Gudeg Yu Djum
Who amongst us really like to think about where our food comes from? As long as it appears clean and tasty on our table, that’s all that matters.
And sometimes – like in the restaurants of South East Asia – it’s often not worth the mental anguish of wondering what’s going on in the kitchen.
It will be delicious – tick. It won’t make you sick – tick. So who cares about anything else, right?
Well… in this case, wrong. But only because this is one of the most fascinating and visually-interesting kitchens I have ever seen.
Gudeg Yu Djum is one of the most famous restaurants in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta. It’s not fancy – there are no stars or hats or pretensions associated with it. But it’s known across the city for doing one of the region’s most popular dishes well.
The dish is called ‘Nasi Gudeg’ and it’s essentially boiled jackfruit covered in a coconut milk sauce, served with rice, chicken and a hard-boiled egg.
This is what it looks like (after a few bites):
But the bright and clean meal comes from smoke and darkness, from a burning cavern behind the scenes.
In this photo essay, allow me to take you inside the kitchen of Gudeg Yu Djum and show you how the meal is prepared… the same way it has been traditionally prepared for generations.
Making Nasi Gudeg
Here the ‘gudeg’, the main ingredient is being cooked. It’s made from sliced young jackfruit which is being boiled in these large pots.
They have water mixed with brown sugar and salt in them, and will be left on the fire overnight for more than 12 hours.
This man is painstakingly extracting coconut milk from fresh fruit by hand. Coconut will be a key ingredient for two very important elements of the meal.
In this large pan near the fireplaces, coconut milk is being simmered to reduce the liquid until it turns thick. The result will be sauce called ‘arek’ which will be combined with the boiled jackfruit to make the gudeg.
A separate room at the back of the restaurant is the only space of the kitchen that has electric lighting. Half a dozen people are cleaning and dividing whole raw chickens.
One of the women gestures at everyone in the room and tells me they “are all family”.
These large pots above open fires are being used to make ‘santan’, which is a sauce of coconut milk mixed with salt, shallots and a bit of sugar.
The heat in this room is extremely high so this man is working with his shirt off.
Away from the heat and near a breeze, this elderly woman is preparing chillis to be served with the nasi gudeg.
And here, in the section of the kitchen with the most natural light, a woman is sitting solitary and silent while she rips apart banana leaves. They’ll be used for the presentation of the meal.
And that’s it. A lot of effort clearly goes on behind the scenes in the spacious and sprawling kitchen area of the restaurant. Hours and hours of work for a dish that is consumed within minutes.
But it is tasty… very tasty, in fact. Which you hope makes it all worthwhile.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN YOGYAKARTA
There are some really cool places in Yogyakarta, which is just would you would expect from one of Indonesia’s most creative cities.
If you’re looking for a backpacker option, I would recommend the cool Cubic Jogja.
A good cheap and comfortable hotel is Aloha Hotel.
For some ecofriendly accommodation, there’s the affordable Greenhost Boutique Hotel in a good location.
And when it comes to luxury, I would recommend the Sofia Boutique Residence.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.
48 thoughts on “Handle the heat or get out of the kitchen”
I think it would have to be impossible for something takes so much effort to make to taste bad… Now I’m hungry…
Ha ha – good point! It would be very unfortunate if they did all of this and then it sucked! 🙂
Your first sentence is so true! …But awareness about where your food comes from can help you make better choices, I believe, and also help you appreciate and enjoy a meal more. Apart from that, I’m glad you included a sexy man, as usual. I noticed that there wasn’t one in your orang-utans in Borneo article, and I admit, I was slightly disappointed, even though the apes made up for it. That sounds wrong. The apes made up for it because they are awesome, not because they are sexy. Geez. You have a dirty mind, really. Anyway, it was very interesting to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of Gudeg Yu Djum -thank you:)!
Ha ha ha… oh… I always laugh when I read a comment from you, Vera 🙂
I promise to try to put some more sexy man photos in my posts just for you. And, failing that, I’ll just slip in some shots of orangutans… because you seem to have a bit of a things going for them, ahem…
Well done with this writeup. You transported me there, now I’m hungry to try out Gudeg. Still looking for a decent Indonesian resto here in Manila.
Love the photos 🙂
Thanks Anton. Let me know if you find a good Indo restaurant in Manila. I’d be curious to hear your comparisons with the food from the trip!
Ahh.. manual coconut milk extracation. Reminds me of my youth in the Seychelles.. hours spent watching people carefully grate the coconut with the special coconut grating stool.. followed by a lot of squeezing. Mmmm. Squeezing.
Is there not an easier way to do it? It seemed to be a rather tiring task!
Gorgeous shots, Michael. The coconut flesh extraction reminded me of doing the same thing in Thailand – it’s a seriously time consuming process!
I understand maybe doing the extraction that way if you just needed a small amount – but these guys use so much every day. It doesn’t seem like the best use of time (but at least it kept the kitchen nice and traditional…)
I love your pictures, beautiful shots !!! This scenes are familiar to me and in my opinion they cook better food than the ones from fancy restaurant 🙂
The biggest difference between this and a fancy restaurant is that they do one thing really well. So there’s so much time and effort put into making it just perfect. That’s why there seemed to be a lot of locals coming here to grab some food!
As always, wonderful storytelling. We could *almost* taste this one. But, your photographs are so stunning! The light is spot on. Congrats.
The light was amazing! When I walked in and saw the sun coming in through those windows and catching the smoke – it took my breath away for a second.
Expeditions inside kitchens are always fascinating….with this one had come with Taste-o-Rama though….
Yes, I’m sorry. It’s not really fair to put up photos of such delicious food and not find a way for you to smell or taste it. My bad.
I knew this would be interesting when you first mentioned the kitchen being fascinating, but it was even more interesting than I expected. Great that you got to see this and that you actually liked the meal. It looks OK to me, but I’d love to see the kitchen.
I’m not sure how many people would normally get to see the kitchen. It’s not normally open for the public but, as an intrepid travel blogger, I was allowed to go in and check it out. Maybe we should all just ask more often to see what is cooking out back!
These photos are absolutely AMAZING, what a beautiful kitchen, and the food looks amazing. Just out of curiosity, what kind of camera and lens were you using? Did you use flash too?
Thanks Ashley. I’m not much a photographer, to be honest. I use a Canon 600D with just the kit lens it came with. No flash with these photos (and I don’t think I even took it off automatic… but don’t tell anyone that!)
Wow, this gives me an entirely new perspective on making dinner. I’ll never complain again about 45 min prep time.
Ha ha ha – you’re also not cooking for hundreds of people a day (I assume…)
That’s one industrious kitchen, I wonder if they could fill those pots any more. Love those photos Michael, you always take right to heart of your subject.
I get the feeling that everything that could be used was being used. There wasn’t much waste going on there!!
It is amazing how much work goes into some great dishes.
Yeah – I get annoyed if I have to put something in the microwave for more than 2 minutes!
Great photo essay – I loved the shots! What camera are you using?
I’ve got a Canon 600D. But just the simple kit lens. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade – it would’ve been nice to have caught the light a bit better at this place.
I might just prefer to see the meal on my plate to be honest. Not sure I want to know all about the sweat dripping off his torso into my new freshly cooked coconut sauce.
It saves you adding salt, at least 🙂
Beautiful photo-essay – thank you. I love nasi gudeg and have good memories from years ago of sitting on woven palm mats on the footpaths of Yogya late at night feasting on gudeg. You made me long to return there.
Wow, I can just imagine how good it is as a late-night treat. Hopefully I’ll get to go back to Yogya at some point and try that out for myself.
Great writing and shots, Michael!
To explain a little though, there are simpler ways to extract coconut milk, with machine help, but I believe the extraction by hand has to do with the goal of producing more milk. A lot of time with a machine, even though it saves grinding time, some of the ground coconuts get stuck in between parts of the machine and ultimately wasted.
Also, it is a customary belief that preparation by hands will produce tastier food. Other examples are chopping vegetables by hands rather than by knife and grinding spices using mortar & pestle rather than a blender. I think that’s where they came from 🙂
Oh, fantastic, thanks Dinna. I had assumed it was all done by hand because that made it tastier, but I didn’t realise exactly why they did the coconuts that way. I’m sure the experts can taste the difference (I am not yet an expert, sadly…)
That is a pretty interesting kitchen! You captured some great images…
Yeah, it was a fascinating place. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
Nice story, but what does it taste like? I have never heard of jackfruit, though I can imagine coconut and chicken well enough. Interesting look at food prep though. They must do huge volume to be able to support that many people.
It’s delicious! I can’t really describe the taste perfectly except to say that it actually seems a bit meaty. The first time I tried it I thought it might have been pulled pork with a sweet sauce. If that helps? Anyone else?
…yet again good stuff from the time traveling Turtle. Thanks for taking us behind-the-scenes. Fascinating look into an Indonesian kitchen.
Thanks, mate. I’m not sure if every Indonesian kitchen would look exactly like this. But this is a pretty cool one!
Nice story and great photos! Thank you for presenting Jogja to the world, Michael 🙂 I’ve been living in Jogja for 2 years but never had a chance to see the Yu Djum’s kitchen. Thank’s to your photos here, so now I know how they make that delicious gudeg. By the way, if you want to try to eat gudeg late at night, there’s a place in Jogja called Gudeg Pawon that open at 10.00 PM. It’s quite unusual business hour for a gudeg restaurant actually 😀
Mmmmm… yum. Hopefully I’ll get back to Jogja at some point and I’ll definitely take your recommendation and check it out. If I’m still awake that late! 🙂
I think gudeg is the most delicious food in this world 😀
It’s certainly delicious – and the fact there’s a whole shop that takes such much effort to just make one dish shows you how popular it is. I really enjoyed gudeg when I tried it!
love gudeg so much!
It seems pretty popular!! 🙂
Gudeg Yu Djum is the best food in Yogyakarta. My favourite and its very delicious make me melting hahaha
I can see why it’s your favourite! I haven’t had it in ages and am missing it now! 🙂