Bowld’s Beginner’s Guide to Indonesian Food in Los Angeles

Brian Moeljadi reveals his go-to spots for nasi goreng and fried chicken

Some of you may have already heard of Bowld, an Indonesian-inspired rice bowl delivery service brought to you by co-founders Brian Moeljadi and CJ Lee. Recipes originate from Moeljadi’s mom, a native of Sumatra, and are further developed by Bestia line cook Johnny Cirelle in the test kitchen. Here you’ll find things like nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice) with housemade acar pickles, short rib beef rendang, or salt-cured Filipino pork with sesame spinach. In terms of the Indonesian food scence, Moeljadi has his finger on the pulse, so we decided to hit him up for his recommendations on where to go and what to order. Safe to say these are his second options; we can’t all fit in his mom’s kitchen, after all.

1. Nasi Goreng
Java Spice
1743 Fullerton Rd., Rowland Heights

“Nasi goreng (fried rice) is a fundamental mainstay of Indonesian cooking. It’s usually cooked with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) to achieve that deep brown color and sweet/savory taste. It’s recipe is flexible and the blend of spices vary from place to place. Java Spice serves a great, hard-to-come-by version, nasi goreng babat, which is fried rice with tripe. They actually fry the tripe beforehand to keep it crispy.”

2. Nasi Bungkus
Simpang Asia
10433 National Blvd, Palms

“Nasi bungkus is the Indonesian take on a rice bowl wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s what locals eat as a cheap utilitarian snack, costing a couple of cents.The dish has rice and a variety of veggies and proteins, which is the same basic philosophy of our rice bowls. Simpang Asia’s version has rice, chicken curry, beef rendang, vegetable curry, coconut potatoes, and a chili egg. Simpang Asia is a good introduction for those unfamiliar with Indonesian food, as they have other traditional rice plates such as nasi rames (literally meaning “mixed rice”) that comes with chicken curry, garlic string beans, braised tempeh, and beef rendang and nasi kuning (“yellow rice”) served with bright yellow turmeric coconut rice typically served in a cone. On a hot day, I get the es campur, which is the Indonesian version of shaved ice topped with grass jelly, condensed milk, palm fruit, and red bean. Simpang Asia has an Indonesian grocery store attached to the restaurant too (I stock up on mie goreng, cassava chips, and krupuk).”

3. Satay
Chicky BBQ
1206 Huntington Dr., Duarte

“It’s my favorite satay in L.A. and our family orders it for special occasions and family parties. It’s sweet, salty and smoky all at the same time. The satay babi (pork) is my favorite. They’re much juicier than the average satay, and you can tell they use high quality ingredients. They have a perfect, caramelized exterior from the glaze, which inspired Bowld to use kecap manis and butter for our own glaze. Also make sure to get the soto kikil, a soup with beef tendons, which originates from my dad’s hometown of Surabaya. You might want to call ahead and ask if they’re making it that day.”

4. Ayam Goreng
Banana Leaf
5835 Temple City Blvd., Temple City

“Fried chicken is one of my favorite foods. Indonesian fried chicken differs from the rest because of its sweet undertone, since it’s usually marinated in coconut milk and a variety of other spices like candlenuts, coriander, galangal. This place has two versions I love. Ayam goreng penyet translates to smashed fried chicken. The chicken is marinated overnight, boiled briefly in some water, fried, then smashed/flattened to change up the texture. They also have another version of fried chicken called ayam goreng kremes, which is fried chicken topped with crispy bits of batter. Pro tip: I save bits of batter for my rice.”

5. Beef Rendang

“The best rendang in the city is my mom’s. I haven’t had anything comparable. She mixes a family recipe blend of spices and aromatics with coconut milk and slowly braises short ribs instead of traditional stew meat for hours. The result is a tender hunk of short rib that has hints of curry and island flavor. While most places serve a dry version of rendang, our wet version comes with a thick, flavorful sauce.”