Indonesian version, click here
Written by Dinda Amalia Ichsani – AIYA National’s Blog Editor
Edited by Meylisa Sahan – AIYA National’s Blog Editor
Translated by Lotte Troost – AIYA National’s Content Translator
Nasi Padang is one of the dishes from West Sumatra that is very familiar to the Indonesian tongue. When visiting a Padang restaurant we can find various kinds of menus, such as rendang, gulai, terong balado, jeroan, various types of processed chicken, and many more. This variety of menus sometimes makes us confused because we feel like we want to taste everything.
Padang restaurant (left) and Padang rice (right). Source: tribunnews
Due to its taste and popularity, nasi Padang has even become one of the most delicious foods worldwide. However, have you ever noticed that nasi Padang wrapped in paper generally has a larger portion if compared to the portion that is served when eating directly in a Padang restaurant? There are several unique reasons behind this common practice. Let’s take a look at some of these popular opinions.
Historically, the opinion about the large portion of nasi Padang has been there since Dutch colonial times. Supposedly, the ancient Padang restaurants were often visited by elites and aristocrats such as the Dutch and wealthy Indonesian merchants. The nasi Padang that was served also looked orderly and structured. This made ordinary people and natives hesitant to eat at the Padang restaurants. Instead, they chose to take the nasi Padang home. Sellers assumed that these buyers of nasi Padang would enjoy the food together with family. So out of solidarity, the sellers increased the portion for these people who bought the wrapped nasi Padang.
Padang restaurant in 1900 (KITLV-pictura)
Another opinion that circulates states that buying wrapped nasi Padang will save the restaurant’s operational costs. When eating on the spot, the seller has to spend money on washing the dishes, such as buying soap and paying the salary of the dishwasher. Therefore, wrapped nasi Padang has a larger portion and nasi Padang eaten in the restaurant has a smaller portion, to replace the costs for washing the dishes.
Another aesthetic related reason is considered, so that nasi Padang still looks appetizing even though it’s wrapped in paper. There is a certain standard of how much rice is wrapped in one packet of nasi Padang. The seller also considers if the buyer only orders rice with just one or two side dishes, because then the package won’t reach its desired aesthetic value and the packet will look small. Therefore, sellers generally provide additional vegetables, such as jackfruit, boiled cassava leaves, green chili sauce and curry or gulai sauce. These are the reasons why the nasi Padang package looks big and densely filled.
Nasi Padang in Australia
Padang cuisine has become popular in various parts of the world, and Australia is not an exception. Several Padang restaurants are owned by Indonesians and are spread across various Australian cities. With the large number of Indonesian citizens visiting or living in Australia, the existence of Padang restaurants is preserved.
One of the Padang restaurants located in Sydney, Australia. Source: b-kyu
When buying nasi Padang in Indonesia, larger portions are very common. However, this is quite different in Australia. Apart from the price that is of course very different from the Indonesian price, nasi Padang in Australia is not wrapped in paper. So if we want to take the rice home and wrap it, the restaurant will provide a sort of box container or lunch box for the rice and side dishes that we ordered. Generally, the portions given for Padang rice to bring home are as large as the portion when eating in the restaurant, not more or less. However, some restaurants have a buffet concept that allows customers to choose and take the menu at will, so the portions can be adjusted according to individual desires.
Sari Bundo. Rahasia Nasi Padang.