My only waitressing experience was in the summer of 2005, right before starting my senior year of high school in Budapest, Hungary. A friend of my Dad owned an Indonesian restaurant and needed English speaking servers as her customers were usually international. My resourceful father knew he had 2 teenagers at home with “nothing” to do all summer so he volunteered us. Thanks for stealing my summer Dad.
Actually, overall it was a fun experience. Nusantara was small and fancy with 2 hilarious Indonesian chefs who we loved to tease. Our first night, however, my sister Meagan and I were petrified. We were still learning the menu, Indonesian cuisine, waitressing 101 and our chefs’ accents so when a party of 15 decided to stop by at closing time for a 3 hour meal, we exchanged fearful, wide eyed glances. Then we got to work. I don’t remember how successful we were, I just remember practically drooling over every plate I was forced to place in front of someone other than myself. Necessity is probably the best way to learn and I made mental notes of all the dishes I needed to try before the summer was up.
I remember that summer being one of nasi goreng, fried ice cream, caramelized bananas topped with sharp white cheddar and teaching our chefs to play UNO when the bosses were out. Also a summer of limited tips, but that is neither here nor there. (The Malaysian ambassador’s party of 8 tipped exactly 0.00 HUF).
Since that summer I hadn’t had much Indonesian/Malaysian food at all until our recent move to Seattle. Across the street and down about a block from our apartment is Kedai Makan, which has quickly become a weekly staple. I was so excited to see some familiar dishes on their menu. They are basically a food stand, inside a teeny tiny storefront kitchen. You order and pickup at the window as the spices waft around you, enticing you to keep adding to your order. Their menu is fairly vegetarian friendly and we always get the same few things: 2 orders of crispy and spicy Roti Cani ( you just don’t share this stuff), Tauhu Sumbat, Nasi Goreng and sometimes roasted peanuts which I sprinkle over the fried rice. The roti has an exceptionally satisfying crisp and is addictive when dipped into its accompanying bowl of dhal curry. The deep, mature spice of the fried rice gets rich and creamy with a runny egg yolk and when combined with the bright, fresh pops of cucumber, sprouts and fresh cilantro it becomes a balanced, savory, moan inducing dinner.
I love bringing our takeout boxes next door to Montana to get a potently gingerful Moscow Mule during happy hour. Everyone always eyes our food with lustful eyes as we pick out a cozy corner of the dive bar to dig in. That is all I want out of life, for people to be constantly jealous of what I’m eating. Follow Kedai Makan on Twitter and if you are lucky enough to visit me in Seattle, I’ll take you.