Indonesia’s love their food and any city of any size such as is Probolinggo means the’ll be at least one local joint that has made to the realms of legend, usually recognised by the crowds, and on this count, Probolinggo does not disappoint—here it is all about bakso—the ubiquitous and sometimes notorious mystery meatball dish that is found all over Indonesia and which is so well known there’s even a popular kids’ song about it.
Bakso Eddy’s bakso draws the punters not only for the bright yellow and red decor of his stall, but the variety of flavours in one bowl of bakso. Bakso Eddy’s bakso is beef based, and there’s only one choice, so vegetarians, Pak Eddy’s establishment is not for you. The meatballs are bigger than a pingpong, but smaller than a tennis ball, our bowl contained six meatball of various flavours and textures, one surprisingly stuffed with a quail’s egg, not unlike an Indonesian version of a Scotch egg. The sambal on the side was good and spicy and service was fast. A bowl of bakso at Bakso Eddy’s will set you back 16,000 rupiah, go on have two.
On Probolinggo’s main drag, Sumber Hidup is a large restaurant with a huge Chinese and Indonesian menu. Sit in the garden with a life-size cement giraffe and horse, or in a covered outdoor area, an air-con box or inside the large cafeteria-style dining hall. You may have to look around to find someone’s attention though, we found service a tad slow. The menu has English translations which is handy if you don’t know your mie from your ayam. The name Sumber Hidup itself translates as the source of life, and for some travellers with a thirst that translates to a cold beer, and true to their name, this is one of the few places in town you’ll score one (Bintang small:25,000 rupiah; large: 35,000 rupiah), although we get the impression they don’t want punters boozing on all day—they “run out” rather quickly.
We tried one of the pricier and more “exotic” dishes, Burung Dara Saos Inggris (72,000 rupaih), pigeon with Worcestershire sauce along with ca sawi hijau (23,000 rupiah), stir-fried choy sum. The pigeon was served with a glazed red sauce, more Chinese Peking duck style than “English”, but was very tasty with tender gamey meat, but noticeably heavy on the MSG and veggies were as you expect from a standard Chinese restaurant. Servings were large enough for two to share. We than polished off our meal with homemade ice-cream, their “speciality”.
If Sumber Hidup runs out of beer, one block down behind KFC, you’ll find D’Bell Pepper, with the ambience of an American chain serving a Western menu that includes pizza, steak and somewhat pricey beer. They advertise in large letters no MSG since April 2012—what a day!
A couple of blocks south of the alun-alun, tucked off the main road, Warung Sari Kuring Roso is a sanctuary in the busy town, with fish ponds, fountains and private bales to enjoy your meal “lesehan style”—sitting on mats on the floor. Regular tables and chairs are available too. The speciality is gurami fish, but the menu includes many Indonesian favourites. We sampled udang goreng garam cabe (25,000 rupiah), salt and chilli fried prawns. The prawns were fried in a batter which we were not expecting and less salty and spicy than assumed, but it was tasty, although the serving was small. The accompanying cha baby buncis (21,000 rupiah) stir-fried baby beans was a little heavy on the oil for our taste. We visited during the day, but imagine this would be a romantic place at night.
Occupying a colonial building west of the alun-alun, Pawon Tengger dishes up traditional Javanese fare. The menu has pictures, helpful for non-Indonesian speakers, and helpful anyway—we just pointed at a picture we liked the look of—ayam bakar Tengger, (90,000 rupiah) and when the dish arrived it was a much larger serving than it had appeared in the photo, enough for whole family with a whole (but small) chicken served with tofu, tempe corn fritters and veggies. The sweet marinade, blackened and caramelised by the barbecue and fall-off-the-bone meat makes this dish a winner.
If you enjoy a little colonial ambience, drop by the restaurant attached to Paseban Sena Hotel. the menu is pretty standard hotel fare, but the lovely surrounds with high ceilings and original furnishing make it a pleasant spot on a hot day to enjoy a refreshing fresh juice or an iced tea.
Close to the train station, a row of Ikan Bakar warungs grill up fish, seafood and more nightly. We tried Lalapan Persipro Pak Wid recommended by our ojek driver (always a good source of info). While the fish we tried was good, but nothing special, the duck was very tasty, served lalapan style with a spicy sambal and some raw veggies. This lively area entertains with a constant stream of buskers (have small change ready). We were lucky to be treated to a magic show with a street magician—lots of fun.
Finding an alcoholic beverage in Probolinggo is not as easy as popping into the corner store, but is still possible. A couple of restaurants and guesthouses serve beer, but when they run out, you’ll have to get a little more creative. Some more clandestine traders operate around town—just ask about.
Bakso Eddy 58 Jalan Sukarno Hatta, Probolinggo; T: (0335) 435 669, (0811) 350 3321; Mo–Su: 09:00–21:00.
D’Bell Pepper 1 Jalan Suroyo, Probolinggo; T: (0335) 421 040; Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Lalapan Persipro Pak Wid Jalan KH Mas Mansyur, Probolinggo; Mo–Su: 17:00–23:00.
Paseban Sena 50-52 Jalan Suroyo, Probolinggo; T: (0335) 434 040, (0335) 420 444; https://pasenansenaprobolinggo.wordpress.com Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00.
Pawon Tengger 26 Jalan A Yani, Probolinggo; T: (0335) 423 977, (0821) 4317 8282; https://www.facebook.com/juliussugiharto3177/ Mo–Su: 09:00–22:00.
Sumber Hidup 2 Jalan Dr. Mohamad Saleh, Probolinggo; T: (0335) 421 413, (0335) 427 533; Mo–Fr: 08:00–21:00 & Sa–Su: 08:00–21:30.
Warung Sari Kuring Roso 35 Jalan Suroyo, Probolinggo; T: (0335) 424 999; Mo–Su: 09:00–21:00.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.