Lara Jonggrang.

While we were in Jakarta we went to one really cool restaurant in a 200-year-old house that was designed to look like an ancient temple.

The name and inspiration for the restaurant came from the famous Indonesian legend about an ancient princess named Lara Djonggrang who was a beauty with a quick tongue. A prince named Bandung Bondowoso for some unbeknown reason killed her father and then fell madly in love with Lara. Of course she didn’t want to marry him, so she told him that the only way she would marry him is if he built 1,000 temples and dedicated them to her… overnight.

Knowing this was impossible, Bandung enlisted the help of demons. Lara, watching the progress nearby, became worried when they were nearly completion of the 999th temple and asked her maids to start pounding rice in the yard. The pounding woke the roosters who started crowing and made the roosters think it was dawn so they quickly fled before finishing the last temple.
Bandung was so upset he couldn’t marry the princess that he turned her into stone so she couldn’t fall in love with anyone else. Lara’s loyal maids prayed for her and God heard their cries and sent and angel to take her to heaven.
The house was packed full of historical objects intended to take you on a tour of the archipelago’s history.. and the menu did a similar thing. The two-inch, giant book was divided up by the various cuisines native to Indonesia’s6,000 islands… we ordered a bunch of things and everything was delicious as well as beautifully presented.
Most of the dishes were big rice based platters, with lots of things to add and mix together. There were also a lot of kebabs. One of my favorite things was an Indonesian dessert called Bijak Salak (pictured top right), which is sweet potato balls floating in sweet palm sugar syrup and coconut milk. I thought it sort of looked liked yolks floating in milk, but it’s made to look like the seed of the salak fruit–the salak fruit by the way is fruit from a short palm native to Indonesia. It was delicious and I need to learn how to make it!

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