Suka Suka Saya opened in Koreatown in March with a menu built around Indonesia’s most popular instant noodle brand: Indomie. For some, this may seem like an unusual and quirky choice given that instant noodles can be easily made at home. But for many Indonesians living in Los Angeles, Suka Suka Saya brings back memories of familiar snack foods and late nights out with friends.
While there are other Indonesian restaurants in LA, from the long-standing Simpang Asia to the newer Medan Kitchen, Indonesian cuisine is still generally hard to find in the region. Until recently, there certainly wasn’t a place that showcased the iconic Indomie on the menu.
Now, there is Suka Suka Saya (which translates to “whatever I like”), the only LA restaurant serving a menu centered around Indomie. The project was recently opened in Koreatown by two brothers who originally came from Jakarta, Steventh and Wiki Thatcher. The brothers have always enjoyed cooking, and Wiki comes from a restaurant background in Jakarta. They wanted to open their own food business for a few years. After mulling over different ideas — opening a cloud kitchen, a food truck, or even a sushi burrito spot — they opted to do what they do best: street food from their home country.
Suka Suka Saya’s opening announcement banner sported a small Indomie logo, which was enough to draw some Indomie lovers from the neighborhood — including, but not limited to, Indonesian expats. While a lot of Indonesian students from nearby USC ordered the Indomie dishes, Steventh was surprised that there were quite a few Indomie lovers from other parts of the world that came in. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising; Indomie is distributed in over 100 countries. Nigerian artist King Uche and UK rapper Jesse2Ocean have written songs about Indomie. The love for Indomie has traveled far and wide.
While Indomie instant noodles come in a variety of types and flavors, the most popular and most associated with the brand itself is the mi goreng variety, which means (stir) fried noodles in Indonesian. Indomie’s mi goreng comes in small packets that include noodles, oil and sweet soy sauce, and seasonings. The noodles are boiled, drained, and combined with sauce and seasonings.
It wasn’t long after the brand was introduced that Indomie found its way not only to virtually every pantry in Indonesia, but also to warung — small, streetside eateries available all over the country. In the 1990s, these eateries proliferated near colleges throughout Indonesia, where students flocked to eat cheap Indomie and hang out with friends, and the eateries started offering the noodles with egg, cheese, and other toppings. It has continued to grow in popularity and can be found in a myriad of unique ways in trendy restaurants.
Suka Suka Saya’s signature Indomie goreng combines the Indomie spice packet with the brothers’ own seasonings, topped with an egg, bok choy, and ground chicken. It’s spicy and savory; at first bite, it is at once familiar and different. The restaurant also offers a build-your-own version of noodles and rice, referencing the name Suka Suka Saya. Customers can choose from different instant noodle options such as various Indomie noodles and Buldak kimchi ramen. The topping options include salted duck yolk sauce, kimchi, anchovies, a variety of sambals (chile sauce), and pete (stinky beans), which are beloved among a lot of Indonesians.
In a true LA twist, there is also a burrito filled with crispy chicken katsu, Indomie, egg, and lettuce. It’s not the first Indomie burrito to have shown up in LA; Eric Tjahyadi introduced an Indomie burrito back in 2015 with his restaurant komodo, which has since closed. But it’s certainly the only one today and it has quickly become the most popular item on the menu.
Like many other businesses, Suka Suka Saya is having trouble hiring, and in the meantime, the family is running the operations. There is a kiosk for self-ordering, and a robot waiter brings the food to the tables. As they get their sea legs, Suka Suka Saya is slowly expanding their menu beyond Indomie to include some more popular Indonesian dishes. There’s Borobudur fried chicken — based on a famous joint in Indonesia where the fried chicken is topped with spiced, crispy crumbs — as well as oxtail soup and pempek, a fried fish cake served with black vinegar sauce.
In Indonesia, a warung is a place to hang out, or “nongkrong” as the Indonesians call it, and that’s what the Thatchers want their place to be — a place not just to eat, but to hang out. Steventh Thatcher wants to make Indonesian food more internationally known but also wants to include non-Indonesian offerings in order to attract clients from different backgrounds. On top of the chicken katsu that makes an appearance in the Indomie burrito, there are Japanese appetizers like gyoza, and Korean influences such as the beef bulgogi rice bowl. Just like their name suggests, the Thatchers are serving whatever they like.