By G.A. Benton | Columbus Alive
Behind Lev’s Pawn Shop in a nondescript-looking parking lot on State Rt. 161 sits a nondescript food truck that serves grub that’s … the opposite of nondescript.
Actually, Aromaku (the friendly chef/owner told me it translates into “my aroma”) is currently the only source of Indonesian cuisine in Columbus. Being the only Indonesian game in town, whether roving or stationary, might be reason enough to check out this four-month-old operation, but Aromaku’s inexpensive fare is so distinct, potent and delicious that I was informed that (and witnessed) Indonesian people come in from all over Ohio — and even that damn state “up north” — to score its gotta-have-’em dishes.
If you understandably have a limited experience with Indonesian cooking, think of it — and this a crude generalization — as sharing elements with Chinese, Thai and Indian food. In Aromaku’s capable hands, this means a tiny menu — helpfully depicted in color photos — of spicy and deeply pleasing, good sit-down restaurant quality preparations that, though sometimes oily, are riotously fun. Here’s a taste of nearly everything available on a recent weekend — and all of it’s recommended.
Rendang with Prata ($7)
Terrific, super-tender and highly aromatic beef chunks in a fiery, coconut milk-bound stew. The tiny but mighty entree was served with three slightly grease-slicked but otherwise excellent, scallion-specked, roti-like flat bread pieces that were crispy, chewy and attractively brown-spotted. Scooping up the rendang, sliced tomato and cucumber garnishes with the prata “tortilla-style” was a zesty rush.
Ayam Goreng ($5)
Two juicy and delicious dark meat chicken quarters (wings can be substituted) of very nice, crackly skinned fried chicken fragrant with a turmeric and galangal-led blend that tasted a bit like curry powder. This one’s easy to love, especially for chili-shy types.
Bakmi Ayam ($7)
A large serving of wispy, still-firm rice noodles with crispy fried onions, sliced scallions and marinated ground chicken in a light, flavorful hoisin-ish broth. The lively noodles — think thin and soupy lo mein — are sided with a nifty little mix of warm greens and bean sprouts plus a sweet and spicy sauce.
Martabak Telor ($5)
Four (again, oily but delicious) crunchy fried pockets that ate like excellent spring rolls in bundle form; they were stuffed with a hard-to-stop-munching, oniony egg and ground beef filling.
Photo by Ryan Young