A mid-morning snack of smashed up chicken before a long bus ride to climb an active volcano. It can only be in Indonesia!
For one night, before heading off to Mount Bromo, I had the chance to stay in Surabaya, and although I didn’t like much about this city, I did have my first ever taste of authentic Ayam Penyet, which is a good memory. I am told that the dish originates from Surabaya, and in fact the most popular variant is Ayam Penyet Suroboyo, named after the city itself.
These days, Ayam Penyet is commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, but has also recently surged in popularity across Southeast Asia, where various chains of franchises have opened selling the dish (Ayam Penyet Ria in Singapore is a good example of this). I found that traditional roadside warungs, that seem to sell all manner of Indonesian snacks, sell the best-looking smashed chicken – and the taste matches the appearance!
Ayam Penyet is unique among chicken dishes in Indonesia in that it is smashed with a pestle against a mortar to make it softer, then served with sambal, slices of cucumbers, fried tofu, and tempeh. The dish is also known for its spicy sambal, which is made with a mixture of chilli, anchovies, tomatoes, shallots, garlics, shrimp paste, tamarind, and lime juice. Like its namesake, the mixture is then smashed into a paste to be eaten with the dish.
All in all, I was happy to have tried this classic Indonesian dish (maybe my favourite ayam dish) before my epic climb of Mount Bromo. The spicy sambal atop the smashed chicken provided me with a fire in my belly to complete my climb in record time!