Living in these original Spice Islands, Indonesian women have used spices for ages, not only to preserve food for the family before the invention of the fridge, but moreover, to serve a large variety of delectable dishes.
The artful mixing and fusion of the different spices have caused the taste of food to vary from island to island and from province to province.
Among the most well known and top of the list worldwide is Rendang , best known dish from Padang, West Sumatra, voted as “the World’s Most Delectable Food” by CNNGo viewers in 2011. These are beef cubes slow-braised in a variety of spices over a small open fire until it is completely caramelized. Nowadays, there are more than 16 kinds of rendang made of chicken or duck, eel, tuna, eggs, and even potatoes and vegetables.
The other most popular dish is Satay, - barbequed beef, chicken or mutton skewered covered in peanut and soya sauce. Another favorite is Nasi Goreng, or fried rice, that is mixed with lots of seafood, eggs, or chicken slices.
For a soup, one of the best known is Soto Ayam, a kind of soup made from chicken broth or coconut milk, spiced with crushed galangal, cloves, and nutmeg, and filled with slices of chicken or shrimps, and glass noodles.
Jakarta’s own culinary icons are Asinan Jakarta and Gado-gado Jakarta. Both are a mix of vegetables comprising spinach, watercress, beansprouts, long beans, cucumbers and others. While the Asinan consists of pickled vegetables drenched in sweet and sour sauce, gado-gado Jakarta consists of boiled vegetables covered in soya and peanut sauce. Both can be taken as appetizer or eaten as a snack.
Other Jakarta favorites are its desert known as Kue Lumpur Jakarta, or mudcake, and Bir Pletok, or pop beer. Containing zero alcohol, the concoction is mixed with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, lemon and nutmeg and poured into a bamboo tube complete with ice cubes. The tube is then shaken and stirred , making the popping sound of “pletok-pletok”, hence known as bir pletok.
Indonesian Food can be enjoyed at Fine Dining Restaurants like the legendary Oasis Restaurant at Jalan Raden Saleh, where diners are served by a bevy of traditionally dressed waitresses, or in less formal but no less tasty Indonesian restaurants, or at Jakarta’s many food streets such as at Jalan Sabang, or at the many hawker centers. Please click here for a list of Indonesian Restaurants.
As a modern cosmopolitan city, you will find entire floors of Jakarta’s ubiquitous malls dedicated to some of the most delectable foods in the world, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, to Western Food, all are available. For European fine dining, though, best are at the luxurious hotels like the Grand Hyatt, the Marriott, the Shangri-La, and a host more.
Restaurants offering best Chinese cuisine include the Duck King, at Grand Indonesia and at Senayan City and more. And for best Chinese street food stroll down Pecenongan and Petak Sembilan in China town.
As for fast foods, from hamburgers, fried chicken, to noodles and nasi goreng, Those meals are so very popular that you’ll easily find them at around almost every corner of the city.
For a selection of where and what to dine around Jakarta, please check our Culinary in the following pages.