The Lombok Original – Ayam Taliwang

Should you find yourself actually on the island of Lombok and not just on the Gili islands, then you owe it to yourself to try the culinary specialty of Lombok, called ayam taliwang. Ayam means chicken and taliwang is simply the name of the sauce used in the preparation of the dish.

Ayam bakar  and ayam goreng, or grilled chicken, are quite popular all over Indonesia as an affordable and healthy meal. Ayam taliwang is indeed grilled chicken, but packs much more of a punch than the normal ayam bakar you will see on the side of the road. Authentic ayam taliwang is made using a village chicken, or ayam kampung (sorry, I know I am throwing a lot of Indonesian words your way, but trust me it’s worth it to know these things!).

The meat of ayam kampung is much more tender and juicy, but the size is smaller than that of your store bought chickens. These are essentially free-range birds, so it’s easy to speculate that they are free of chemicals and hormones and would likely classify as organic, if there were such a thing on that side of the world. The chicken is butterflied and then grilled halfway. It is then tenderized with a pestle, dipped in oil and covered in taliwang sauce. The chicken then returns to the grill until the sauce and chicken have both charred.

The thing with taliwang sauce is that no two places make it the exactly the same. Usually it is anywhere from moderately spicy to sweat inducing spicy. The sauce is usually made with a proprietary blend of at least chili, salt, palm sugar, garlic, and terasi (fermented shrimp paste).

Most places selling ayam taliwang offer a set menu that includes 1 chicken, plecing (water spinach with tomato sambal and bean sprouts), roasted peanuts, and of course, a basket white rice. Some packages also include a whole fish, served taliwang style. The package price usually starts around 40k IDR (approx.. $4 USD at the time of writing).

The big city of Mataram is home to a very large number of places selling ayam taliwang. For those who cherish authenticity, I recommend journeying east of Mataram in search of Desa Taliwang, or Village Taliwang. Getting to the village, which is more of a small town, is not difficult. You simply drive east along the main road, and keep asking people until you find the turn off. There are a couple popular places for ayam taliwang in Desa Taliwang. There were plenty of locals in the restaurant that I went to, and I happened to be their first foreign guest ever. I personally find that makes a place authentic.

If you have time I urge you to go and try ayam taliwang in at least two different places, BUT make sure to prepare yourself for one of the spiciest dishes you will get to try in Indonesia. Selamat menikmati!

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