Simpang Asia: Mean Green Mung Bean

     Los Angeles’ Palms neighborhood is easy to miss. Stuck between the hubbub of Culver City and Beverly Hills, it consists mostly residential apartments and a few ethnic grocery stores. One highlight, though, is the small stretch of National Blvd. between Motor and Overland representing this neighborhood’s closest version of a Main St. In these couple blocks you’ve got a excellent selection of eateries including Roy Choi’s Chego, which in it’s short  8 month span has already become quite legendary. Yet, the restaurant in Palms that keeps me returning again and again out of sheer intrigue is the tiny Indonesian cafe/grocery, Simpang Asia. Indonesian cuisine is heavily influenced by India, the Middle East, China, as well as the various countries of Southeast Asia. This makes for a complex menu that seems both familiar and foreign at once. In my experience though, navigating the menu is not necessary as whatever you order will probably be A) delicious and B) improved by a few spoonfuls of chili paste.

     The most popular dish is undoubtedly the Nasi Bungkus, which arrives wrapped in butcher paper and a banana leaf, resembling a burrito with a very inedible green shell. Once unwrapped you find yourself with a heaping mass of rice, chicken curry, beef rendang, a hard-boiled egg, spiced potato, bits of chicken gizzard and some vegetable curry for good measure. The term flavor bomb could never be so accurately applied. Once you dive in the separate bits all blend together as you eat, which generally is a good thing as each distinct taste still manages to jump out. The Mie Tek Tek noodles, a perennial favorite among Indonesian street eaters, is reminiscent of both Chinese Lo Mein and Thai Pad See Ew. The sauce is excellent, striking a tasty balance between salty and sweet.  The real treats though are found in the section of the menu casually titled, “Chillin’ Drink”. Most prefer the Es Kelapa Muda, a young coconut hacked open and fitted with a straw. But if you prefer a drink that looks like a cross between Japanese Boba and Quaker Oatmeal, then try the Es Kacang Ijo, or Green Mung Bean drink. It’s sweet, thick, glutenous and when topped with milk tastes like creamy brown sugar. Just make sure to eat all the little mung beans floating around your cup, they’re full of vitamins.  The best part is that you can enjoy a refreshing beverage, a crispy fried lumpia roll, and a hefty banana leaf-wrapped scoop of curry for a little over $10.  An excellent price, when compared to a 14 hour flight to Jakarta.

Simpang Asia
10433 National Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 815-9075
$

 

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