For a taste of Indonesian cuisine, just head to Queens.
At the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar, held typically once a month, visitors can taste dozens of the Southeast Asian country’s most beloved dishes all under one roof.
The food of Indonesia, which is made up of more than 17,000 islands, is as diverse as the country’s landscape and population. Since its inception in January 2012, the bazaar has aimed to be a taste of home for the local Indonesian community, as well as an introduction to the complex cuisine for newbies.
“I started the Indonesian Food Bazaar to introduce our cuisine to people living in and visiting New York City,” says founder Felincia "Fefe" Anggono, who grew up in East Java, Indonesia, in the port city of Surabaya. “The Indonesian community in New York has supported the bazaar since our first event, but over the years people from all different cultures have attended and enjoyed the bazaar.”
Anggono, who moved to the States in 1998 and previously ran a pan-Asian restaurant on Long Island, first organized the bazaar at a community center in a Woodside church. Along with Anggono’s own catering company, Taste of Surabaya, the debut event featured about 10 vendors and attracted more than 300 attendees, most of whom were church members and neighborhood residents of Indonesian descent, Anggono says.
Word spread via social media that Anggono’s bazaar was a destination for Indonesian homestyle favorites like bakso (meatballs), nasi kuning (turmeric rice), gado-gado (salad with tofu, tempeh, egg and peanut sauce) and more, inspiring Anggono to solidify the bazaar as a monthly food fest.
“People kept messaging me on Facebook asking when the next event would be,” Anggono says. “I even heard from people who wanted to come from out of state, like as far away as Ohio, and bring their family and friends to the bazaar.”
In 2014, she moved the bazaar to a larger space, its current location at St. James Parish House in Elmhurst, where it has hosted as many as 20 vendors and brought in upward of 500 people, Anggono says.
“I haven’t found a lot of Indonesian restaurants in New York, so it’s great the bazaar has so much authentic and delicious food all in one spot,” says Jordan Ell, a Greenwich Village resident who started frequenting the bazaar more than three years ago.
Most of the vendors are passionate home cooks or caterers rather than restaurant chefs, and the bazaar provides an opportunity for them to celebrate the food of their region and bond with fellow Indonesian cuisine enthusiasts.
“It’s like meeting up with your big family once a month, so I’m always excited to participate,” says Andi Sutanto, a weekend warrior cook who runs the Mie Tek Tek booth, which specializes in nasi goreng and fried noodle tek tek — rice and noodle dishes that Sutanto devoured while growing up on Bangka Island.
“The bazaar really gives us a chance to dedicate ourselves to cooking these dishes, and then showcase them for people to enjoy,” Sutanto adds.
Jeanny Djunaidi is another dedicated bazaar vendor who travels from Philadelphia every month to serve bakso with noodles at her stall, Bakso Soup of Philly.
“It’s a homestyle dish and one of the most popular in Indonesia,” says Djunaidi, who grew up in Surabaya. “I’m proud to introduce bakso to people who never tried it, and every month I see new faces and a variety of customers at my booth.”
January’s edition was over the weekend, but, due to demand, New Yorkers can get a second helping when the bazaar returns on Jan. 26.
Since it’s been going strong for seven years now, expansion is on Anggono’s mind for the future.
“I’d like to find a space in Manhattan for a second monthly bazaar,” she says. “I also dream of opening a permanent Indonesian food court someday.”
Indonesian food primer
By those in the know, Indonesian fare is considered one of the most vibrant and flavor-forward cuisines in the world. One could spend years chasing down the signature dishes and still have more to taste, but for starters here are five key dishes to know:
- Beef rendang: Originating in the West Sumatra province, this is comfort food at its finest: caramelized beef stew with coconut milk and a pantry’s worth of spices.
- Bubur ayam: Similar to congee, this slow-cooked rice porridge is typically crowned with shredded chicken and veggies.
- Lontong mie: Popular in Surabaya, this features rice wrapped in a banana leaf that’s then boiled so it’s dense and can be sliced and topped with ingredients like bean sprouts, shrimp, garlic, soy sauce and celery.
- Nasi kuning: Also known as “yellow rice”, this fragrant dish is cooked with coconut milk and turmeric for color.
- Satay: One of the most well-known Indonesian dishes, its origins reportedly date back to 19th-century Java, with street vendors serving the skewers of smoke-kissed meat to Arab textile traders.
IF YOU GO
The next New York Indonesian Food Bazaar is Jan. 26 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. James Parish House | 8407 Broadway, Elmhurst | The event is free to enter, and food can be purchased a la carte from vendors (ranging from $2-$15) | facebook.com/IndonesiaFoodBazaar