Our culinary columnist and the street food chef Will Meyrick is hotfooting around the country and tracking down the best street food there is. Still in the cultural capital of Java, Yogyakarta, Will is looking for the kind of street food that keeps you coming back for more.
Will Meyrick's culinary journey: A small 'warung' with big flavors
Trying to decide which warung (food stall) serves up Yogyakarta’s best ayam goreng (fried chicken) is quite a big call. The Javanese know their fried chicken. This isn’t amateur hour. The stakes are high and everyone has their favorite.
My money’s on Mbah Cemplung. This warung has one signature dish and it’s the real deal.
The secret? Well, I think there’s two.
The first is the young free range chickens they use. Ethically produced without all the bells and whistles of organic certification, the birds are raised using traditional no-cage production techniques in kampung (small villages).
Small in size, they have darker meat than a commercial broiler chicken. I use some wonderful kampung duck in my Bali restaurant, Mama San, and I can tell you that it’s really the way to go. The Bebek Betutu just wouldn’t be the same without it. They might not be the biggest, most impressive looking things, but the flavor just can’t be beaten.
The young kampung chickens are marinated in a zingy spice paste for an entire day before being slow braised over wood for a couple of hours. The natural, wood fired method creates a gentle but steady heat, perfect for allowing the flavors to develop and the meat to become so tender it almost starts to fall apart.
And there’s where the other secret comes in. The chicken is twice-cooked. That’s the key.
After braising in a spicy stock for a couple of hours, the chicken pieces are allowed to cool completely before being deep fried to give the skin that tell-tale deep golden color.
The result: the kind of fried chicken you dream about. A side of hot-as-hell sambal (spicy sauce), a generous handful of fresh lemon basil leaves and some crunchy cucumbers and you have a dish to remember - for all the right reasons
Where to find Mbah Cemplung Warung:
Head to Bantul Street and passthrough Kasongan gate. Keep going west until you reach a bridge, next to the Al-Aziz mosque. Turn right, heading north. The stall is right after the green monument. It is located on the lefthand side of the road.
Think you’ve got a better tip for ayam goreng in Yogyakarta? Chef Will Meyrick wants to hear it. (And no, we can’t promise that he won’t turn up next to you the next time you’re there tucking into it.)