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The Find: An Indonesian banquet, swathed in banana leaf

May 13, 2009 |  1:54 pm


The nasi bungkus at Java Spice is a magnificent Indonesian meal, a picnic banquet swathed in fresh-cut banana leaf that looks something like a pregnant shoe box.

Inside are generous chunks of coconut-infused chicken,smoldering chile-laced beef rendang, brightly spiced jackfruit curry, chunky fish cake, tofu nuggets and a blazing scarlet sambal-topped egg. You can amplify the gentle heat with dabs of the volcano-hot fresh green sambal that’s tucked into one corner. Amazingly, the rice plateau underneath it all soaks up the luscious juices in a way that allows the flavors of each item to remain distinct.

Java Spice serves nasi bungkus only on Saturdays and Sundays, when the modest cafe -- a modern storefront in a typical sun-baked Rowland Heights mall -- can seem like some sort of reunion party. People greet one another with hugs. The happy chatter of multigenerational families fills the place and the occasional curious toddler will roam the room to check out other families. Read more here.


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Photo: Jamie Rector / For The Times