248 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205
+61 3 9077 2947
Smashed avocados? Puh-lease, that’s so five years ago. Let’s talk about ayam penyet, an East Javanese dish that literally translates to smashed chicken. Don’t worry, the actual dish isn’t as violent as it initially sounds – it’s essentially a piece of fried chicken (usually a Maryland) that’s been smashed with a pestle, then served with a combination of sambal, cucumber, fried tofu, tempeh and white rice.
It’s the signature dish at Ayam Penyet Ria, in South Melbourne where Indonesian families and university students congregate for a hint of home-cooked goodness. Don’t feel like chicken? You can also select from the likes of terong penyet (smashed eggplant) and empal penyet (smashed beef), just to name a few of the other proteins on their menu.
For whatever reason, I didn’t feel like chicken that day so I went for the beef. ‘Empal’ refers to a dish of twice-cooked beef shank, a Sundanese dish. The beef is boiled to medium well, then smashed with a pestle to loosen the fibres up before being soaked in a sweet and aromatic mixture of spices, lemongrass, galangal, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaf) and coconut milk, then fried.
A plate of empal penyet is served the same way an ayam penyet is served: fried tofu, tempeh, rice, sambal and cucumbers, though I wish they gave us more than just one slice of cucumber. I do like my greens, you know. It’s a generous serving size that can keep two people happy (in this case, my mum and myself) or a hungry Indonesian student who’s just finished a heavy game of badminton and is looking to carb-load (there were half a dozen of those that night).
Of course, Ayam Penyet Ria also serves other Indonesian dishes such as gado-gado and soto ayam (Indonesian turmeric noodle soup). I felt like a bit of gado-gado so we also shared a plate. The gado-gado here is also of a generous size with a decent amount of tofu, tempeh, boiled egg pieces and cooked vegetables forming an all-vegetarian base, with a smattering of bitternut and prawn crackers for texture. I was also glad that they went easy on the peanut dressing – most places here tend to overdo it, therefore bogging down the dish. More does not necessarily mean better!
I’ll admit that ayam penyet is not my favourite Indonesian dish but when the craving does strike, I’m glad I can rely on Ayam Penyet Ria for my delicious authentic home-style protein fix.