“The Es Pala was very refreshing, and it didn’t taste as sweet as how I thought it would be.“
“You have got to try the Es Pala (nutmeg juice) here,” said a friend of mine who’s born and bred in Bogor. This was a line that she would keep on repeating over and over to the point where I finally did what she said just to shut her up. After trying out a couple on Jalan Suryakencana, I was not impressed. I duly sent her a text message to tell her of my disappointment, to which she replied, “You went to the wrong place! Go look for Es Pala Ujang right at the intersection.”
Tucked inside Gang Aut, its exterior resembles a rather low-key version of your modern juice bar. With an array of fruit juices also on offer, I ignored them and went for its Es Pala, which owner Pak Ujang prepared in a flash. Due to my previous encounters with the drink, I had my reservations with Es Pala Ujang, despite the five-star review given by my friend. With a degree of scepticism, I watched as he grabbed a plastic cup and poured the mixture into it. He then used a cup-sealing machine to cover it. To be honest, I expected something more traditional instead of a drink that was packaged akin to bubble tea. My heart was filled with doubt as he handed me my drink, along with one of those big straws that one would usually drink a bubble tea with.
Having to be professional about it, I threw a few questions about his establishment at him. “My father opened the shop way back in 1949. Unfortunately, many have tried to imitate our Es Pala,” he says. I bade goodbye to the poor man right after, and walked away from his shop. As I sauntered through the alleyway, I poked through the plastic cover with the oversized straw and tried a sip. One could only imagine how guilty I felt afterwards. The Es Pala was very refreshing, and it didn’t taste as sweet as how I thought it would be. There was a hint of spiciness from the sliced nutmeg that my taste buds could detect. Overall, it was miles better compared to the ones I tried beforehand, which tasted more like water mixed with sugar.
With a mixture of remorse, shame and astonishment, I scampered back to Pak Ujang’s shop and sheepishly asked for more details regarding his Es Pala. “I only use sliced nutmeg, water, and sugar,” he explains. With such limited ingredients used, I assumed that his years of experience played a crucial role in making this simple drink taste so extraordinary. It’s the perfect thirst quencher on a sunny day.
Jl. Suryakencana, Gang Aut,
Bogor, West Java
Open daily from 8am to 8pm
Rp.6,000/US$0.40 per glass