New Yorkers looking for a carousel of Indonesia’s best food don’t need to book a 10,000-mile flight to Jakarta. They can just head to Elmhurst’s St. James Episcopal Church.
Once a month, the church’s parish house hosts the Indonesian Food Bazaar, where homestyle dishes from different regions in Indonesia feed hundreds of visitors. Under one roof, food enthusiasts rest their taste buds on classics such as beef rendang (spiced beef stewed in coconut milk), mie goreng (spiced fried noodles), satay (seasoned skewed meat), nasi kuning (turmeric yellow rice cooked with coconut milk), shrimp crackers dipped in sambal (chili-peppered shrimp paste), and bakso (meatball), possibly the most famous street food in Indonesia.
Felincia “Fefe” Anggono founded the Indonesian Food Bazaar in 2011. A Chinese-Indonesian from the city of Surabaya in East Java, she decided to leave her homeland in 1998 after the country’s ethnic riots against Indonesians of Chinese descent. Her nostalgia for authentic home delicacies led to her monthly food pop-up that features around 12 Indonesian vendors from New York, Virginia, Philadelphia, Connecticut, and sometimes even the Carolinas. A large portion of the funds they collect at the bazaar often go to tsunami and earthquake-hit areas in Indonesia.
Sometimes, the bazaar morphs into a Liwetan feast, a traditional way of eating in rural Indonesian villages. Foods such as tempe goreng (fried fermented soybeans) and tahu bacem (a sweet, spiced soybean cake) are served on banana leaves. If you’re lucky enough to attend the bazaar during one of these events, roll up your sleeves and dig in: In a Liwetan, everything is meant to be eaten with bare hands.