26 October 2022

Hot in the City: Rasa Rosa opens up in Verity Lane Market

| Lucy Ridge
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Rosa smiling at counter

Rosa Djapa uses over twenty ingredients in her beef curry and displays the different spices on the counter. Photo: Rasa Rosa.

Verity Lane’s newest vendor is Rasa Rosa, offering classic Indonesian dishes cooked by Rosa Djapa.

Rosa’s three adult daughters are all settled in Australia, but Rosa was living in Lombok, Indonesia, in early 2020 when she got a phone call from her daughters who were worried about the rapid rise of COVID-19.

“They called me and said, ‘Mum, we’ve bought you a ticket and you’re on a flight tomorrow!’ So I told all my friends I’d be back in two weeks but it’s been nearly three years,” Rosa told Region.

“When I arrived at the airport, I saw on TV that Scott Morrison was closing the borders.”

Suddenly stuck in Australia and looking for things to do, Rosa’s daughter Kelly-Ann Stuart suggested she start baking cakes from home to sell. Pretty soon, they had added home-cooked Indonesian dishes to the menu and Rasa Rosa was born.

Gado Gado dish

The Gado Gado is a hearty Indonesian salad featuring crackers and peanut sauce. Photo: Rasa Rosa.

Finding most of their customers via social media, Rosa would decide on a weekly menu and post it online. Customers would place their order mid-week and then pick up their food on Saturday evenings. I ordered from Rasa Rosa during this time and fell in love with the vibrant flavours and comforting dishes.

Rosa had her eye on a spot in Verity Lane Market for a while, and when Ramen Daddy recently opened up on Dairy Road, she was able to move into their vacated space and turn her online business into a real brick-and-mortar store.

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The menu at Rasa Rosa is made up of classic Indonesian curries, side dishes and a couple of desserts.

“We literally just picked what we liked best. The crispy beef (Nasi Uduk) is my favourite. We wanted to choose things Mum had always made us when we were growing up,” said Kelly-Ann.

“We know Mum’s strengths and what she’s good at.”

Indonesian food

Nasi Uduk served with a sambal balado egg, peanuts in chilli jam, empal (or crispy beef!) and crackers.

Despite the change from fulfilling online orders once a week to cooking five days a week in a commercial space, Rosa has held onto the authentic qualities of her food and loves being busy all the time.

When I visited, I tried the Nasi Campur – a plate with small portions of beef curry, shredded chicken, omelette, peanuts in chilli jam, tomato sambal, and rice. It’s the perfect dish for someone who wants to try a little bit of everything. The beef curry was delicious: tender and rich with spices and coconut. Fresh ingredients and plenty of spices are the secrets to Rosa’s success.

“I cook with fresh herbs, fresh chilli, lemongrass, galangal, ginger: everything is fresh, and that makes a difference!” said Rosa.

“We counted all the ingredients in the curry and there are over 20 different spices and herbs in there,” explained Kelly-Ann.

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I was also absolutely blown away by the peanuts in the chilli jam. This side dish is called Sambal Goreng Teri Kacang, and apparently, it is also a favourite of the other Verity Lane vendors.

“Everyone here, they come at the end of the night with a little bowl and say, ‘can I have some peanuts?'” Rosa laughs.

My friend ordered the Gado Gado, a salad, but it’s so much more than ‘just’ a salad. Blanched vegetables, fresh cucumber and tomato, boiled egg, fried tofu and crackers are served with Rosa’s iconic peanut sauce. It’s got a nice mix of textures, with the crackers adding excellent crunch.

Plates with different dishes

Try a feast of home-style Indonesian food at Rasa Rosa. Photo: Rasa Rosa.

We also tried some Perkedel Jagung (corn fritters) which came with a brilliant green chilli and garlic dipping sauce.

For dessert, we made space to try the Lempang Lempung Banana Fritters, which come with your choice of topping. We were tempted by the chocolate sprinkles, condensed milk and grated cheese option – Kelly-Ann says the cheese adds a little saltiness which balances out the sweet milk – but decided to play it safe with palm sugar and grated coconut. There’s also a cinnamon and honey option.

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Now that she’s settled into Verity Lane, the next step is for Rosa to start making her secret spice mixes in bulk and training her staff to cook the menu just like she does so she can have an occasional break. And Rosa’s daughters are trying to convince their Mum to bottle up some of those sauces and spices for people to cook at home.

Rasa Rosa is at Verity Lane Market, Sydney Building, 50 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra. It’s open from 5 pm to 10 pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 12 pm until late Thursday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. Follow Rasa Rosa on Facebook or Instagram.

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