Yogyakarta: Gudeg Pawon

When I stuffed both the krecek and theopor ayam together with the Gudeg into my maw, the result was an amalgamation of spicy, sweet and savoury, where each flavour was on an equal footing with one another.

There were quite a few cherished moments from my recent trip to Yogyakarta, but none more so than when I ate at Gudeg Pawon. Pawon is the Javanese word for “kitchen”, so Gudeg Pawon rather simplistically means Gudeg (jackfruit stew in coconut milk) that is served fresh from the kitchen. And to have been able to witness the traditional way of making it made it an even better experience.

Founded by the late Mbah Prapto Widarso in 1958, he first began dishing out his signature dish in Pasar Sentul. It became so popular up to the point where he decided to open his own kitchen doors to the public and invited customers to come and dine in the comfort of his own cooking area in 2000. I reckon its delicious Gudeg and the opportunity to consume it where it is made are the two things that attract people in droves. Although the sign in front of the eatery says that it opens at 10pm, I decided to come earlier at 9.30pm to avoid the anticipated queue.

Now, you can imagine how surprised I was when I saw many of its loyal patrons already forming a long queue in the backyard of the house despite me arriving half-an-hour early. I had to wait for about 40 minutes before I could step foot inside the kitchen. Once inside, I saw Mbah Prapto’s son, Sumarwanto, hard at work on serving customers, while his family members were either cooking up Gudeg in the joint’s time-honoured wooden stove or washing the dishes. It was pretty dark, but I couldn’t help but notice the discoloured walls of the place due to the smoke from the stove.

When my turn to order finally arrived, I asked for a complete Gudeg meal, including opor ayam (chicken stew in coconut milk) and krecek (cattle-skin crackers cooked in coconut milk and various spices). Since Gudeg Pawon doesn’t have a proper dining area, guests are given the liberty to choose wherever they wanted to have their meal. I opted for the terrace, which, unfortunately, seemed to be the most popular choice of my fellow customers as it was already packed by the time I carried my plate to the area.

Both the opor ayam and the warm rice exuded a twin aroma that teased the receptors in my nostrils; begging me to give in and just gorge myself on them. I took a spoonful of the Gudeg and immediately I could taste a sense of sweetness running around on my palate – the trademark of a typical Javanese dish. When I stuffed both the krecek and the opor ayam together with the Gudeg into my maw, the result was an amalgamation of spicy, sweet and savoury, where each flavour was on an equal footing with one another.

If you’re keen on sampling true-blue Javanese Gudeg, then Gudeg Pawon is where it’s at. The queue tends to get worse as the night wears on, so it’s highly recommended that you make your way there way ahead of its opening time.

Jl. Janturan No. 36 Warungboto
Umbulharjo, Yogyakarta
T: 0274 700 2020
Open daily from 10pm-12am
Rp.17,000/ US$1.25 per portion

Started her career as a food writer in 2012, Jessicha Valentina is the online editor of Good Indonesian Food. Jessicha has loved Sayur Asem since she was a wee kid and spends her free time trying to cook it.


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