Vegan Indonesian Food from Nonya
I grew up eating Indonesian food since I was a little girl. My father is Dutch, and his father - my grandfather - was actually born in Indonesia. Like many Dutch people our family had a strong connection to Indonesia. Although I've never been there, I know how to cook some Indonesian food. My father even makes his own Sambal, Indonesian hot sauce.
Since I've eaten it so long, I have a strong affinity for this food. Since it's not terribly popular in North America, I think the closest thing (taste-wise) to Indonesian is Thai food. Although Indonesian tends to be a bit more hearty, less of those light lemongrass flavours and more savoury.
Nonya is an Indonesian restaurant in the Mile End of Montreal. When I spoke with the chef, he's actually from Indonesia and has been running this restaurant for 14 years. Unlike many restaurants, he makes all the sauces for the food himself from scratch - including his own Sambal. This impressed me greatly - they don't cut any corners!
For those non-vegetarians, you can get a typical Rijstafel (Rice Table) which is a set tasting menu where you can try a bit of everything. For vegans, you can get a table d'hôte menu that's just as good - when I finished eating I felt like I was stuffed to the gills.
The meal started out with a soup. In my case I got a squash soup. It was flavourful but I did add some sambal to it to give it a bit more kick.
After the soup, I got my favourite thing on the menu - Gado Gado salad. This is a very traditional Indonesian salad. It's a cold salad, with various vegetables including string beans and bean sprouts and then covered in a delicious peanut sauce.
Hands down the Gado Gado was my favourite thing on the menu. Traditionally it's also served with an egg, but because I'm vegan I asked for the egg to be left off. I didn't feel as though it was missing anything. The portion size was also quite large for a starter.
Next I got the Javanese Vegan selection - a set tasting menu of vegan dishes. This included a yellow curry tofu, shredded coconut dish, Rica Rica eggplant, jackfruit dish, fried cassava, and tempeh satay.
In this selection, I had a hard time playing favourites. I absolutely adored the jackfruit dish, which is a combination of flavours you don't often get to try. The eggplant was also fantastic, perfectly cooked and lightly spicy. I loved the yellow curry tofu. The pickled vegetables I saved for last to clean my palate.
They also gave me some coconut rice wrapped in a banana leaf. I took this and mixed in a little Sambal for extra spice. Mwah!
Finally there was the Tempeh Satay and the Fried Cassava. For the Satay, I was a little surprised that this also wasn't served with a peanut sauce as it normally would be. But by this point I was full the the point of bursting so I didn't ask! The Fried Cassava was great, it has a pleasant flavour and was also a little salty (in a good way). Very savoury.
By this point, even though I felt like I was dying (Monty Python and the Meaning of Life-style) I still had a dessert that was included with my meal.
The dessert was a sweet sticky black rice in coconut milk. It was very nice, I enjoyed the black rice - you often see sticky rice being made with white rice so it's a good change to have it with black rice.
Somehow I managed to finish the whole meal, though I thought I was going to die from the quantity. I couldn't stop myself since it was all so good!
The service at Nonya was great, the staff friendly and ready to answer any questions we might have. If you ever are planning to go out for Indonesian, though, be prepared to take some time to eat. You can't do the food justice if you try to eat too quickly. It takes time to go through all the courses and savour all the food. The pacing felt really good to me but in the end we had spent about 3 hours in the restaurant. Go with friends! With good conversation it felt totally natural and it was a great evening out.
I highly recommend this place for anyone who wants to eat Indonesian food. I've been there several times now and every time I go I tell myself I've got to go there more often!