Pondok Selera- Haymarket

Introducing to you, our dining-room!

In Cantonese, there is a slang where people refer to their ‘local’ eating/drinking hole as their fan-tong; roughly translated it means ‘dining room’, as in ‘I’m here so often it’s a part of my home’. And Pondok Selera is just that for us, an extension of our kitchen!

I’ll go right back to the beginning of this story, for it to hold any gravitas ……. Back in the day (probs 4 years ago) we used to go to the Dixon House food court, you know that dingy basement food court where you think nothing good could ever come from there, but it turns-out to be this awesome food court with cheap and cheery food? I can’t recall the exact occasion, but one day we must have decided to try the lonely Indo place, tucked all the way at the far right hand corner. And I’m not sure why I chose the Nasi Kuning that first time (as it’s not the most common Indonesian dish), but since that day probably 95% of the time when we have Asian take-out I order the Nasi Kuning (we grab take-out perhaps once every two weeks? So you can say I’ve had a fair few of these).

Then around 18 months ago, we started to find them closed on occasion, and my wife would give me a call to let me know, and then we’d have to decide on a secondary inferior dining plan. Boo! But then it would be open the next time we go back, and then it eventually closed down for good. *Sad look*. Metal shutter permanently pulled closed (for 3 months we used to go back to check if they’d ever re-opened), so my usual take-out dish was gone along with the chef! *Holds head in hands*.

Now fast forward 14 months, I’m just surfing the web checking out what’s out there and I noticed that Eating World had an Indo take-away place. And when we eventually get around to trying it, to our great surprise! It was the same guys from Dixon Food court! The Indo restaurant from the far right hand corner (all these years we had never taken in the shop’s name).

My wife was like, “The packaging is the same! (Large Styrofoam box); the woman looks familiar!; and they even place the prawn crackers in the sandwich bags! It has to be the same guys!”

And after bringing home the take-away boxes and flipping open the lids, yeah-baby! They’re definitely the same, so either the guys from Dixon house took-over Pondok Selera, or they took over an empty space and re-opened their store (and it was always called Pondok Selera? *Shrug*). But either way, we were re-united with our Fan-tong!  

If you’re not familiar with our go-to dish (Nasi Kuning), let me describe it to you. It’s quite similar to the more well-known dish, Nasi Lemak, but the main difference is that instead of being served with coconut rice (rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves), it’s served with yellow rice (cooked in coconut milk and turmeric); and instead of usually being served with Beef Rendang, the Kuning is always served with only one single chicken drumstick. Perhaps the reason why this dish isn’t on more Indonesian menus, is the fact that culturally this dish is only served during special events; which is great for us, as it means that every fortnight’s Asian take-out is a special event!

But aside from the main differences, this is what you can expect from Pondok Selera’s Nasi Kuning: The first thing you’ll notice is your yellow rice sitting in a heap in the middle of your box/plate like a pile of ‘Gold’, and in the four corners/quadrants  of your box you have your sides all grouped separately ready for you to mix together. In the Northeast quadrant, you’ll find all the good stuff i.e. your chicken drumstick  which is rubbed in a salty spicy rub and deep fried, without any batter just dropped naked into a vat of oil, so the outer meat is fried to a crisp (Ayam Goreng- moderately spicy); then it’s your fried caramelised potato cubes (Sambal Goreng- mild spicy);  then your fried crispy anchovies and sweetened peanuts (Teri Kacang- not spicy); and the last element in this quadrant is this white sweet cluster thingy, which I’ve just Googled and it turns out to be a fried relish of grated coconut and spices (Serundeng- not spicy).

In the Southeast corner/quadrant is your fried spicy egg (can be a peeled whole hardboiled egg, which has been dropped into a deep fryer for several seconds so the outside is all blistered; or sometimes it’s an egg omelette. Either whole or omeletted, the egg is mild spicy). In the Southwest corner/quadrant  is a dollop of Sambal (quite spicy chilli sauce). And in the fourth and final corner/quadrant, is your fresh veg (this time it was a couple slices of cucumber and a huge piece of lettuce- needless to say, not spicy). And in a sandwich bag (if you’re getting take-away) you’re provided with like 5 prawn crackers.

And before you tuck-in, you bring everything in from your four quadrants and mix it all together with your yellow rice. I think the reason why everything is separate at first, is that perhaps not everyone’s preference is to mix everything in? So you can choose what you want to eat separately and what you want incorporated, and you can also elect how spicy you want your dish to be, by mixing a bit or all of the Sambal. Or perhaps having the elements separate at first, ensures that all the crispy elements remain crispy? *Shrug*.

And the way I eat it…..You know how some people love leaving the best parts of your meal to the last? I remember my sister used to be like that, if we each had a chicken drumstick, she’d always leave hers till last. But with me and my Nasi Kuning, I’m always hitting the chicken drumstick first (as it’s best eaten hot, when the crispy meat is still crispy); and after I’ve devoured the protein, then I mix everything together and gradually make my way through all of it. And you get a lot of food to work through (as you can already tell from my description of each element) but you don’t just get a pinch of everything, but you get a generous amount of everything. So it’s really good value for money ($12.50), so every-time I’m full and contented from the meal!

 Unfortunately I can’t vouch for anything else on the Pondok Selera menu (they have many many more menu options, and they also have pre-cooked dishes you can choose from), as I’m not exaggerating here but every time we just order 2 boxes of the Nasi Kuning to go! I wonder if they recognise us by now?

So if you’ve never tried a Nasi Kuning before, get on down to Pondok Selera and check it out! It’s such a fun dish with all the different elements. And just a word of warning, from an experienced Kuning connoisseur, don’t  be like me and forget that the Sambal which you decided not to mix  into your meal (as you don’t want it too hot) is still sitting in one of the corners. As inevitably for me at the end of each meal, I’m chasing around every last yellow rice grain and peanut, and I always end up scooping up the rest of the Sambal. So at the end of each Kuning experience, my mouth is on fire as I had just eaten straight Sambal with 2 grains of rice as accompaniment. It happens every-time. Haaha.

Our final verdict for Pondok Selera (our Dining room) is 4.5 stars (3 from 3 for food (for the Nasi Kuning at least, not sure how the rest of the menu is like); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service; 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere, as it’s a Chinatown food court after all; and 1 from 1 for Value for money, a very satisfying meal for an affordable amount).

We’ll keep eating there each fortnight, and if you’re trying to randomly bump into us, finding us at Eating World food court is your best bet on a Friday night.

Pondok Selera- Friday 18 January (4.5 Stars)

PH: (02) 9281 9313

Shop 203, Harbour Plaza (i.e. Eating World), 25-29 Dixon Street, Haymarket NSW.

Mon-Sun 11am – 9.30pm

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