While in Bukittinggi I tried eating in a hidang (serve) style Padang restaurant called Simpang Raya. In this type of eatery, there is no need to order. Dishes of pre-cooked food just arrive on the table and you pay for any you consume.
This system is handy if you don’t know much of the local language or are not familiar with the names of dishes.
The downside is that it is not great from a food hygiene point of view as those dishes you don’t consume are just just presented to the next customer.
Still, by avoiding that dodgy looking salad I escaped without a dose of tummy trouble on this occasion, which I have suffered from on previous visits to Indonesia.
Sumatra is quite famous for its coffee, usually served thick and black. One type which has gained notoriety in recent years among coffee connoisseurs is luwak coffee, made from coffee beans which have been eaten and excreted by the cute and cuddly civet cat. Not sure who first had the idea to pick up civet poo, wash the semi digested coffee beans and make coffee out of them but it has proved to be quite lucrative. The journey through the innards of a civet is supposed to improve the flavour of the beans to the extent that a single cup of Kopi Luwak can set you back up to $90 in some places.
The cost used to be justified by the rarity factor. People had to search in the forest for the droppings of coffee consuming civets. Nowadays though, unscrupulous businessman have started to keep civets in captivity, often in cruel battery conditions, to produce a farmed version of luwak.
I tried a cup for a much more reasonable Rp66,000 (just $6 –though still a small fortune by Padang standards). It was OK but I’ve tasted better in Vietnam, where the local equivalent is sometimes called weasel coffee.
When I go on one of these overseas trips I usually try to bring back a few small items which are representative of the place as gifts for my family. Padang is not really a tourist destination and there is little by way of souvenirs. So this time I bought coffee (luwak and ordinary) and a couple of Minangkabau United t-shirts (in the style of Man. Utd).