Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gokar Kencana--Ayam Goreng-Bakar--Surabaya

Bantam chickens are a breed of chicken that originated in West Java.  A smaller breed of chicken, they are, according to Wikipedia, a popular breed for suburban homes in large part due to their decreased need for space.  That such a chicken should originate in Java is fitting as it is one of the world's most densely populated islands.  Not quite one third the size of California, Java has almost 4 times the number of people as California, just over 136,000,000.  Good luck getting lost on Java; travel half a mile from any spot and it seems there is another cluster of homes.

While tempe is probably the most readily available source of protein on Java as it is cheap enough for everyone except perhaps the most abject poor, chicken is the most common meat of the Javanese diet.  Ayam goreng, sate ayam, soto ayam, and ayam panggang or ayam bakar can be found on just about any street.  Go hiking to get away from the masses and you'll probably find a hawker who has carried his grill and chicken up the mountainside to cater to hungry hikers.  A cold beer is a rare find, but a piece of freshly cooked chicken is never more than a few minutes from wherever you might be.

In Surabaya this summer, Tjing and I enjoyed a lunch at Gokar Kencana, a family restaurant specializing in fried and grilled  chicken. Anyone familiar with Indonesians fondness for acronyms might suss out the restaurant's focus (ayam GOreng) and (ayam baKAR).  In addition to chicken, the restaurant also serves fried and grilled gurame.

The restaurant is located in a suburb near several of Surabaya's universities, Universitas Airlangga, ITS (Institute Technology Surabaya), and Universitas Muhammadiyah Surabaya.  A spacious patio covered by an arching roof, the restaurant would seem to be a great place to grab a meal before or after classes.  It's much more upscale than the typical warung or rumah makan, but the prices seemed very reasonable at around 1500 rp for a serving of a quarter of a chicken with rice.

The fried chicken is not the KFC style with a crisp crust that absorbs grease, but the Indonesian style of chicken that is first simmered in coconut water with a mix of spices before being fried.  This results in a flavorful piece of chicken that is moist but thoroughly cooked without being greasy.  The grilled chicken includes some honey in the mixture that it is basted with while being grilled.  It is grilled on a custom made grill that uses briquettes rather than the lump charcoal that is more commonly used in Indonesia.  Both the fried chicken and the grilled were extremely tasty, as was the fried gurame.  Although I enjoyed all the dishes, I preferred the grilled chicken and its accompanying sambal.

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