Tok Tok Indonesian Soup House at Ann Siang Road prides itself as being the first authentic Indonesian restaurant in Singapore that focuses on the more forgotten aspect of its cuisine – soup dishes and street snacks. The logo of the halal restaurant is the kentongan which a traditional communication tool used to convey the arrival of food with the ‘tok tok’ sound. While we weren’t entreated to this nostalgic throwback, we were certainly served a savoury, aromatic spread of authentic Indonesian cuisine.
The ceremonial Nasi Tumpeng ($178++, suitable for 10 pax) is truly a feast for the eyes (and belly, of course). This cone-shaped goliath of a mixed rice dish featured a really fragrant nasi kuning with a nice moderate burst of turmeric with each bite of the al dente rice grains, an aromatic ayam goreng with all the frilly, tasty, fried strands of lemongrass and spices and a sweet-savoury, flavourful bergedil that still have some small chunks of potato for a scrumptious bite. The fried tempeh with kecap manis is not as crispy/crunchy as my dining companion would have liked, but I thought there’s a good textural balance to the slightly soft, partially crispy tempeh.
A less goliath-like, more approachable nasi dish is their Nasi Campur Bali ($9.9++). Crowning the humble steamed white rice is an assortment of delightfully delectable sides – hardboiled egg tossed in spicy sambal, sweet and spicy fried tempeh, grilled beef skewer, refried chicken in a piquant sambal, dried beef tossed in red chillis, luscious beef rendang and of course, the sorta healthy stir-fried long bean. Apart from being a riveting riot of S.E. Asian flavours and heat in the mouth, this menu item is also comparatively better value for money (compare to the soups below.)
The ambrosial Ayam Bakar ($8++, comes with rice) is sweet and spicy, redolent of lemongrass and coriander with a beautiful toasty char. Meat is sufficiently tender.
Their soups – Soto Madura ($8.8++, comes with rice, picture above) and Soto Betawi ($9.5++, comes with rice)- are rich and hearty. The former is a straightforward, no-nonsense robust beef broth with long-cooked, partially tender beef chuck chunks. The latter is a more nuanced broth laced with spices – cumin, coriander, lemongrass, nutmeg, cinnamon – and a light addition of coconut cream together with lime and tomatoes to cut through the richness. Both are equally appetizing and rewarding in their wholesome comfort.
The Soto Betawi (above) is traditionally served with fried emping that’s tossed into the soup, eaten half-soggy, half-crispy. It may not be something familiar to the local palate; it is certainly something I don’t quite appreciate myself.
Just like their Siomay Bandung ($8++), which is an Indonesian derivation of Shumai (so says Wiki) but it is, I think closer to Yong Tau Fu. This is fish paste (wahoo) wrapped in various ingredients – steamed cabbage leaves, bittergourd, egg, tofu etc. – and dressed in a sweet homemade peanut sauce. The texture is more similar to a tteok-bokki – chewy, starchy, stodgy, bland – than it is to its bouncier cousin, ytf. While tteok-bokki is dressed in a rich, spicy, gochujang-based sauce, therefore giving it flavor, the peanut sauce does little to elevate the blandness of the siomay. I would avoid ordering this unless super dense fish paste with a sweet, nutty sauce is your thing. Or if you’re curious.
I have mixed feelings about the dessert – Es Cendol ($3.8++). The cendol being made in house has a nice authentic, floury texture that you wouldn’t otherwise find in the factory made ones which are too smooth and tastes only of artificial pandan flavouring. This has some natural pandan flavor that comes through even though the (somewhat dulled) bright green does suggest addition of flavouring too. The coconut milk tastes fresher than most and the addition of chopped jackfruit Java-nises the dish. Apparently gula jawa (coconut sugar from Java) is used but it’s overreaching sweetness does remind me of the coconut sugar syrup sold at Phoon Huat. It doesn’t have the depth, richness and complexity of nutty sugariness that gula jawa has.
In general, the textures of the meats are dryer, tougher than what we may be used to (the ayam goreng and beef chunks especially, less so the ayam bakar). All this may be part of the authenticity of the restaurant. In my travels in Indonesia, that seems to be the theme: overcooked meats. Perhaps it comes from a history of stale, unrefrigerated meats, and so they are excessively cooked in defense against food poisoning. But with the warung-like food counter, wooden benches and tables, dull but pastel-coloured enamel plates and the overarching, wafting fragrance and richness of spices, I did feel momentarily transported to various parts of Indonesia. So in that respect, they succeeded in maintaining their ideal. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t mind it one bit.
Tok Tok Indonesian Soup House
18 Ann Siang Road #01-01 Singapore 069698
tel: +65 6221 1760
Décor / ambience: 8
Value / price: 6
You may be interested in…
–Fat Chap, Suntec City: When you Want a Boozy Indonesian Weekend Brunch
–Kra Pow, Far East: Popular Thai Restaurant Moved, Expanded, and Added More Dishes
–Go-Ang Pratunam Chicken Rice, Nex: Bangkok’s Michelin Bib Gourmand Chicken Rice is now in Singapore
–Dancing Fish, TANGS Plaza: KL’s Indonesian Restaurant Opens First Outlet in Singapore Where You Can Find Pucuk Paku (Jungle Fern)
Written by Paul Ng. Deathrow meal: steamed uonuma koshihikari rice, sunny side up eggs drizzled with slow-rendered pork lard, kicap cair dark soya sauce with a side of gribenes. And a bowl of uni. Aspiring taitai. Also co-owner of Provisions Food – local maker of baked goods, snacks, condiments and sauces inspired by the flavours of Asia.