Jun 2009

Ira's Gourmet – Pasadena

My colleague Ray is one lucky bastard. While I’m shoveling leftovers for lunch every day, he digs into a home cooked Indonesian lunchbox prepared and delivered by Ira’s Gourmet, a Pasadena-based caterer specializing in Indonesian fare. Even though Ray has been calling America home for the past ten years, he says that these daily feasts help to keep his homesickness at bay.

After weeks of smelling the sweet Indo aromas wafting from my colleague’s desk, I felt compelled to place an order for my very own lunchbox. When Ray informed Ira that I might be writing up her Indo meals-on-wheels service on gas•tron•o•my, she prepared a special lunchbox for me featuring a wide array of her offerings.

Being introduced to Indonesian cuisine by a home cook was a real thrill, especially since I knew that every item was prepared fresh and with care. The first offering that caught my eye was the telur balado (left), which consisted of a hard-boiled egg topped with a chili chutney. Since hard-boiled eggs and I usually meet in savory settings, I was taken aback by how sweet this dish was. I could’ve easily eaten several more.

In the compartment next to the telur balado was rendang daging (right)—beef simmered in coconut milk. The rendang, a “dry” beef curry, was served with Jasmine rice.  With its deep lemongrass profile and aromatic collection of spices, the tender beef rendang tasted vaguely familiar.

The most visually arresting item in the lunchbox was the tumpeng, cone-shaped rice surrounded by assorted Indonesian dishes. The tumpeng dates back to ancient Indonesian traditions that revered mountains “as the abode of ancestors and gods.” The cone-shaped rice is meant to mimic the holy mountain.

The “mountain” of nasi kuning, or yellow turmeric rice, was surrounded by sambal terasi (spicy jalapeno and shrimp paste relish), bacem tahu (fried tofu), bacem tempe (fried tempeh), and ayam goreng bumbu (Indonesian fried chicken). The smattering of scrambled egg ribbons, deep-fried tempeh bits, and roasted peanuts at the base of the mountain were my favorite components because they jazzed up everything they were paired with.

Another fantastic treat was the lemper ayam, which was comprised of glutinous rice stuffed with shredded chicken and wrapped in banana leaf.

Ira also included two soups for me to sample: chayote and young jack fruit  (left) and another with leafy kale greens. Both contained coconut milk and were sweeter than expected. With minimal spiciness at play, Indonesian soups are easy on the palate.

My Indonesian banquet concluded with a small dish of es buah, a sweet dessert soup with coconut milk and balls of watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe.

Man, Ray is beyond spoiled eating this goodness everyday.

Ira’s hand-delivered lunchboxes, which usually include three different Indonesian delights, are priced at $8.50. Orders can be placed via email ([email protected]) or by phone (626-345-9931, 805-708-9888).

Click below for a complete list of Ira’s Indonesian specialties.


NASI UDUK – Coconut rice with fried beef or fried chicken, tofu, tempeh, sambal (chili sauce) and vegetables

NASI KUNING – Fragrant tumeric rice with fried chicken, tofu, tempeh, fried egg, sambal (chili sauce) and vegetables

NASI PADANG – Combination of beef rendang (spicy beef goulash and coconut milk), egg in balado sauce (spicy sauce), vegetables and fried potato and rice

NASI AYAM BAKAR BUMBU RUJAK & SAYUR ASAM- Grilled chicken in gravy coconut sauce served with tamarind vegetable soup and rice

NASI AYAM GORENG KECAP – Fried chicken in sweet soy sauce served with rice

NASI GUDEG – Chicken, young jack fruit, tofu and boiled egg in coconut gravy

NASI HAINAN – Steamed chicken slices served with Hainan rice and garlic-ginger lime sauce

NASI AYAM GORENG & SAYUR LODEH – Seasoned fried chicken served with rice and vegetable coconut soup


SOTO BETAWI – Beef in coconut cream soup + fresh cut tomato, boiled tomato and green onion

GULAI KAMBING – Lamb in curry coconut cream soup served with cucumber salad

SOTO AYAM – Chicken soup with sliced lime and crackers

SOP BUNTUT – Oxtail soup with carrots & green onion

RAWON – Indonesian beef brown soup with string bean served with salted egg

LONTONG SAYUR + RENDANG – Compressed rice served in vegetable coconut soup topped with rendang beef + chili egg and crackers

BISTIK JAWA – Beefsteak served with delicious sweet soy sauce gravy

AYAM WOKU – Chicken in spicy sauce


BIHUN GORENG – Pan-fried vermicelli with diced chicken, shrimp, vegetables and egg

MIE GORENG – Pan-fried Egg noodles with diced chicken, shrimp, vegetables and egg

MIE AYAM JAMUR & BAKSO – Egg noodle soup with chicken + mushroom in gravy sauce, vegetable and beef meatballs

MIE KANGKUNG – Egg noodles soup with chicken + mushroom in gravy sauce, topped with Oncoy vegetables

BAKWAN MALANG – Chicken soup with beef ball, fired tofu, fried wonton in rice noodle, egg noodle

SAMBEL GORENG ATI & AMPELA – Chicken liver + gizzards + fried potato dices in spicy chilly coconut gravy

SIOMAY BANDUNG – Steamed fish cake with tofu, potato, cabbage and egg served with peanut sauce

BATAGOR – Fried tofu filled with fish cake topped with peanut sauce

GADO-GADO – Assorted steamed vegetables in peanut sauce, with tofu, potato cubes, boiled egg and tapioca crackers

KETROPAK – Compressed rice, topped with vermicelli, tofu, bean sprout, crackers with peanut dressing

TAHU CAMPUR – Stir fried egg with tofu, cucumber, bean sprout in peanut sauce

LUMPIA SEMARANG – Fried egg roll with chicken, shrimp, bamboo shoots and tofu filling

LEMPER – Sticky rice filled with chicken in coconut gravy

MARTABAK – Indonesian pan cake filled with peanut and chocolate or cheese topped with sweetened condensed milk

PANGSIT GORENG – Fried wonton with minced chicken + shrimp filling

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26 thoughts on “Ira's Gourmet – Pasadena

  1. I know nothing about Indonesian food! And I certainly wouldn’t have guessed a place called “Ira’s Gourmet” specialized in it!

  2. What what what? Hand-delivered Indonesian lunches?? What have I and my Indonesian compatriots been missing out on?! I’m gonna tell them all stat, this beats Chandler’s any day. Thanks for letting us know about this! (Let me know when Vern places an order — maybe I’ll save Ira some driving time 😛 )

  3. This sounds delicious! I do have to say though, that your leftovers are probably better than most people’s leftovers. =)

  4. Reason #2,467,897,890.02 why I miss Pasadena. Honestly. My turkey sandwich seems very, very lame right now.

    I’m going to learn to make rice balls, though. Because they look really tasty and convenient. Right after I get that book you mentioned and master dumplings.

  5. Sure beats my lame turkey sandwiches. Suddenly my lunch today seems very very sad! 🙁

    That lemper ayam looks crazy good!

  6. That looks amazing.
    Indonesian cuisine was a breakthrough for me. I grew up in the Southern US (not known for adventurous eating) and was studying in England (same) when I happened upon an Indonesian restaurant for which I had a coupon. Everything I put in my mouth hit several taste and texture notes: beef with coconut! squid with chili chutney! It was a revelation. I never cooked the same way again.
    I’m eyeing that egg and that coconutty beef, and I can taste that meal all over again. Funny when food works that way.

  7. Thank you for the compliments.
    In regards of delivery fee:
    Free delivery for up to 5 miles radius in Pasadena area.
    Outside Pasadena: there is a minimum of 4 orders, delivery charge will be added and calculated based on quantity of orders. Please call me (626) 345-9931/(805) 708-9888 or email me at [email protected] for more detailed information. I’ll be happy to serve you with my “cooking art with heart” gourmet.
    You have to taste it to believe it …:)

  8. May I say so that Indonesian food certainly is one of the hidden gems of world cuisines, and not saying that only because I’m an Indo myself =) Great blog…

  9. that’s one thing missing in chitown, indo food! i don’t think it exist anymore, since the last one i knew burned down. 🙁

  10. I can’t believe your achievement, Ira…!!

    This is really worth a big applause.
    Any plan to open a branch in Sydney?

    All the best,
    Patricia (remember me?)

  11. Anybody has tried Warung Pojok – Indonesian food express in Garden Grove?

  12. Not many people in the world realize that Indonesian cuisines are among the best in the world. It’s actually not surprising because Indonesian islands have been known for centuries as the land of spices and herbs. Too bad, not many Indonesians open restaurants outside the country making them less known compared to Thai foods for example. The best Indonesian restaurants outside Indonesia are located in the Netherlands where the old Dutch who identified its deliciousness since centuries ago cannot live far from it.

  13. Cathy, it happened while I looked for a recipe of Vietnamese deep fried tofu with chili and lemongrass. I browsed through more your blog. Since there are no Indonesian restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada, I cook my own food and keep as authentic as I can. I planted some herbs that I can find at Asian markets as well.

    Btw, I adore Vietnames food too 🙂

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