Known as the city of batik (batik: traditional Javanese art prints) where the living ancient Javanese kingdom named Mangkunegaran is located, Solo is indeed the center of Javanese cuisine. There are at least 6 kinds of food that have been categorized as the delicacies of Solo. After visiting the city’s important attractions such as Mangkunegaran Palace or the Kauman batik village, there is always time for a culinary hunt!
Timlo: Chicken soup for the soul
Timlo is chicken soup, but this is different from any chicken soup you may find in your country. The soup is made of chicken broth and basic ingredients like garlic. Does it sound ordinary to you? Well, the soup is, but what comes with the soup is unique. First, there’s the egg. Not just an ordinary egg, the egg in Timlo is sweet because it was previously cooked with ‘kecap manis’ (sweet soy sauce). Next, it’s the fried wonton (a kind of dumpling, the locals call it 'gorengan’, meaning fried food). Some people stuff meat (chicken) in it, but most of the time carrot is stuffed into the wonton. Next, it’s the chicken innards (have you tried innards?) which taste chewy and have good nutrients. It’s completely okay to eat innards once in awhile. Last but not least, the soup is topped with fried shallot. This natural taste enhancer makes the chicken broth more savory. Again, it’s best to eat timlo when it’s hot and while the fried wontons and shallots are still crispy. To get a good Timlo, go to Solo Timlo restaurant. Other kinds of Javanese food are also sold here but its specialty is Timlo. This restaurant has been around for decades, so this is definitely the place to go for Timlo.
Nasi liwet: Delicious rice with side dishes of your choice
Rice with chicken, drizzled in sweet and thick coconut milk; that’s how to describe nasi liwet (nasi= rice). This rice dish always comes with ‘osengan labu’ or stir-fried squash (cooked with garlic, shallot and chilli) and sweetened egg, and you can order other side dishes like sate usus (barbecued chicken intestine on skewer) if you like. The rice tastes different from regular rice. It is more savory and fragrant, as coconut milk and special ingredients like pandan leaves and lemongrass are included when cooking the rice. Go to Adem Ayem restaurant for good nasi liwet (it sells other good Javanese foods too!). This warung is never lack of visitors, especially on weekends and this restaurant is also well known among many people from out of town, which gives you a signal that it sells one of the most delicious nasi liwets in town.
Bakso: Meatballs that are bigger and more tasty!
Bakso (肉丸 in Chinese), or meatball soup (mostly beef meatball), is very popular food among Indonesians. Everywhere in Indonesia, the term ‘bakso Solo’ is very popular, so while in Solo, it’s really worth trying. Different from the other type of bakso (bakso Malang), typical 'bakso Solo’ has bigger meatballs and thicker beef broth. Served with 'pangsit goreng’ (fried meat dumplings), stuffed fried tofu (with meat), bihun (clear noodles) and sprinkles of green onions, bakso can be very fulfilling. Hence, it is rarely eaten with rice. There are several warungs selling bakso and 'Bakso Alex’, located in front of Hotel Novotel, is one of the best in town, as they also serve steamed bok choy (also known as Chinese cabbage) as a side dish.
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Nasi langgi: Solo’s version of nasi lemak
This is the Solo’s version of nasi lemak, which is popular in Singapore and Malaysia. The main difference is the rice, which is cooked with coconut milk and other spices (the same way as cooking the rice for nasi liwet), making the rice savory. What come with the rice are also somewhat different. ‘Sambal goreng tempe’ (fried fermented soybeans stir-fried with sweet and thick soy sauce, known as kecap manis), scrambled eggs, 'opor ayam’ (chicken cooked with sweetened coconut oil), cucumber and grated coconut (fried and seasoned) always come with this dish. People also like to add the fried mashed potato, known as 'perkedel’. So many side dishes come with this dish! You may want to order another portion of the flavorful rice!
Serabi: Crispy pancakes for those with a sweet tooth
Serabi is a sweet pancake made of rice flour and coconut oil. There are several kinds of serabi, but serabi Solo has thin and crispy edges and has different kinds of toppings (e.g. chocolate, cheese and jackfruit). When you ask the locals about the best serabi in town, they will always recommend a shop named Serabi Notosuman, which has several branches in other cities. The pancakes sold here are stickier, and crispier when eaten hot.
Intip: Great for souvenirs!
Another delicacy of Solo is intip. The process of this snack begins with steaming before it is put into a mold and dried under the sun. It would be ready for consumption after being deep fried.. Topped with brown sugar caramel, intip has become a very popular snack for the locals and many give intips as a souvenir to their friends and families living out of town. For the most popular intip brand, go to Orion Mandarijn cake shop.
Food city indeed!
There are some more delicacies of Solo like tahu kupat (fried tofu and sticky rice in dark shrimp and peanut sauce) and tengkleng (lamb curry) and these delicacies can actually be found in many places, including in ‘kaki lima’ (the term for food stalls on street sides), which many of them are open from evening till early in the morning (generally from 4pm to 2am). Finding traditional foods has never been so easy!
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