Whilst Gapang Beach may not have been the culinary capital of Indonesia I knew Pulau Weh must've had more to offer. One day we hired some mopeds to explore the island and whilst for the others it meant waterfalls and volcanoes, for me it meant the opportunity to find what the locals ate as I knew they didn't eat instant noodles and fried eggs.
When we'd been on the mainland I'd seen signs for Mie Aceh (mie is the word for noodle, Aceh is the region) but it had been between meals. When we saw a hawker peddling the dish I told the others we had to crack on. I wasn't missing out on an opportunity and so I proceeded to stand next to the chef whilst he cooked, making a note of everything he did so I cold recreate it at home. Since then I've bought an Indonesian recipe book which has a recipe in but I think I'll stick to my notes instead, even if I have to go to the cook book for the chili paste recipe.
Mie Aceh is like an English Chinese takeaway chow mein given a kick up the bum with some fiery chili. Egg noodles - the dry mie Aceh are slightly orange, and straight like spaghetti, but standard egg noodles are very similar - are fried with cabbage, beansprouts, spring onions, shallots and tomato and a couple of spoonfuls of a harissa like paste. I've not translated my cook book yet (alas they didn't have any English versions) but it seems to be chili, shallot, garlic and a few other local spices. You're left with a very hot plate of vegetable noodles, far removed from the instant ones I'd been living off previously. Sometimes you get a little meat too, see if you can spot it in the chef photo. This was served with crisp, fried shallots, a little lime (limau kasturi), sliced cucumber and some crisps very reminiscent of corn thins. Once my travels are over I'll endeavour to get recipes up for all the dishes I mention, at the moment I've not cooked for 3 months and so descriptions will have to do.
As well as the mie we had some apong balik: crisp, filled, folded pancakes. I've mentioned these before as I'd eaten them in Malaysia where they're filled with peanuts and sweetcorn. On Pulau Weh the sweetcorn was replaced with a chocolate sprinkles (a throwback to their Dutch colonial past maybe?) and the whisk was replaced with a bundle of sticks.
We had a little look around the market there too which had the usual dried fish and seafood so common in these parts. One thing it had that I'd never seen before was pestle and mortars made from what I assume is volcanic rock, dark and porous. Needless to say I'm now the proud owner of one.