Here’s another post about my visit to Trowulan, Mojokerto, East Java. The three-part report (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) just doesn’t seem enough without another one about the three delicious local dishes that you can find around the location of the ruins of Majapahit’s ancient capital city. Here are Trowulan’s special dishes you should definitely give a bite during your visit.
1. Sambal Wader
Wader, also known as common barb, is a tiny species of fish easily found in various fresh water bodies in this country. Many simple warung or eateries around Trowulan’s Segaran Pond offer this fish as dish in two varieties. Some simply deep-fry the fish, others fry them with flour-coating for a crispier taste, before offering them in a plate complete with a spicy condiment. The condiment also varies, with some eateries offering different kinds. If you’re into raw spices, you’ll have the usual chili, tomato, onion, garlic, and lime combination freshly crushed in a terracotta plate right before the dish is served alongside a portion of rice. We also tried the same sambal mixed with shrimp paste, which gives out that pang of a mouth-watering, fishy aroma that some might find nauseating. Just make sure you ask for the tidak pedas or sedang level of spiciness for the accompanying condiment if you don’t wish to burn your tongue, as food vendors here are quite serious about the word “spicy,” which translates as pedas in Indonesian. One sambal wader seller successfully made me keep reaching for my iced orange water after several bites, even though I had asked for a sedang or moderately hot sambal.
2. Rujak Cingur
This dish can be found in almost all corners of East Java, especially in the provincial city of Surabaya. But if you happen to see an eatery offering rujak as its specialty around Trowulan, you’ll be rewarded with a simple dining experience at a historical location, so why not! East Javanese have their own idea about rujak. In other places, the term usually refers to a plate of sliced fruits topped with a sweet-and-spicy dressing made from brown sugar, chili, and peanut. Here, the vendors don’t even bother to add the word cingur in their menu to let outsiders know what they’re bound to get. Oh, did I tell you that cingur means “mouth”? Oh yes, they add slices of the meat around a cow’s nostrils into the dish to accompany some plain or sour tasting fruits and various boiled vegetables, as well as tempe, tofu, and rice cake topped with a spicy dressing involving petis, which is shrimp or fish caramelized in palm sugar. Keep in mind the rule about the three levels of spiciness, starting from the bottom: tidak pedas, sedang, and pedas. If you’re uncertain about how the vendor will actually interpret each level into your food, but you’re liking the idea of having a bit of a kick on your palate, just say: “Cabenya satu!” — “One chili, please!”
3. Botok Udang
Wrapped in a banana leaf and is usually already available on the tables of some warung, cold botok udang goes well with a plate of hot rice. Consider yourself very lucky if you find yourself in an eatery where the botok are still hot, because that just doubles the goodness of whole shrimps combined with grated coconut, belimbing wuluh (Averrhoa bilimbi), and sometimes petai cina (Leucaena leucocephala) steamed to get that luscious aroma of the banana leaf to seep into the mixture. So where are the spices, you say? Worry not, this dish is complete with chili, onion, garlic, greater galingale, shrimp paste (East Javanese just love their shrimps), lime leaf, white sugar, and of course a pinch of salt.