If you think Yogyakartan cuisine is all sugary sweet, think again. Just like most Indonesians, the people of Yogyakarta love hot and spicy foods. The more chillis added, the hotter the meal will get, and thus the better it will taste. There is a unique, sort of silly, label that goes with such hellish dishes—mercon. Mercon actually means an explosive or a firecracker. So, if you see ayam mercon (mercon chicken) or bakso mercon (mercon meatballs) on a menu, then it refers to the flavour━it is so fiery hot that it explodes in your mouth! Here are some of Yogyakarta’s hottest foods that will set your tongue on fire and where to find them.
This is truly a mercon you do not want to mess with. Oseng mercon is a super hot beef stew consisting of roughly chopped beef, fat, muscle tissue, and slowly simmered with a lot of bird's eye chillies. The chillies are cut in half and added into the pot along with the other ingredients and spices, creating a nice medley of colours. At Oseng Mercon 62 restaurant, the stew is served in a small bowl, best enjoyed with a plate of white rice. Fried chicken, tofu, and tempeh are also available. Keep in mind that you might not want to add any additional hot chilli relish, or sambal, to your meal as it is hot enough!
Oseng Mercon 62, Jalan K. H. Ahmad Dahlan no. 62, Kecamatan Ngampilan, Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia | (+62) 812 1526 4676
This dish is basically shredded meat with chillis. Your chosen protein (or vegetables) will be mashed repeated along with the bird eye chillies and garlic using a mortar and pestle━a process known as ‘penyet’. The final result is spectacular! The flesh will be much tender and absorb some of the chillies, making it very hot and spicy. Good old white rice completes the whole dining experience, and helps cut the heat too if it gets overwhelming.
Penyetan Mas Kobis, established in 1998, offers plain fried chicken, fish, egg, tofu, and more. This eatery also allows you to determine your desired ‘level of heat’, which means how many bird eye chillies you want in your order. The signature touch of Penyetan Mas Kobis is its deep-fried cabbage. In English, ‘kobis’ means cabbage. It may sound weird to deep fry shreds of cabbages, but it is to die for! Fried cabbage is salty, sweet, and savoury at the same time and it goes well with a fried chicken or fish. However, if you are gassy or have some digestive issues, just skip the fried cabbage altogether.
Penyetan Mas Kobis, Jalan Pogung Kidul no. 2A, Desa Sinduadi, Kecamatan Mlati, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia | (+62) 877 3838 1868
You can't go wrong with fried chicken, but it gets even better when enjoyed with Indonesian-stye sambal. The Indonesian version gets a spicy treatment with a mortar and pestle, pounded with a handful of bird eye chillies, garlic, and salt. Known as ayam geprek, this is similar to penyet—the difference lies in how the meat is pounded with the pestle. Geprek is pounded rather than mashed, tenderising the meat until the flesh, bones, and batter fall apart
If you want to give this fusion of the Western and Eastern cuisine a try, then head to Ayam Geprek Bu Rum I. This modest food kiosk has been feeding hungry locals since 2003 with its top-notch ayam geprek. You can ask for more or fewer chillies as you wish. If you want to add some terasi (shrimp paste), or tomatoes to the mix, you can absolutely do so. White rice and savoury vegetable soup or stir fry make perfect companions for the chicken. If you prefer to turn yourself into a fire-breathing dragon, simply ignore the vegetable dish and let’s see how well you handle the heat!
Ayam Geprek Bu Rum I, Jalan Wulung, Desa Caturtunggal, Kecamatan Depok, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia | (+62) 274 551406
Another mercon item you cannot pass is bakso cuanki kuah pedas at Bakso Chuanki Akang Bandung. It originated from Bandung, West Java, but has been running several branches in Yogyakarta since 2018. Bakso cuanki kuah pedas is a soup made of special broth and a lot of bird's eye chillies, poured on top of meatballs bakso, tofu, steamed and fried dumplings, chicken feet, and more. There is even bakso mercon━a medium-sized meatball stuffed with slices of bird's eye chillies that will ooze out once you cut into the meatball. Thanks to its large quantity of chillies, the overall appearance of the dish is so red that you may start questioning your ability to eat it, and perhaps your sanity. Worry not however━you still can taste the aromatic and savoury herbs of the broth.
Bakso Chuanki Akang Bandung, Jalan Rajawali no. 7, Kecamatan Depok, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia | (+62) 812 9970 2397
Ceker, or chicken feet, can be cooked in soup, fried, stir-fried, stewed, steamed, you name it! Depending on how you cook them, they can taste sweet, salty, savoury, or spicy. They have a very chewy texture and sometimes, the bones are so tender that you can munch and swallow them easily. Yogyakarta cooks chicken feet with puréed bird's eye chillies and other spices, resulting in ceker mercon. One of the city’s restaurants that serve the hottest chicken feet is Ceker Mercon Mbak Dwiross. This simple kiosk allows customers to choose how hot they want their ceker mercon to be. Once your meal is ready, just throw your dining manners and cutlery out of the window as the best way to devour ceker mercon is to eat it with your hands. In addition, you have to lean over while eating to avoid any spills and drips of the chilli sauce.
Ceker Mercon Mbak Dwiross, Jalan Kampung Jogoyudan JT 3 no. 1042, Kelurahan Gowongan, Kecamatan Jetis, Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Indonesia | (+62) 823 2628 1419