“The Mangut Lele tasted heavenly on my taste buds. Extremely hot with a hint of smokiness, it’s something that I’ve never tasted before, yet I’m glad I did.”
It can be a bit difficult to locate the legendary Mangut Lele Mbah Marto. The eatery that is basically Mbah Marto’s own abode nestles somewhere in Bantul Village. Without the kind person that I met during my search for the joint – who marked its location on Google Maps for me – I might not have found it at all.
Arriving at 9am, the house was still empty. I knocked on the door, and was greeted by Pak Pariman, the fourth son of Mbah Marto. He told me that they were still in the process of preparing the dishes, and instructed me to wait at the terrace. Not long after, he asked me to come inside the kitchen, where 92-year-old Mbah Marto was peeling a basketful of onions with her frail, wrinkled hands. Pak Pariman subsequently got me to grab a plate and start grabbing the dishes that I wanted.
I chose Mangut Lele (grilled catfish with chilli) and Opor Ayam Kampung (free-range chicken in coconut milk). They also served the iconic Gudeg (jackfruit stew in coconut milk), but I was already too enticed by the red chillies that covered the Mangut Lele.
I returned to the terrace to enjoy my food while birds chirped in the background. As a spicy food enthusiast, the Mangut Lele tasted heavenly on my taste buds. Extremely hot with a hint of smokiness, it’s something that I’ve never tasted before, yet I’m glad I did. The Opor Ayam Kampung was equally flavoursome as well, although it wasn’t as remarkable. Its meat was a bit stiff – because they use ayam kampung (free-range chicken) – but the coconut milk, onion, chilli and galangal provided enough savour flavours to even things up.
As I was finishing my meal, Pak Pariman asked me to rate the food, to which I replied with a smile as wide as the ocean and two thumbs up. According to him, Mbah Marto started her venture around 67 years ago. She was still single at the time, and would walk all the way to the centre of Yogyakarta to sell her Mangut Lele. By 1991 – now aged, married, and a mother – she didn’t have the strength to carry the bamboo baskets that held her cooking anymore. So she decided to offer them from the comfort of her own home. Inside the kitchen, where the brick walls have turned black due to the wood stove – she still prepares the food for her loyal patrons on a daily basis.
Pak Pariman himself has been helping his mother since he was a child. He would sometime feel happy when he sees celebrities dining there. “For them to choose here instead of the many proper restaurants out there is amazing,” he says. If you’re keen to sample true Javanese cuisine, it has got to be Mangut Lele Mbah Marto.
Dusun Nengahan, Padukuhan Ngiring-iring Panggungharjo
Sewon, Bantul, Yogyakarta
T: 0821 3737 3477
Open daily from 9.30am-4pm
Rp. 20,000/US$1.50 per person