Touchdown at half past eight, breakfast by half past nine. All in all, four and a half hours (front) door-to-stool (that includes the haul out to KL's international airport and hotel check-in). Who knew Sumatran deliciousness was so close at hand?
Less than five minutes after dropping our bags in our room we're hoofing it to Pasar Raya, Padang's sprawling central market. Just short of our destination we're sidetracked by the scent of grilled meat and plop ourselves down at a table fronting a brightly painted mobile stall. Anticipating a moment just such as this, we've forgone breakfast. Sate Padang daging sapi (beef sate Padang-style) is what's on offer here, and it smells scrumptious.
What makes sate Padang so 'Padang', you ask. In a word - sauce. Not a trace of peanut here, just meat broth tarted up with tomato, sweetened with palm sugar, and spiced with ginger, fresh turmeric (and/or the root's leaves), coriander and cumin seeds, maybe a hint of nutmeg, and what must be heaping tablespoons of ground dried chili. The mix is thickened with rice flour.
Sauce is kept hot on a low burner; skewers are warmed a la minute on a tiny grill.
Charred but tender beef morsels (more nibble- than bite-sized), threaded on thin, delicate skewers that bend under their weight, are laid atop chunks of ketupat (pressed rice that's been boiled in squarish packets made of coconut fronds), liberally doused with sauce, and sprinkled with shallots fried a deep golden brown.
We devour the sate and spear the rice squares with our now-empty skewers, attempting to sop up leftover sauce. Apparently we appear ravenous (or enraptured); the vendor hurries over with a spoon so we don't have to waste a drop. The sauce is sweet but not overly so (tomato keeps the sugar in check) and rich with the warm spices. Chili heat takes its time, starting as a dull tingle in the center of our tongues and then building to a loud, mouth-encompassing buzz that lingers for several minutes.
Nothing to do but douse the fire with a handful of the rice flour crackers piled on plates in the middle of the table.
Oops! They aren't called kerupuk lada (pepper cracker) for nothing. Both sides of the rice flour disks wear a coat of chili powder. No matter - they're yummy, and a bottle of mineral water's a stone's throw away.
Rumbling bellies quieted for now, we pay up (7,000 rupiah, about 85 US cents) and head towards the market, smiles on our faces. Oh yeah, no doubt about it - this is gonna be a great couple of weeks.
Sate padang cart, almost directly across the street from Simpang Raya restaurant (everyone knows it), next to the mosque in front of Pasar Raya, Padang. Till afternoon, from what we could gather.