61 comments

Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

You know that smell. Home after half a decade spent on the other side of the world, and you still know that smell.


It makes a beeline for you from across the street, shoving aside the exhaust fumes of a thousand motorbikes and the stench of sewage baking under the sun. It scurries up your nostrils and thrashes about in your brain, evicting every coherent thought for the only one that matters. You sit back for the showreel playing in your skull:


It starts with oil from the previous batch; the health-conscious would stoop so low as to use terms like “rancid” or “carcinogenic,” but to you it is liquid gold. Into the wok it goes, and to that the vendor adds a different kind of liquid gold; the egg puffs up and swells with joy until a metal spatula divides it into little yellow morsels of love. But the egg is getting lonely, which is why a good helping of minced garlic is there to keep it company.


(You love garlic. Good lord, you love garlic.)


Next comes the main event: A mound of day-old rice, sitting primly in a basket until the whole thing gets heaped into the wok. The egg and the garlic gasp for air, but only for a terrifying moment, because the concoction gets swirled around until all the ingredients are giggling at each other’s jokes.


A dash of chili sauce. A pinch of salt. A dusting of pepper. And a crucial teaspoon of MSG (at this point, you’re ready to get into fisticuffs with anyone who dares claim something so pure and innocent could give someone a headache). But nothing defines an authentic streetside Nasi Goreng quite like a good dose of thick, syrupy-sweet soy sauce, draped across the rice like midnight-black ribbons. Then comes the tossing, the wok serving as the dance floor for every morsel of flavor until they’ve gazed into each other’s eyes and exchanged phone numbers.


The showreel stops. You can’t hold it in much longer—like having a raging erection in one hand and a certain type of magazine in the other. You almost collide with a motorbike on your way to the origin of that sacred aroma. The little boy and his three passengers throw cusses over their shoulders as they speed off, stacked together on the tiny seat like books on a shelf. And yet you smile all the same, because you know you’re home when the sight of such an atrocity feels normal.


You step into the shade of a corrugated metal roof, and it is just like the first time all over again: the tightly-packed benches, the frantic scraping of spatulas against metal, the stray cats meandering between legs in pursuit of scraps. And the flies; ah, it wouldn’t be Indonesia if you didn’t have to defend every meal from an onslaught of huge, shiny bluebottles.


The vendor knows your face, so of course he compliments your outfit, pats your back with a greasy hand, and offers you a serving on the house. You watch, the awe of your youth returning to your eyes, as flames lick the underside of the wok and sauce-coated grains of rice perform somersaults over it. Your stomach does an excellent impression of a lion then, at which the vendor chuckles as he hands you love on a plate.


You seize a half-empty bench against the far wall, and your salivary glands are working overtime knowing that you are about to delve into the same world of unbridled joy that the people stuffing themselves with noodles and rice around you are. Beautiful steam wraps its loving hands around you and for a second you just sit there and stare at the work of art on your plate, every delicious component carefully selected to impart something crucial to flavor, aroma, texture and aesthetic.


You wield a fork in one hand and a spoon in the other, and you are ready, you are so ready to silence the screams in the pit of your stomach, to go medieval on this plate of salty, umami, greasy scrumptiousness.  


But the cutlery hovers in place, refusing to budge. That’s odd. You’re hungry and nostalgic, so what else could be missing?


A patchwork of mangled fur streaks out from underneath the table; you soothe the man across from you into ceasing his onslaught on the poor creature. In fact, you go so far as to select a strip of egg from your plate and dangle it in sight of the stray. You feel only pity as it tentatively paws over to your side of the bench and waits for you to drop it.


That’s when you remember, the beautiful aromas of this place finally hauling the last dregs of your past to the surface.


She was shooing one away too, the first time her rickety frame fell into your line of sight. You made it abundantly clear that you wouldn’t eat a single grain of rice her dad cooked if she didn’t let you feed the cats. Risk of disease or some other flavor of horseshit. They’ve set up shop next to an open sewer, for goodness’ sake!


Still, you were patient with her, and it was either that or your shit-eating, testosterone-fuelled grin that coaxed her into pressing her shoulder against yours as she laid a tall glass of iced tea on the table, free of charge.


Clink.


That wasn’t a memory. The stray scampers off before you get to feed it; in its place is a pair of pink flip-flops, and of course they can only fit a certain pair of feet.


Her smile slides into your memories like butter; it’s the same shy playfulness, the same lone dimple that graces her left cheek. You reciprocate by taking a sip of the tea, which tastes like puppy love. How long has it been? Five years? Six? You’re flabbergasted by how good she looks despite all the women you’ve seen abroad, with their blue eyes and freckles and hair like fire. Here she stands, scrawny, dark-eyed and dark-haired, and yet she ignites something inside you all the same.


You watch fondly as she takes a strip of egg from your plate and calls the cat back. After the feline is as satisfied as you are, she presses against you, shoulder kissing yours, and only now do you find the drive to dig in.


Everything tastes as good as you remember.

October 02, 2020 22:02

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61 comments

Dhwani Jain
14:05 Jun 28, 2021

Ah! Nice story! Even though I am a vegetarian, I could relate to the feelings of the narrator. The second person POV was good! I noticed you filled my form for characters...Will surely try to use it in my series (Aqua's Squad), or in any other standalone story. Where are you from?

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:45 Jun 28, 2021

Thanks! And no rush, I'll be on the lookout for that story :) Haha there's a hint to where I'm from in the story you just read ;) Take a guess!

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Dhwani Jain
03:30 Jun 29, 2021

Indonesia?

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Rayhan Hidayat
22:40 Jun 29, 2021

Haha yep! Are you from India by any chance? :)

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Dhwani Jain
03:53 Jun 30, 2021

Yes...how'd you guess?

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:31 Jul 01, 2021

Oh, I just had a feeling ;)

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Claudia Morgan
07:47 May 23, 2021

Ok...yeah now I actually need to go back to Singapore...lockdown’s getting to me. But wow, this was beautifully written! Really vivid...and hunger inducing. Love it!

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:27 May 25, 2021

Oh same, I miss duck noodles and Hainan chicken rice. Thanks yet again Ana!

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Claudia Morgan
05:19 May 26, 2021

Haha, no problem...I’m just going to be hungry now...

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Claudia Morgan
17:52 Aug 02, 2021

Yes I came back here. I'm trying to describe food for my book and I never thought it could be so hard...I'm now incredibly jealous of your skills, more than I was before. I'm hungry and I want noodles. But I must describe this Spanish carcamusa. HELP-

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02:06 Oct 04, 2020

NOW I’M HUNGRYYYY

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:11 Oct 04, 2020

Thanks for stopping by! Yeah writing this made me hungry too haha. Oh and when can we expect a new story from Aerin B.? :)

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Yolanda Wu
22:44 Oct 02, 2020

Oh my god, I absolutely love this story dedicated to rice! As a fellow Asian, I state my approval for every single sentence written in this story. Everything was so accurate, I could literally taste it and arghh, I wannttt. And all the descriptions were so detailed so that even those perhaps not so familiar with fried rice could understand. Just out of curiosity, have you ever watched any of Uncle Roger's videos, if not you really should. This story really reminded me of him. Amazing work as always, Rayhan!

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Rayhan Hidayat
23:07 Oct 02, 2020

Haha thanks so much, I figured you might enjoy this one! Just spreading my love for fried rice on Reedsy 😉 Is Unce Roger the guy who criticizes western chefs cooking Asian dishes? I think my sister showed me a clip of him once, he was really funny!

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Yolanda Wu
23:47 Oct 02, 2020

Yes, that's him! He is hilarious!

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Yolanda Wu
05:22 Oct 08, 2020

Hi Rayhan, I have a new story out! Would really appreciate your feedback. :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
05:32 Oct 08, 2020

Oh yay! I’m just finishing up mine and I’ll be right over 😉

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Yolanda Wu
05:33 Oct 08, 2020

Great! Can't wait to read yours!

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Jen Park
13:05 Nov 24, 2020

"(You love garlic. Good lord, you love garlic.)" "And the flies; ah, it wouldn’t be Indonesia if you didn’t have to defend every meal from an onslaught of huge, shiny bluebottles." "You watch, the awe of your youth returning to your eyes, as flames lick the underside of the wok and sauce-coated grains of rice perform somersaults over it." "Her smile slides into your memories like butter" NOW tell me your secret; how do you manage to generate out all the words that always makes me surprised and amazed? I won't be surprised if thei...

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:20 Nov 27, 2020

You’re back! (When is the next story coming?) I’m glad you liked this, this story is pretty much a love letter to Asian cuisine (and to all the fellow Asians on this site) Hey, you’re under no obligation to read all or any of my stories, but “Overflowing” is also set in Indonesia so you might find some stuff to enjoy there as well 😙 Thanks as always!

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Jen Park
14:34 Nov 27, 2020

I will read it now!! And I plan to post new story tomorrow if I can... Idk😊

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:31 Nov 27, 2020

Well, give me a shout if you do get around to it :)

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Radhika Diksha
09:27 Oct 20, 2020

I think in your future you are going to be a book writer, cause your writing are so refined and professional. From the story I can assume that you are Indonesian, and believe me, we Asian love garlic to death. As always fan of your work.

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Rayhan Hidayat
09:55 Oct 20, 2020

Thanks so much for the encouragement! I am currently writing a novel and hope to get it published someday. And yes, life wouldn’t be worth living without garlic 😉

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Shreya S
12:43 Oct 13, 2020

Love it, love it, love it! The way you write is like really unique, and although I certainly didn’t expect a whole recipe like that, it was a fun read. I kind of hate food, so I’m grateful for pieces like this that can make, like, aesthetically find food appealing. This one especially was in second person! And... I have no excuse. Sorry. I got too caught up in some projects and forgot reedsy existed. But, on the bright side, now I have 2 more stories to read without delay!

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:44 Oct 13, 2020

What do you mean you kind of hate food?! Thanks, anyway, and welcome back! I get that it’s a busy time of year for most people. I just hope your writing isn’t getting rusty!

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Shreya S
10:20 Oct 14, 2020

I mean I think the world would be a nicer place if food didn’t exist, or at least, I didn’t have to consume it to live. Yeah.. I hope it isn’t getting rusty too haha

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Rayhan Hidayat
10:35 Oct 14, 2020

Oh, well, if you put it that way. Imagine if we were all plants and all we needed to live was sunshine, air and water 😜

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Keerththan 😀
04:52 Oct 12, 2020

Wonderful story in the second person points of view. The title is really funny. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story "The royal Fork?" Thanks!

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Rayhan Hidayat
06:03 Oct 12, 2020

Thanks for stopping by! And sure, I will

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Kristin Neubauer
15:49 Oct 10, 2020

I can't say anything new that the others haven't already said - I loved this! Such rich sensory detail. It left my mouth watering too!

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Rayhan Hidayat
02:01 Oct 11, 2020

Thanks Kristin, I guess this was kinda like my crumpet story but kicked up a notch 😂

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Molly Leasure
00:21 Oct 08, 2020

Haha, that was an intense eating experience (not saying that's not me EVERY TIME I go out to eat). I love the second person voice you used here, it made the story all the more interesting. I felt like I was along for the journey! Also, you made me hungry, so I guess you succeeded there, too...

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:48 Oct 08, 2020

Thank you, I'm glad I could share the joys of fried rice with you haha. I think second person is very underrated, it's fun to write and I personally think it can definitely spice up a story as you said

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Skyler Woods
23:27 Oct 07, 2020

Wow! Reading this story made me hungry! The detail was astonishing. I could smell the rice and soy sauce. You made me feel like I was in the kitchen! God, you're good! Loved it!! 💏💗

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Rayhan Hidayat
23:29 Oct 07, 2020

Aw thanks! My goal was to make people feel hungry so I’m glad I succeeded 😙

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Skyler Woods
23:45 Oct 07, 2020

You definitely had my mouth watering!

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Charles Stucker
22:35 Oct 05, 2020

Beautifully crafted food (magazine of a certain type). Minimal plot, just hints at the character of the protagonist. this feels more like a scene inserted into one of the books which includes vivid food scenes, then a recipe for said food. Make no mistake, this is good at laying out all the descriptions, just the story is all about the food, which is pretty well established as routine for the vendor and the person eating. I suppose that's why it's creative non-fiction, not drama or another genre where you follow the traditional rising tensio...

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Rayhan Hidayat
03:31 Oct 06, 2020

Thanks for the insightful review! You’re right, this is definitely a bit of an unconventional story I did just for fun, no stakes or riveting climax or anything like that.

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Itay Frenkel
17:20 Oct 05, 2020

Wow, this made me miss something I was never a part of! A very pure and touching story about food and how it can bring people together. I loved the pun in the title and the wordplay throughout. I've never had Indonesian food but I will certainly be trying it now! Also, I love garlic too. I didn't see anything I'd change here.

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Rayhan Hidayat
17:32 Oct 05, 2020

Thanks Itay! Yes you should definitelly try it, you won't regret it ;) And yay, the Garlic Lovers Club is now three members strong :D

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Bianka Nova
17:58 Oct 04, 2020

If I've ever read food porn, I think this must be it 😄😋 (I also LOVE garlic) My google search now includes "Indonesian restaurants". I'm ashamed to say I've never been to one.

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Rayhan Hidayat
18:13 Oct 04, 2020

Whooo garlic lovers unite! 🧄 (I can’t believe there’s an emoji for that). I figured it’s my turn to write a hunger-inducing one haha And yeah, unfortunately Indonesian cuisine is pretty rare internationally, unless you’re planning on going to the Netherlands. The closest you’ll get that’s common is probably Thai food Btw, when can we expect a story from you? 🙃

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Bianka Nova
19:56 Oct 04, 2020

I guess it's the aggressive marketing of Indian and Pakistani restaurants that brings them to the forefront here 😁 Still, there seem to be Indonesian ones as well. But even if I don´t go to one, I think I would definitely try to make some European homemade version of nasi goreng. And in terms of new story... that seems to be the million dollar question lately. Between work, administrative and other stuff I haven´t been able to even read many of the stories I´d like to. I promise to try and squeeze somethin in this week. 😉

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:51 Oct 04, 2020

Aw yes! I hope you’re not using my story as a recipe though, there’s more detailed ones online And yay! I really don’t care if it’s only 1000 words, I usually write short ones myself when life is throwing a lot of lemons

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Bianka Nova
22:18 Oct 04, 2020

Haha, I won't. Don't worry. I saw there are a lot of recipes online (also, I normally try not to overdo it on the spicy front) 😉 By the way, isn't it like in the middle of the night or very early morning where you are? And finally a little story update - I felt a bit guilty and started writing. Wish me luck!

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Rayhan Hidayat
22:37 Oct 04, 2020

Ugh, next you’ll tell me mayonnaise is too spicy 😜 But don’t worry, a proper Nasi Goreng is actually pretty mild Yeah, you got me, my sleep schedule is soooo messed up. Gonna try fix that today! Oh no, don’t tell me I guilt-tripped you into writing. Please don’t do this to me! 😂

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S. Closson
04:53 Oct 04, 2020

I wasn't sure what to expect with a title like that, but your story certainly didn't disappoint! This story was very well written, and it left me feeling both hungry as well as nostalgic. I loved the word play throughout the story, as well as the descriptions of the area, it really made it feel real. That ending was great as well! Keep up the awesome work!

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:08 Oct 04, 2020

Thanks! Haha yeah the title, this story is really just an excuse to showcase my love for fried rice!

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Lily Kingston
21:05 Oct 03, 2020

Gahhh!!!! This story is so good. You had my mouth watering and the ending is so sweet, it made my heart swell. The last line ends it perfectly. And I love the pun title! Keep up the good work and keep writing!!

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:14 Oct 03, 2020

Thanks so much for the read! Glad you can appreciate the pun even though it's cringey as hell xD And I'm loving your pen name btw, it's kinda catchy! :D

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Lily Kingston
22:07 Oct 03, 2020

Thanks :)

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18:31 Oct 03, 2020

Ouu wow I didn't know food could have that much description till I read this. I like how you described the ingredients, I have never seen any one do that before and a story dedicated to rice?? Like wow!! Great job Rayhan!!! And keep writing!!

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Rayhan Hidayat
19:08 Oct 03, 2020

Thanks so much, it was fun to play around with figurative language in this one :)

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A.Dot Ram
06:03 Oct 03, 2020

This sentence is a work of art (that also makes me hungry): The egg and the garlic gasp for air, but only for a terrifying moment, because the concoction gets swirled around until all the ingredients are giggling at each other’s jokes. I've never seen food thusly personified!

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Rayhan Hidayat
07:10 Oct 03, 2020

Thank you, I definitely had a lot of fun trying to elevate food to the next level here!

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