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Food & Drink

San Francisco’s extra-spicy food festival is already sold out

A dish with rich, dark rendang curry, decorated with fresh green lime leaves and a bright red chili slice, served on a yellow plate.
The upcoming Indonesian Bazaar in San Francisco will feature Indonesian cuisine, such as beef rendang, a dish cooked with curry and coconut milk until the beef becomes ultra-tender. | Source: Herbert Tsang/South China Morning/Getty Images

Having lived in the Bay Area for 15 years, Angela Tjitradi thinks it’s time for the area’s relatively small Indonesian immigrant community to come into the spotlight—starting with its extra-spicy cuisine.

“We can handle spicy food like no other,” Tjitradi said, laughing. “Not spicy? Not delicious.”

During the pandemic, Tjitradi founded the group Friends of Indonesia and began hosting small Indonesian-themed events at a Tenderloin food hall. This year, she’s going big—hosting what she believes to be San Francisco’s largest-ever Indonesian food and culture festival for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. 

The Indonesian Bazaar, which will take place on Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m at Fort Mason, will feature a dozen vendors highlighting Indonesian food, clothing and handmade crafts.

People browse and shop at a crowded indoor market, examining products at a colorful stall decorated with wooden masks.
Guests attend the Indonesia Bazaar in 2023 at La Cocina Marketplace in Tenderloin. Organizers believe the 2024 event planned at Fort Mason will be the largest-ever Indonesian food and culture festival in San Francisco. | Source: Courtesy Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia

At the event, local Indonesian restaurants offering spicy food are challenging festivalgoers to test their taste buds. Tjitradi recommended beef rendang, a traditional Indonesian dish cooked with curry and coconut milk until the beef becomes ultra-tender. It can be extra spicy if you ask for more hot sauce (sambal). Nusa, a popular Emeryville-based Indonesian food spot and one of the festival’s vendors, offers homemade sambal with a ginger taste.

Even the fried rice (nasi goreng) can be spicy, according to Nusa’s owner, Jennifer Huang. Indonesian-style fried rice uses white pepper, ginger and Thai chile to level up the spice factor.

Fried rice topped with a sunny side up egg and crispy fried onions, served with a side of diced cucumber and carrots in a white takeout container.
Indonesian fried rice topped with a fried egg, crispy onions and agar—a mixture of pickled cucumber, carrot and shallot—is served at Nusa, an Indonesian spot in the Emeryville Public Market food hall. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Other food vendors include Dapoer Ngebul, a catering company specializing in authentic Indonesian street food, and Lime Tree, a Southeast Asian restaurant brand with two locations in San Francisco. The event will also include Indonesian clothing and fabric retailers. 

According to 2020 U.S. Census data, San Francisco has only 590 residents who identify as Indonesian. 

“If you look around, there is no Indonesian here,” Tjitradi said, pointing out that her home country has the fourth-largest population in the world but very limited visibility in the Bay Area. “We want to showcase [to] the public how beautiful and wonderful Indonesia is.”

Though it’s still small, the local Indonesian immigrant community is growing, according to Prasetyo Hadi, Indonesia’s consul general in San Francisco. The event received strong support from the consulate because this year marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Indonesia. 

Tickets to the Indonesian Bazaar have already sold out. But those interested in trying Indonesian food and wares can visit the vendors at their shops around the Bay Area, Tjitradi said.

Claudine Cheng, the president of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation, who spearheaded the city’s AAPI month celebration, sees the Indonesian Bazaar as a way to represent the diversity of Asian American cultures. 

“That is the purpose of this celebration,” Cheng said, “that we expand the circle and include the diverse ethnic groups.”

Han Li can be reached at