Warteg Gang Mangga proves that it is always the food that makes the customer loyal.
Kitchenesia.com - As the night drew in and a cold wind began to bite, my friends and I wandered along the unknown street to eat some warm foods. We went deeper into the residential area to find out what locals eat daily. It was dead dark that the silvery moonlight was our only guide. There’s a slight idea in my mind to call it a day and waited for the morning to come. But nah, our pangs of hunger won.
We finally stumbled upon a small diner after a long, tiring wander. The diner was quite full, although the dinner time was over. Luckily, we managed to snag a table. I think I understand why this street was dark and empty. Some went to sleep on time, and the others were leaving to eat out in here.
Warteg Gang Mangga is very easy to spot on, although you aren't specifically looking for it. It is located between two branches of Y-junction. The bright lighting and white walls juxtapose with the dark night, making it look like a light at the end of the tunnel.
Lacks Convenience Here and There
The owner said that Warteg Gang Mangga had been running for more than 36 years. Its success didn’t spur her on to make it a comfy and clean warteg for everyone to dine in. Still, Warteg Gang Mangga lives up to warteg’s widespread notoriety: cramped place and poor hygiene.
The semi-open layout also causes pros and cons. The pros side is that it creates airflow in the dining room. The dining room is indeed in a clutter of smelly untidiness, but the chilly wind from outside make it way better.
The same arrangement also enables some “unwanted” visitors to steal everyone’s foods. Behold the sight of stray cats are left free to walk and sit between tables. And worse yet, those irritating flies hover around the tables waiting to swoop down its prey (in other words, my foods).
Despite the incommodiousness this diner offers, it is still thronging with the masses. Why do people keep going back?
The Foods That Make People Loyal
As the name implies, Warteg Gang Mangga draws upon the cooking of Javanese foods. Typical foods that are on offer are humble and easy to cook, namely ayam goreng (fried chicken), tempe orek (tempeh with sweet soy sauce), telur balado (fried eggs in a spicy sauce), sayur kangkung (sauteed water spinach) and many others.
Just when I thought things were normal, I saw some non-typical warteg foods were also served here. The likes of semur jengkol (dogfruit stew) and gulai tunjang (beef tendon curry stew) are not from Java; both are from Betawi and Padang foods respectively. Seriously, I could scarcely fathom Warung Gang Mangga’s concept.
I chose petai pedas (spicy stinky bean) and sambal goreng kentang (fried potato chili) for my vegan plate. There’s the crunch and then the blast of stinky bean’s gassy taste across the satisfying bitterness. The fried potato chili is a mixture of soft texture and spicy flavor. You can try to slip both in one go. But it’s far better to eat them separately to avoid biting spiciness.
There’s a long list of meaty side dishes, and we collected the top two. First is the big piece of ayam goreng (fried chicken). It holds an incredibly moist glaze with soft fillet. The meat is so dry that once you press it down with a thumb, no excess oil leak from the meat.
In truth, the flavor for one dish can be varied according to the stock you choose. These squid and shrimp dishes were actually fried. I didn’t want to miss the fun by having them dry. Thus, I combined them with a spicy stock. Was I regretting it?
Well, the specialty is not so much in the sauce, which is basically a salted chili oil only. It lies in the thick shrimp meats that were properly deep-fried until crunchy. When eaten, people in the next three tables could hear the crumbling sound. On my next revisit, I will make sure I eat everything dry. No stock, sauce, or any kind of liquid condiment whatsoever.
I expected ikan kakap kuah kuning (red snapper in a yellow stock) had some kind of new twist. And yes, it feels slightly different from the Padang restaurant version. Warteg Gang Mangga’s ikan kakap kuah kuning is less bold and thick than the authentic version. It tastes okay; but as someone who is familiar with Padang cuisine, this dish is sort of lackluster.
On a full stomach, I left knowing the very good reason why people keep going back here. Lots of food options mean lots of people are well-catered. For those who are away from home, eating homecooked foods like these can ease a small feeling of homesickness.
It’s a pretty satisfying thought.
Warteg Gang Mangga, Jalan Kemurnian V No.1C, Glodok, West Jakarta 11120