Yesterday I met up with Josie and Justin from Oh My Food Coma! to interview them for my project on Asian American food bloggers. This is not a food blog, so I won’t bore you with too many details of our lunch at the Indonesian food court in West Covina (and I’m sure Josie and Justin will write about it soon). Though the food itself was good, in the end I was more interested in the food court itself and how the dishes that we ordered came to be.
The Indonesian population in the Los Angeles area is very small, and there is no ethnic enclave. According to the 2000 US Census, 0.3 percent (11,838 persons) of the population of Los Angeles County, and 1.1 percent (389 persons) of the population of the city of West Covina was born in Indonesia. Many Indonesians in the US are ethnic Chinese fleeing persecution in Indonesia (Cho 2011).
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the Indonesian food court we visited was located in Hong Kong Plaza, and that the sign for the food court is Indonesian/English on one side and Chinese on the other. (The menus at the restaurants, however, were in Indonesian and English only.) The fact that many of the restaurants served pork and beef was a clue that the restaurateurs were neither Muslims (the vast majority of the Indonesian population) nor Hindus.
Josie is a 1.5 generation Indonesian American and helped us pick out some good dishes to try. Interestingly, many of the dishes she chose were clearly of Chinese heritage.
We shared a bag of pangsit goreng, fried wontons stuffed with pork served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. They reminded me of American Chinese fried wontons, except much larger and softer in texture.
Josie had Bakmi Parahyangan’s signature bakmi, egg noodles topped with char siu, chicken, and bok choy. Bakmi was introduced to Indonesia by the Chinese and the word itself apparently comes from Hokkien bah-mī (肉麵).
I had the lontong cap go meh from Kedai Nikmat. Cap go meh is from Hokkien Cha̍p-gō-mê (十五暝), referring to the Lantern Festival. Do the lontong (rice cakes) have any connection to the tangyuan (glutinous rice dumplings) traditionally served during the Lantern Festival in China?
I wonder if Indonesians think of dishes like pangsit goreng, bakmi, and lontong cap go meh to be “authentic” Indonesian foods, considering their clear Chinese origins. Building off of the discussion on food and authenticity that I started on Tuesday’s post about Westernized Chinese food, I also wonder if the concept of authenticity is useful at all in talking about food, since there is so much mixing and creativity in just about every dish and every culture.
Cho, Jennifer. 2011. “Indonesian Americans” in Multicultural America: An Encyclopedia of the Newest Americans. Ed. Ronald Bayor. Phoenix: Greenwood Press.