Friday 7 June 2013

Minang Nasi Padang (Indonesian Restaurant)

Pelham St And Swanston St, Carlton,VIC 3053

Minang Nasi Padang on Urbanspoon
This is a tiny Indonesian cafe that serves Nasi Padang, which is basically rice and a variety of Indonesian dishes from the bain-marie. This is the traditional way for serving nasi padang (which will be discussed in detail in the cultural moment section). However, Minang's offerings are relatively humble in that there's usually only about 8 - 10 choices of dishes whereas some places in Southeast Asia can have up to 25 choices. Not surprising as it's likely more popular in that region than in Melbourne. This restaurant started operations on Swanston Street (across from Nelayan, which was their main competitor) but never attracted much of a crowd. This seems to have changed since they moved to their current location, even though they now have Norsiah's Kitchen as their competitor around the corner. Admittedly, Norsiah serves quite a different style of food to Nelayan, which was more similar to Minang's - perhaps, that's why they have both successfully carved out their own territory and clientale.

The Place
This place is tiny and really squishy. It's an eat and run space or many choose the takeaway option. It's also not particularly comfortable here and other than keeping the place clean, there's not much further effort in maintaining an atmosphere for diners. Sometimes, small groups of students would dine here and have a chat but most people just leave as quickly as they come.

Things to do Nearby: This is very close to Lygon Street.

The Food
The food here is relatively yummy depending on what you choose. One thing I have to say. The food is authentic and it's what you would expect from good nasi padang cafes. However, that doesn't mean that the dishes would suit everyone. They always rotate their dishes unlike some of the other places that serve food from the bainmarie in the CBD. There's always variety and some days, you might find there are a number of dishes you want to try while other days, you might not be so sure.

The meals are usually $6.50 for three choices from the bainmarie on top of rice. It's pretty simple and basic. Yes, the serves are not big but it's $6.50. Very few places charge that sort of price.
On this day - none of the vegetables appealed to me
They will always have a range of curries, proteins, stirfry vegetables, something deep dried, and nuts! I love their roasted peanuts.

The Service
The service is unfailingly friendly and basic. They serve you food from the bain-marie, you pay and that's it. However, it is always very pleasing as they are always very friendly, and happy to explain what the dishes are. Also, given the limited seating, they are very good at clearing up very quickly after diners have left, so it's usually pretty clean.

If I am looking for a quick meal by myself, this is the perfect place. The servings are usually a bit small  but enough if I am not looking for too heavy a meal in the middle of the day.
Cultural Moment
Nasi Padang refers to the West Sumatran Indonesian cuisine. In fact, Padang is the capital of West Sumatra. This traces to the cuisine of the Minangkabau people of the region, influenced by Indian and Middle Eastern elements. Interestingly, even though they have come under Dutch administration for a number of years, this does not seem to have had a huge impact on their cuisine.

In terms of the food itself, there's quite a bit of coconut milk. Stur fries, and deep fried dishes are common. One of my impressions of this cuisine is that a lot of the dishes come in hues of orange, yellow and red - representing chillies and spices like tumeric, but also ginger and galangal.

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