As the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta is the epicentre of great Indonesian cuisine that ranges the whole archipelago.
Dubbed the melting pot of culture and people, Jakarta offers an array of diverse culinary adventures for everyone. From world-class fine dining establishments to humble street stalls, the city is filled to the brim with mouthwatering selections of great dishes from the western-tip to the eastern-tip of Indonesia.
With a population estimated to exceed 10 million, there’s no doubt that this city is an alluring culinary destination. But with so much to choose from, where should foodies being their journey to sample all the greatness on offer. Here are our top five local dishes to try in Jakarta.
When you are strolling the streets of Jakarta, don’t be surprised to see so many food stalls selling gado-gado. The name means to mix, and gado-gado is a mixture of lightly steamed vegetables, like bean sprouts, water spinach, long beans and corn, along with tofu, tempeh, and rice cake, known locally as lontong, stirred through a rich, freshly prepared peanut sauce. Unlike many other parts of the world, the Indonesian people love to start their day with heavy carb-loading, and gado-gado is a favourite breakfast dish.
Another Indonesian favourite is sop buntut, or oxtail soup. A hearty bowl of this soup can easily bring a smile to anyone’s face. The oxtail is simmered for hours in clear soup broth with carrots and potatoes, with just a slight peppery and salty taste and its signature fragrant nutmeg.
Being the biggest city in Indonesia, Jakarta is populated with many different ethnicities from all over the country. During the Dutch colonial times, Jakarta was named Batavia, another word for Betawi, who are the indigenous people of the city. Soto Betawi is a soupy dish that has stolen the hearts of millions. Usually prepared with beef, the soup is flavoured with different spices and has a combination of both fresh milk and coconut milk to make it creamier.
It’s not a surprise that rice is the staple for every Indonesian, and it has to be eaten every day, if not every meal, for any Indonesian to feel that their meal is complete. Nasi uduk is fragrant rice cooked with coconut milk and is served with a variety of side dishes. For breakfast, many enjoy it with egg and stir-fried tempeh, while for dinner, the choices of complementary dishes are endless. Different regions in Indonesia have their own take on nasi uduk, but if you’re going with the authentic one, Nasi Uduk Betawi is served with fried chicken and some type of semur tahu (sweet soy sauce marinated tofu), not forgetting the addition of sambal to make it the perfect meal.
Anyone travelling in Southeast Asia will see a variety of satay on offer. Malaysia and Singapore have their own takes on the skewered meat grilled over an open fire, but in Indonesia, sate ayam is well marinated in sweet soy sauce before making it onto the hot charcoal grill. While sate ayam is very famous, other meats can also be found on street stalls, or even fancy restaurants, such as beef and lamb.