Saturday, June 17, 2006
The sweet smell of excess
The Javanese are known for their sweet tooth. To confirm its existence, just walk out anytime after dark in Jakarta and visit your local Martabak Manis man.
Martabak manis, or sweet martabak, is a seriously over-the-top dessert. It starts with a thick pancake cooked in plenty of Blue Band margarine. Then the Martabak man adds a generous layer of chocolate, another of cheddar-ish cheese, folds it in half, and pours on a whole lot of sweetened condensed milk. By the time it hits the plate, it's a big gooey pile oozing with fat and sugar. I have a pretty serious sweet tooth myself, but martabak manis is too much for me.
There's a reined-in version of the cheese and chocolate theme, which is a toasted cheese sandwich with a layer of chocolate. Sounds weird but is pretty tasty. It kind of works the same side of the street as the Toll House Cookie; the salt and fat of the cheese balance out the sweet chocolate. And since it's two comfort foods in one - grilled cheese and chocolate - you can't beat it for efficiency. I get one on the street near work when I've read so much slightly-odd English, I can't remember how to write normal English.