So Hot It Strikes Like Lightning

Kasihan, Bantul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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The sweetness of soy sauce and the hot taste of a large amount of minced cabai rawit (commonly known as Thai pepper/chili) is the distinguished feature of Sate Petir. While some are terrified by the amount of chili, those loving spicy hot culinary are ind

Updated on 17 September 2018

See 6 photos of Sate Petir Pak Nano

Open daily
12 am - sold out

Several motorcycles and cars were crowding the parking area at a humble restaurant located on Jogja's South Ring Road during lunch time. YogYES's car was also parked in the not-so-large parking area. On the other side, a tasty aroma was smelt from inside the restaurant, making our hunger grew and grew.

Culinary lovers identify the restaurant by the name Sate Petir Pak Nano ('Sate Petir' literally translates to 'Lightning Satay'). The word 'petir' is used as the restaurant serves signature satay with glaringly hot taste. Customers can also choose what level of spiciness they would want to enjoy. The unique thing is that the restaurant uses levels taken from education degrees, such as Kindergarten and Professor, to differentiate the level of spiciness that customers can order.

Done parking our car, we immediately stepped into the restaurant's building that integrates to the owner's house. The restaurant itself is just simple with a number of long benches inside. On the front part is Mr. Nano's "work space", a carrying pole like one commonly used by satay sellers and clay stove with burning coals. A number of articles taken from newspapers are posted on the wall, along with the picture of Mr. Nano with Bondan Winarno, Indonesia's culinary legend. Other than in the inside of the restaurant, you can also enjoy your meal on the porch of the house, with a view of the river flowing next to the restaurant.

"What would you like to order?" a middle-aged woman asked us on the entrance. We ordered 1 portion of tongseng and satay of the highest level of spiciness, namely the "professor level".

While waiting for the order, we watched the live demonstration of how these "lightning" satay and tongseng were cooked at Mr. Nano's humble open kitchen. It turned out that each order was processed individually on a clay stove, making us having to wait for some minutes for our orders to complete. With a great level of agility, Mr. Nano Mixed various seasonings like pepper, herb spices, salt, tomatoes, and so on. I trembled a little in fear to see how Mr. Nano took a handful of cabai rawit a.k.a. Thai chili, which he then sliced into thin pieces. All the chili slices were then thrown into the tongseng gravy he'd been cooking. Just like that. I couldn't even begin to imagine how hot it would taste!

After waiting for some times, our orders were finally served. Both the satay and tongseng looked thick, full of hundreds of chili beans and slices that disguised the slices of mutton meat below them. Distinct spicy aroma of pepper was smelt from the steaming tongseng gravy, making our eyes produce tears for its hotness. Once we tasted it, the tongseng gravy tasted more of being sweet with a not-so-biting hotness. This lasted only for some seconds, though, as it was followed by a strike of hotness that burned our tongues. In just a short time, this hot sensation increased in multiple folds, getting our faces covered in sweat and a ringing sensation filled our ears. A glass of iced tea that we'd ordered was finished instantly only to counter this stinging hotness.

We faced the same hotness when trying Mr. Nano's mutton satay. It didn't taste as "biting" as tongseng, but the pile of cabai rawit slices would still make you shiver in fear. We could still taste the sweet and savory mutton meat, mixed with a sensation of hotness that made our mouths felt like burning. This, however, didn't stop us from continuing to eat; this indeed made us addicted.

While sipping the iced tea and trying to neutralize the hotness that just wouldn't leave my tongue, I talked with Mr. Nano and his wife, both of whom were still busy cooking in the front kitchen. While blowing the burning coal in the clay stove, Mr. Nano told me of the history of his restaurant that has been running since 1980. He told me that the satay business was inherited from his grandfather and he has been running it until the present time.

"Back then, I opened my stall on Jl. Letjen S. Parman; 11 years later, I decided to move here," he explained. When asked about the hot taste of his foods, Mr. Nano said that his customers were the source of his idea. There had been many customers requesting super-hot satay and tongseng, thus the name Satay Pak Nano has been identified with a hot taste over time. The name "Petir" (Indonesian word for 'lightning') was also dubbed by Mr. Nano's very own customers as the taste of the foods strike like a lightning. Don't worry; you can adjust the level of hotness according to your tongue's tolerance level. Mr. Nano has often used educational degree levels to describe the level of hotness. The lowest level of hotness is often called "ECE" or "kindergarten", while the highest level is called "undergraduate", "doctoral", or even "professor". What's unique is that there's no specific standard for individual levels as they're all made according to Mr. Nano's own estimate.

"If you order food of professor level, I'd give you so many chili slices that my knife would go blunt slicing them," Mr. Nano joked, laughing hard. "If you'd prefer non-hot satay, however, I think you could just make the satay yourself," he continued while throwing a brief glance to one of the customers who ordered for tongseng without any addition of chili.

The hot taste of Mr. Nano's foods has attracted the curiosity of different groups of customer. Many famous people have had their meal here, from Bondan Winarno, Mira Lesmana, Butet Kartaredjasa, and many more. The funny thing is, Mr. Nano himself had no idea about who those "special" guests were, and he treated them just like he treated his customers of "commoner" group. It was when other customers asked to take pictures with these public figures that Mr. Nano realized that his restaurant had been visited by famous persons.

When asked about the fluctuating price of chili, Mr. Nano said it wasn't something he'd worry about. He said that it was the risk he had to face in running a business that serves hot, spicy foods. It doesn't matter for him if chili's price goes up or down; what matters is that he can continue serving his customers with his sensationally hot satay and tongseng.

"The important thing is that you choose the level of hotness according to your own tolerance level. We had once had a customer who ordered for super-hot tongseng; I couldn't even remember the number of chili I had to use. The next day, that customer was hospitalized," Mrs. Marmi, Mr. Nano's wife who has been helping him in the business, added.

Mrs. Marmi's comment is indeed reasonable. The capsaicin compound contained in the chili's tissue can indeed cause stomachache, diarrhea, or even intestinal irritation. Don't get me wrong, however, the hotness of chili also has many positive effects; it can increase testosterone level in men, reduce the risk of cancer, alleviate headache, alleviate pain in arthritis patients, and many more. So, why would you be afraid to eat hot foods?

How to get there:
from Km 0 - Jl. KH. Ahmad Dahlan - turn left at the first in to Jl. Bantul - turn right at Dongkelan intersection to the South Ring Road - Sate Petir