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@example.com) 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