonesia, with a staple rice dish surrounded by vegetables, soups, meat and fish side dishes, and a 'help yourself' approach with forks and spoons or hands (of the recently washed variety!).
So, where can you sample some of Indonesia's finest delicacies in Doha?
Doha’s Top Three Indonesian Restaurants
Mama Rozie Restaurant
Image: Mama Rosie
Mama Rozie Restaurant is a tiny fusion eatery offering home-cooked, fresh Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino food. Tastes of home, or the exotic for the uninitiated, in bright, clean surroundings, with mementoes from southeast Asia adorning the walls, including a hand-painted image of traditional Gerobak (street food cart) and the option of floor seating, make this diner a favourite with locals of many nationalities.
Mama Rozie's serves a host of Indonesia's most popular plates, including the nation's national dishes on a menu bursting with options. However, we recommend any of the following delicious, delectable dishes - Nasi Goreng Rendang, a fusion of two beloved foods: fried rice cooked in a home-made Rendang paste and scrambled eggs, with a side of Rendang beef and pickles; Mie Bakso, noodles in a beef/vegetable broth with Bakso meatballs, bean sprouts and lettuce, and Soto Ayam Bihun, a delicious chicken soup with turmeric, herbs and Bihun (vermicelli noodles) and rice. And, if you have room for dessert, try a plate of Bubur Pulut Hitam, an Indonesian sweet dessert made from black glutinous rice porridge with coconut milk and sweetened with palm sugar or cane sugar.
A plate of food and a drink at Mama Rozie's is relatively cheap, costing less than $15 per head.
Location: Hiteen Street, Al Muntazah, Doha
Location Map: Mama Rozie Restaurant
Nearest Metro: Al Mansoura Metro Station on the Green Line.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9 am - 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 7 am - 10 pm
Contact Details: +974 7045 6262
Relatively new to Qatar, Serasa Restaurant serves authentic Indonesian heritage food, specialising in Pandang (spicy cuisine made with coconut milk), typical of West Sumatra. The restaurant is bright and clean, with colourful modern Indonesian artwork and maps of the island nation on the walls and communal style or traditional floor-style seating in private booths across two floors.
The menu offers a host of traditional delicacies cooked using fresh produce, home-cooked, to order, and beautifully plated. Given a choice, we would recommend the Mpek Mpek Bahagia (savoury fish cakes served with noodles and a rich, sweet and sour sauce), the Satay Kambing (succulent grilled lamb on skewers, served with a peanut sauce, sweet soya, and chopped onions and chillies), the beautifully colourful Cap Cai Seafood (a vegetable stir-fry with seafood and served with a thick sauce of broth, oyster sauce and spices), the delicious Sop Buntut Sapi (a clear Oxtail broth), or the Nasi Campur Gulai Ayam (a chicken curry with a spicy coconut sauce).
A main dish and a drink at Serasa are fairly inexpensive, costing less than $15 per head.
Location: Al Sadd Street, Al Sadd, Doha
Location Map: Serasa Restaurant
Nearest Metro: Joaan Metro Station on the Gold Line.
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday, 11 am - 11 pm; Friday, 1 pm - 12 am
Contact Details: +974 3313 9909
Tofu & Cake Restaurant
Image: Tribun Travel
Tofu & Cake Restaurant has several branches across Doha city, but our favourite is the Souq Al Wakrah shop, not just for the excellent food but for the beautiful location. Souq Al Wakrah is an old-style Arabian market on Al Wakrah's coastline. The souq, a labyrinth of alleyways, small shops, courtyards, mosques, squares lined with date palms and a seafront promenade, is full of cafes and restaurants, including Tofu & Cake.
Tofu & Cake is located in a traditional flat-roofed building built from clay and stone and set around a small courtyard. With indoor and outdoor seating, this simply decorated restaurant lets the food do the talking. The eatery offers a host of traditional Indonesian dishes, but almost every dish is served with a side of tofu made to an old family recipe that dates back to the 1790s - hence the name. If you want to try tofu in all its glory, we recommend the Tahu Mendoan (tofu fried with spices, herbs and spring onions) or the Mie Bakso and Tahu (a clear meatball soup with tofu). Otherwise, our favourites include the Gulai Kambing (lamb curry) and the Siomay Bandung (a West Javan dish of steamed fish dumplings, vegetables and peanut sauce).
To order a main meal washed down with a drink at Tofu & Cake will cost less than $15 per head.
Location: Villa 26, Souq Al Wakrah, Al Wakrah, Doha
Location Map: Serasa Restaurant
Nearest Metro: Al Wakrah Metro Station on the Red Line.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9 am - 9 pm; Friday and Saturday, 7am - 11 am / 3 pm - 9 pm
Contact Details: +974 5544 2471
*If you want to find out more about the Qatar ‘Years of Culture’ initiative, check out the Years of Culture website.
Main image: Shutterstock/fieazali
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