Love through a small cup of coffee
Pontianak is capital city of West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. It is located in Borneo island—one of the biggest island in the world. If you come and visit Pontianak, and ask Pontianak people where the best place for hang-out and culinary… the answer is “coffee street”—it is the other cool name of Gajah Mada street, which is relating to local culture of drinking coffee in Pontianak city. “The culture of coffee in Pontianak was really massive.” A friend told me about his visit to Pontianak once upon a time.
When daytime, this area is CBD (central business district) as well as busy downtown or city centre. This area is full of parking lots in front of shops along the street. But, when night comes, the streetscape has totally changed in contrast. Many coffee shops (warkop) actively open before sunset until (almost) sunrise, especially in the weekend. The parking lots are replaced by moving counters / roadside stalls themed coffee with many chairs where people can sit comfortably and see beautiful stars in the sky. If you are fans of coffee, you are the right man in the right place.
Pontianak people, in general, like drinking coffee and spending time to socialize in outdoor while relaxing at the verge of road (unfortunately, Gajah Mada street does not have convenient pedestrian along the street so those moving counters / roadside stalls use this pedestrian as temporary business place, and fortunately, local people love so much this outdoor concept) and enjoying the atmosphere of the night and seeing the vehicles moving and passing. This activity is well known as “selembe”, in other word, it means “just relax, bro!—enjoy, please!”. Indeed, it is already an inherent culture in society, which is supported by night-time economy.
You can imagine what happening here: people usually drink a small cup of coffee for hours —can you believe that? For hours! and talking to their friends about everything from household issue, politic, economic, religion, local issue, from an exaggerated trivial matter, until the trivialized big problems. In local term, we call it “merampot”, “angin pukul angin”, “ngomong tak tentu rudu”… Often, this place also becomes meeting point to undertake business deal for million Rupiah transaction while enjoying cheap coffee.
Yeah, here we are, Filda and I usually have a date when we were girlfriend and boyfriend. We were dating and sitting together and drinking coffee for hours, moving on from one warkop to another warkop in every week. We talked about small thing to serious problem, we gave vent to each other, we grumbled to each other about our relationship progress, it was mutual bullshiting at the time. Through a small cup of coffee, our chemical romance was processing to unite our personality and understanding to create love, passion, chemistry and vision for better future—to make this world belong to both of us. Once again, it was bullshit as you read this story now. No matter what, but we fall in love and marry with love at the end.
Generally speaking about coffee, Pontianak has two famous coffee. First of all, the name is kopi pancong. This is actually a regular coffee served in small cup size—most deliciously presented by way of filtered dregs. Secondly is kopi pangku—the coffee is remained same, but drinking with a naughty girl, and it can only be found in a naughty warkop.
Some say that global coffee shop like Starbucks cannot survive and compete with local warkop(s) in Gajah Mada street because they have fanatic mass of people who drink coffee here hereditarily and the price is super cheap compared to Starbucks (only Rp. 3000 – 5000,- for a small cup of coffee and you can drink for hours while seeing beautiful stars in the sky for free).
Good news, trend of drinking coffee in Pontianak city has well developed since many hotels in Gajah Mada street launched new concept design of coffee shop. It was coffee on the street, now it has special venue on starred/luxury hotels, for instance, Sky Garden in Star Hotel, Terasky in Transera Hotel and Café in the lobby of Gajah Mada Hotel. With service class restaurant, hang-out and drink coffee can be enjoyed both on the rooftop of hotel while seeing the sights the city lights at night. Here, Filda and I have hidden spot that supports privacy to spend a romantic night at the city of Equator.
When we live abroad in Perth, Australia, Gajah Mada street is one of sweet memories that Filda remember about our home town. She often imagine herself and me traveling around Gajah Mada street by motorcycle, hang-out there, drinking coffee and enjoying the attractiveness of coffee street’s atmoshphere. She said, when we are coming back from Perth to Pontianak, first thing to do is going to Gajah Mada street for leisure. So do you, guys. First thing you must do when visiting Pontianak is going to this interesting place—you can start exploring from here before you find so much fun in the city.
We are food lovers
An important message from a friend at the office about the culinary and the benefits of knowing of best place to eat well.
“From now, before you get married, you must try until you highly satisfy—eating at various popular restaurant and café in Pontianak.” He said to me seriously.
“When you have friends or guests coming to Pontianak, they want to know about local food and drink. They will ask you what type of distinctive culinary in Pontianak.” Yes, I had got his idea. It is stupid when I am not be able to tell the outsider about local culinary in my own city.
In terms of urban planning, building and landscape are parts of physical landmark of the city, on the other hand, culinary is another urban identity in my opinion, especially in Indonesia where each of provinces has their own traditional food and drink. To be the best of my knowledge, i think it can be sold as a holiday package too. For this reason, this story is written to show you that we are a couple with culinary hobby. Wherever we go traveling, we are always interested in tasting another cuisine and culinary in every place we visit and stay.
Luckily, I have a girlfriend (then becoming my wife) that has good appetite and knowledge on culinary. She is also my master chef in the kitchen. Filda knows where recommended eating places in Pontianak city, from places that are really nice for eating to places that just sell the atmosphere. By the way, she always updates with new eating places opened in Pontianak as well.
In coffee street, the story is uncompleted without discussing about chinese food. Moreover, Filda was quite familiar with local chinese cuisine here, anyway, it is because she still has chinese blood from her father. For example, she can show me whether it is halal food or not. As your information, we are open minded muslim that respect to another religion and lifestyle choice.
“Have a look that! That food contains pork.” Filda said, when I saw a seller of chinese bakpao (a steamed bread filled with a type of cheese, mung bean or meat) on the road. “The local Chinese people (in Pontianak), when they eat meat, they cannot stay away from fish and pork, they also like vegetables, especially the small leaves. Additionally, chinese food seasoning must include fried onion in their food.”
In the heavyweight class, the food we recommend to the readers is mie tiaw Apollo, whose name is already famous in the city. Because of the fierce competition business, eventually seller of mie tiaw was divided into several clans, for example, mie tiau Apollo since 1968 “never moved” and mie tiaw Polo “moving from next”, even on the other side there is mie tiaw Marco Polo. As far as i am concerned, best time to eat this noodle is in the midnight or cool weather, which it is better served warmly—fresh from hot pan. They are located at the end of Gajah Mada street, close to Pontianak Catedral and generally open until late midnight. Our favaorite are mie tiaw with beef and egg—slurp! We can guarantee, after you try it, you cannot move on to another noodle.
In the lightweight class, our favorite snacks is chai kwe or choi pan (kind of pastel that steamed or fried) with lots of content choices such as chives, taro, beans, bamboo shoots and bengkoang. With a cute, petite and tiny shape, we can eat more than 10 chai kwe in one serving. The delicious chai kwe is located in Siam street (another part of Gajah Mada area). However, the most delicious chai kwe is located in Parsawal street. Parsawal’s chai kwe is softer than Siam in terms of texture, the thick and load. This place is not in the area of Gajah Mada, but Siantan (across Kapuas river). Filda first brought me here after our date at the Equator Monument.
“Sweety, how do you know about this place?” I asked her curiously.
“Once upon a time, Abiyuh brought me here.” Abiyuh is her cousin from her father’s family.
Besides chai kwe, there is also oukwe in Parsawal street—made from taro which tastes sweet, then shaved like noodle but shorter, then served with a sprinkling of fried onion, shrimp ebi and chili sauce. The taste then becomes spicy, savory—made us being addictive and ordered again. Every time we visited Parsawal street, we always ate with a combination of chai kwe and oukwe, not to mention aloe vera ice and red bean ice.
Truly, we realize there is a BIG difference between Filda and me in some way. I am, 100 per cent, not a seafood lover. Many people asked me, “Why don’t you eat fish?” I just said. “You can ask my mother. It is like a hereditary disease.” From my mother to my brothers, they do not eat fish. It is not because of allergic reaction to seafood, but it is only my parents did not familiarize their children with eating seafood (fish and friends—all kinds of animals that live in water and can be eaten). Until we grow up and become adult, we all are anti-seafood.
Instead, Filda is seafood lover. In fact, culinary in Pontianak is basically based on seafood (fish, shrimp, crab, squid… especially, she most likes eating crab). Usually, I accompanied Filda eating crab in Abang Kepiting—seafood restaurant located near Aston Hotel and Transera Hotel. According to Filda, it is the most affordable seafood restaurant in Pontianak city compared to similar places. I liked seeing the way she ate crab. That was big crab, which was smoked and coated with spice. She used iron tongs to break the shell of the crab—Krek! Krek!—and she enjoyed its contents while sipping it. It looked like—hmm, nyammi, but i still did not like it.
Despite foods above, there are still many chinese cuisine in Gajah Mada street, but mostly they are delivered as “food street” rather than sold in restaurant and cafe, for instance, ko kwe, kwe kia theng, kwe cap, fish and chicken porridge, kembang tahu, lek tau suan, etc.
In other part of Pontianak city, which it is only on month of Ramadhan, there is sotong pangkong, which is unique baked squid. It pounded until flattened so soft and served with a variety of chili sauce. The price depends on the size of the squid. You can find it on Merdeka street (not far from Gajah Mada street). Anyway, if she ate seafood enjoyably, i was just a spectator. “Hmm .. it is delicious, honey!” She said, trying to seduce me. “Try it .. just little one!”
It is true what the elderly people said long time ago, “Get his love .. through the stomach.” From the food, down to the heart, fall in love.