QUESTION: A friend from Australia is dying for a good Indonesian murtabak — Malaysian will also be okay. (Californians look for Mexican food when they’re homesick abroad, but Aussies do Indonesian instead.) We will go anywhere!
—Hoack, Los Angeles
ANSWER: Murtabak, a sort of thin, filo-like pastry stuffed with a scramble of eggs, ground meat and herbs, is a food worth obsessing over, more or less the Indonesian equivalent of a Moroccan b’stilla or a Lebanese burek, but with a weighty presence all its own. My favorite local murtabak was at Sudi Mampir, a halal place in North Hollywood that seems to have gone out of business recently. The restaurant was so good that my composer friend Carl Stone named one of his opuses after it, a strange but wonderful electro-acoustic composition built around the announcements of a female Asian elevator operator — it sounded sort of like Steve Reich, in the best possible way, although I suspect the piece has little or nothing to do with murtabak. You can still get the music through Stone’s Web site, www.sukothai.com, or on one of several em:t ambient-music compilations.
Anyway, I am always happy to eat the murtabak at Indo Cafe in the Palms neighborhood of West Los Angeles, where it is forcefully spiced with black pepper and the pastry is always crisp. If it happens to be on the menu that day, try the mashed-potato fritters called perkedel, too. Perkedel soaks up chile sambal like no substance known to man. Indo Cafe, 104281/2 National Blvd., Palms, (310) 815-1290.
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