Padang/Minang restaurant is where people would go for authentic Sumatran spicy foods, the kinds that you would want to work off at the gym. Some of the most popular Padang foods served in restaurants are unapologetically spicy and greasy. Fresh hot chilies are mandatory in Padang cooking. They are typically eaten with large amounts of white, steamed rice and washed down with unsweetened black teas or young coconut water.
Unique to Padang restaurants, all or most of the available dishes are served in small plates at the customers’ tables. Patrons can expect at least 10 different dishes to choose from, which include fried chicken with shredded coconut, ayam pop (a pale and mild-tasting fried chicken), various gulai dishes such as cassava leaves gulai (gulai is similar to curry, but the sauce is generally less thick), beef and chicken rendang (rendang is similar to curry, but the sauce is much thicker and richer), various sambals and balado. You can always ask for extra servings of your favourite dishes.
Customers are also given a bowl of water to wash their hands in should they wish to eat without utensils. As I am yet to master the art of scooping the rice and accompaniments neatly with grace and minimal mess, I would always go for the fork and spoon.
Another unique feature of Padang restaurants is that you literally only pay for what you eat. If you only eat one of the two pieces of chicken in the gulai or rendang ayam, for example, you would only have to pay for that one piece. It does raise questions about hygiene, though. So, the amount of (other people’s) saliva basically depends on the conscience and self-awareness of the previous customer/s.
Some make it a rule to never eat meat curries, gulai or rendang in Padang restaurants, always choosing the dry, deep-fried and/or vegetable dishes instead. Others try to get to the restaurant as early as possible when the foods are still ‘fresh’. I choose to eat anything I fancy while crossing everything I can, hoping for the best and savouring the moment.