What to Eat in Jakarta
If you are tired of the same old dishes served at home, try out the exotic food while you are on a trip to Jakarta. Original local meals usually are a cone-shaped pile of long-grain, highly refined rice. The menu may include a soup, salad or the more commonly sauteed vegetables with garlic and another main dish. It is accompanied by at least one and often several delicacies which are known as sambals. Candlenuts, chilli, finger root, ginger, turmeric, lemon basil, lime leaves, Indonesian bay leaves are the most common spices and herbs used in the local dishes. You can try out Bakmi Goreng or fried noodles, Bakwan Malang or meatball noodle soup with fried wontons, Gado-gado or a mixture of vegetables and crackers with peanut paste and Satay or skewered barbequed meat.
Now, it’s time to turn back to our good old familiar tastes. If you are satiated with the Satay or Nasi Padang, go for some other dishes. The amazing variety of international cuisines in Jakarta have some taste American, Asian, Brazilian, British, Chinese, Deli, Dutch, European, French, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Nouvelle, Pizza, Seafood, Spanish, Steak Houses, Swiss, Thai, Turkish, Vegetarian, Vietnamese and Tex-Mex. Isn’t the range truly awesome? Taste the best of world cuisine as the long line up of Japanese, Chinese, Italian, American and Indian restaurants bring you delicacies from all corners of the world.
Where to Eat in Jakarta
You will find some trendy eateries in Kafe Tenda or Tented Cafés which are located along the major through fares or at some of the vacant development zones like Sudirman Central Business District. The Gading Batavia Food Promenade at Jalan Boulevard Barat and Kelapa gading in north Jakarta are equally good if you are looking for that real ethnic flavor.
Jalan Thamrin, being the center of Jakarta, displays a good number of eateries. The Jakarta Theatre building, Sarinah department store, Plaza Indonesia and the other leading hotels on this street features fabulous dining possibilities to suit every taste and every budget.
Kemang in South of Jakarta remains the top preferred place of the tourists who are in quest of some eat-drink-and-be-merry destinations. Kemang is considered as the place that abounds with the best of eating houses, not to mention the ethnic local menus. Also it brings to you the choicest of cuisines across the world.
Jalan Jaksa has legions of restaurants eating and drinking stalls. Visit one of the side streets of Jalan Jaksa where you can savor tasty Indonesion food prepared in the original way. Besides the ‘rijsttafels’, you can find an assortment of Korean, Thai, Indian, Mexican and American delicacies.
If you are in a mood to splurge, you can check out the restaurants of the five-star hotels and in the Golden Triangle area where business people are regular customers. The residential areas such as Kemang, Menteng and Kebayoran Baru also house a number of excellent restaurants offering international fare.
One of Betawi’s – native Jakarta – traditional food is Nasi Uduk. It’s rice cooked with coconut milk and then wrapped in coconut leaf. Eaten hot with newly fried chicken, sliced meat, tofu, tempe and some spicy peanut sauce. If you can’t handle spicy sauce, ask for cold beverage by your side. Wear light clothes as Jakarta for mostly the weather is quite hot.
Among the narrow streets in Jakarta some of small food house starts their activities after the sun sets. The smell of fried chicken and the richness of the rice cooked with coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves which is known as Nasi Uduk, another Betawian traditional food. Eaten with spicy peanut sauce and hot fried chicken or fried tempe or tofu. There also a pecel lele which consist of fried “lele” sorts of a catfish serves with pecel chili, some kemangi leaves, small eggplant and cabbage, another dish to temp our senses and satisfy our hunger at night.
Jakarta, in its every sides, has the uniqueness that you cant ever compare to another city in the world. You can even find something different like how you go to a place (I do not mean the places, they’re absolutely great. We will show you about them later). That’s HOW you go to a place. Yes, HOW, means about the vehicles. Do not trust us? Let’s see these out, readers!
Bright orange and noisy … easily describes a bajaj. Bajaj seat two passengers comfortably and up to five passengers – depending on the size of the passenger of course. Their areas of operation are limited to one mayoralty in the city. On the side of the driver’s doors you’ll see a big circle in which the area is designated … Jakarta Barat, Jakarta Pusat, etc., with a different color for each mayoralty.
The drivers are not allowed to go out of their area and aren’t allowed onto many main roads, so routes may be a bit circuitous. A ride in a bajaj is hot, utilizing AC alam – or nature’s air conditioning. The ride will also be noisy, smelly (car and bus fumes), bumpy, harrowing, and a grand adventure. My favorite maneuver is when the bajajdriver decides to flip a u-turn in the middle of the road.
There is some protection from the rain, unless it’s blowing hard. You’d think you’d have to be careful about robbery since the vehicle is so open – but it’s not as common as robberies in buses. Having said all that … bajaj are extremely convenient in many areas of Jakarta for a short drive.
Becak were banned within the Jakarta city limits in 1994 due to their propensity to cause traffic jams. Former President Soeharto (and others) also wanted to eradicate becak from the city streets because they felt the work to be degrading to the drivers. Becak are widely missed by people who live in housing complexes off the main roads and small roads which are not serviced by bus routes – as their sheer numbers in the city prior to the crackdown attests to how widely they were used. It used to be a common site in Jakarta to see becak drivers taking children to school each morning, and women home from the pasar (traditional market).
However, you can still find a few becak drivers ignoring the ban in certain locations within the city limits – like behind the luxurious Plaza Indonesia. Outside city limits becak are still found at the junctions of main roads and smaller country lanes that don’t have smaller bus routes. Models of becakare different in each city they are found in across Indonesia.
Becak fit two passengers comfortably and possibly even more, depending on the size of the passenger. There is some protection from the sun … and a plastic sheet that comes down over the front helps protect passengers during rainstorms. Bargain before you get in … ! And don’t expect the driver to have change for large bills.
Another noisy little neighborhood vehicle is the bemo, which is used for local transportation in limited areas in Jakarta. Originally brought to Indonesia by the Japanese government as part of a disaster relief package in 1962, the vehicles were never manufactured in Indonesia in as great a number as bajaj or becak. Bemo are found in and near Benhil, Tanjung Priok, Kramat Jati and other areas outside Jakarta.
- METROMINI BUSES
There are a large number bus (bis) companies servicing routes in Jakarta. Many of the larger buses seat 25-40 people (depending on type of bus). The buses have set prices (which should be posted on the bus). Bus companies include the government-owned PPD and Damri, which provides service to the airport. Private companies include Metro Mini. Some buses are air conditioned like Mayasari and Patas AC; they are more expensive. Other bus lines are run by cooperatives like Kopaja and Kopami.
All buses have set routes and set fares, but not set schedules. If you’re not sure of the fare, ask other passengers what it is. Pay the “conductor”, who is usually hanging out the back door. He won’t have change for big bills.
Bus passengers are often the target for robberies, street singers, and beggars – both on the buses and in the major bus terminals. Many bus drivers are notoriously dangerous as they race against each other to try and pick up passengers before the other buses plying the same route. Metro Mini has the worst reputation for poor drivers.
Buses do not necessarily stop at bus stops … they stop wherever they can pick up a passenger be it in the middle of the road or on a busy intersection. Buses do not necessarily come to a complete stop for passengers to get off and on. So be careful as to which foot you step off the bus with! The beginning and end points of each bus route are found on the front and back of each bus, along with a route number. If you don’t know which bus to take, just ask the people at the bus stop and they’ll tell you (helps if you speak Indonesian, of course).
Perhaps the only truly traditional transportation left in Jakarta, delman (horse-drawn carriages) are getting harder to spot in Jakarta nowadays. They are most commonly used to transport goods from major markets. Delman can often be found around Pasar Palmerah, Kemanggisan, Cipulir, around big pasar run by PD Pasar Jaya (the city market authority).
On Sundays you can rent a delman in the roads surrounding Monas (the national monument). The locals usually pile in the kids and have the delmandriver take them for a fun ride around the Monas park. Delman are often rented by a Betawi family to transport kids around the neighborhood to celebrate a sunatan ceremony (circumcision). When rented for parties such as this, the delman are often decorated with traditional Betawi ornamentation which lends a very festive air.
Delman have been used by the expatriate community in Permata Hijau for years to carry their kids around the housing complex to the participating homes for trick-or-treat fun. They provide great fun for a expat child’s birthday party as well. Bargain ahead of time to settle on a price as the price varies depending on the distance. Delman pictured above is from Cibadak, near Sukabumi.
A commuter train (kereta api) runs several times daily from Bogor to Jakarta. These trains are quite simply furnished and often quite dirty. Scores of passengers brave the dangers and seat themselves atop the trains to avoid paying the fares. Trains to other major cities on Java leave Jakarta from train stations at Gambir, Tanah Abang and Senin.
Different classes of service are available, with the first class or executive class being quite comfortable. Some trains are bookable in advance. Trains are a good transportation option for inter-city travel on a budget.
Mikrolet and angkot (these vehicles go by other names as well) are smaller vans/mini-buses that serve set routes on smaller main roads. They seat 9-12 people, depending on the type. The beginning and end points of the routes are visible on the front and back of each bus, along with a route number. For example, Tanah Abang – Meruya M11.
Ojek “motorcycle taxis” began appearing in Jakarta after becak were banned in 1994. Ojek service began as a people’s initiative to provide a transportation options for people who used to use becak from main roads into housing complexes. There is no government licensing for or control overojek.
By law all motorcycle passengers should wear helmets, so ojek drivers should have a spare for you to wear. Ojek tend to congregate at t-junctions on main roads and near smaller roads that are not serviced by bus routes. Ladies have a careful balancing act if wearing a dress and must sit sidewise on the back of the vehicle. Bargain before you get on – ask a local what the price should be first.
- OJEK SEPEDA
Rarely seen in areas of Jakarta outside Kota and Tanjung Priuk in North Jakarta. Ojek Sepeda or Bicycle Taxis operate much like ojek, except the shorter distannce.
- RIVER TAXI
Back in time, long before taxis, bajaj and becak … Jakarta’s residents traveled the many canals and rivers and canals in a variety of boats. Today there are still places in Jakarta where you can find perahu penyeberangan (boats used to cross). These boatmen take people across a river often from a major road to the kampung on the other side/so that they don’t have to travel way out of their way.
Used to be a small harbor in the edge of Ciliwung River, Jakarta now becomes one of metropolitan city with high density of people. In 1964, Jakarta got a privilege to be the capital city of Indonesia. Hence, many people from different place in Indonesia come to Jakarta for seeking a better life. Jakarta rapidly becomes a crowded city with many interesting phenomenon inside, such as its social life and its traditional culture. Those phenomenons make Jakarta as a unique city.
We can see many skyscraper buildings like apartment and mall in Jakarta. Living in apartment becomes a new lifestyle that grows in Jakarta. Practicality, its facilities, and less of living place in Jakarta makes people choose to live in an apartment. In contrast, there are many dirty-and-vile-apartments in Ciliwung River side. It is just so ironic. This is a view of Jakarta where we can find different kind of people, from millionaire to destitute. We can find lot of malls in Jakarta. Yet, those malls are the right place to spend your money. To those who have not much money, they still can spend their money for shopping in Pasar Tanah Abang, great and big place to buy necessities in Central-Jakarta or in Mangga Dua, place that sell many kind of clothing. “City with A hundred malls” will be a great title for Jakarta. Moreover, night lifestyle in Jakarta just like in abroad. We can find many nightclub, bar or pub in Jakarta. For teenager, you need a big self-control to avoid fall on bad social habits, like free sex and drugs.
Jakarta also has unique culture, like its dancing, music, and traditional food, which can be found only in Jakarta. Topeng Blantek dancing is one example of Jakarta’s traditional dancing. It performs in special occasion for mariage or Jakarta’s birthday celebration. Topeng Blantek is danced by some women that wearing colorfull dress and using a hat with the same colour with the dress. This dancing has a background music, we call it Gambang Kromong. Gambang Kromong, is a set of brass-made-hitted-mussical-instruments that produce a harmonize music. It is like Gamelan in Java. Another traditional music from Jakarta is Tanjidor, that consists of many kind of blown-musical-instruments. It’s ussually perform in marriage occassion.
Kerak Telor, Soto Betawi, and Roti Buaya are the example of traditional food that come from Jakarta. Kerak telor is a crust rice that cooked with an egg and served with serundeng, coconut shavings that fried without oil until become crunchy. Its taste is so delicious. We can find Kerak Telor seller when Jakarta celebrating its birthday, in Pekan Raya Jakarta, Kemayoran, Central Jakarta. We can also find Kerak Telor inside the malls, but its tase is different with the traditional one. Soto Betawi is a kind of soup with coconut milk that contains many kind of cow’s innards, tomatoes, potatoes, onion leaf and served with emping, melinjo chip. Soto Betawi can be found in many place in Jakarta, one example is in Blora, Central Jakarta. On there all the seller’s name is ”Pak Kumis”. Roti Buaya is a gigantic cake which is formed like an alligator. It is served in a marriage occassion as a gift from the groom to the bride.
Eventhough Jakarta has became a metropolist city with a strong foreign culture involved in, Jakarta should hold on to its traditional culture. Jakarta’s traditional culture must be preserve from extinction. Since, this traditional culture is not only as the tied of history but also can attract foreign tourist to come to Jakarta. This is the reason why Jakarta always be an interesting destination place for traveling, and it makes Jakarta as a unique city in Indonesia.