Jakarta known by many as the Big Durian, is just as divisive as its fruity nickname. Some get a taste of this sprawling megalopolis and vow never to return, put off by the never-ending traffic, the pollution or the oppressiveness of its concrete jungle. Others, are hooked immediately, addicted to its energy and to the promise of what lies beneath its rough exterior.
But what both the lovers and the haters will agree on is that if you like to eat, this city can fulfil your every food fantasy. In a place where just about every cuisine on earth is represented, visitors can (almost) be forgiven for forgetting to seek out the food of native Jakartans. Known as the Betawi, their food is an eclectic mix of Malay, Chinese, Arab and European influences and it’s utterly mouth-watering. Don’t miss it! Here are some standout dishes you have to hunt down:
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, thank you for supporting our blog by using these links.
But first, watch our Thailand food videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel!
1. Gado Gado
Gado gado, one of Indonesia’s national dishes is often described on menus as: “a boiled vegetable salad with peanut sauce”. Let’s be honest, they lost us at “boiled vegetable”. Boiled vegetables do not signal flavourtown. But, when in Jakarta, you’ve got to give gado gado a chance, especially if you find yourself at Gado Gado Kertanegara a nondescript family run stall set up outside the gates of a palatial home in affluent south Jakarta.
Forget boiled and think lightly blanched morning glory (water spinach), beans, cabbage and beansprouts, soft cubes of potato, chunks of tofu and half a boiled egg bound together with an earthy, creamy peanut sauce. The sauce is enriched with a sweet tanginess from the addition of tamarind and a handful of hot pink tapioca crackers adds crunch to each mouthful. It would be a crime not to eat this!
Eat gado gado at: Gado Gado Kertanegara, Jl. Kertanegara No.2, RT.3/RW.2, Selong, Kby. Baru, Kota Jakarta Selatan, Jakarta. Open 10:00am to 3:00pm. Closed Sunday.
2. Nasi Uduk
Come evening street food tents line the sidewalk of Jakarta. The excitement of street food is encapsulated by the atmosphere- sitting cheek by jowl with other punters, tucking into freshly prepared food as you shout to be heard over the rush hour traffic. You’ll find nasi uduk in these tents, another unique Betawi meal of coconut rice served with peanut sambal and any number of sides including fried chicken, stir fried morning glory, tempeh (fermented soybean cake) and seafood. You’ll usually find the sides set up like a buffet of sorts. Grab a tray, load up and hand it over to be cooked.
The hero of the meal is the rice, cooked in coconut milk and flavoured with clove, cassia bark and lemongrass and topped with fried shallots- it’s aromatic and full of flavour. Mouthfuls of fragrant rice, spicy peanut sambal, golden fried chicken- this is one Jakartan food experience you can’t miss.
Eat nasi uduk at: Nasi Uduk Kota Intan, Jl. Kyai Haji Samanhudi, Gambir, RT.1/RW.8, Ps. Baru, Sawah Besar, Jakarta. Open daily 5:00pm to 2:00am.
3. Soto Betawi
Soto is an Indonesian soup and every region of Indonesia has its own distinct version. Soto Betawi features a beefy broth laced with coconut milk and loaded with meat. If you’re not averse to offal opt for the campur (mixed) soto, which includes fried lung, intestine and tripe. Add a handful of emping (crackers made from the seed of the melinjo plant) and a squeeze of lime to the soup and then spoon it over your accompanying plate of white rice. It’s a riot of texture and flavours- the crackers are crunchy and slightly bitter, the lime delivers a tart twang and the soup is savoury and rich. Don’t forget to add a dollop of sambal (chilli sauce) for a bit of heat.
Eat Soto Betawi at: Soto Roxy, Jalan Tidore No.2, RT. 01/ RW. 05, Cideng, Gambir, Jakarta. Open 6:00am to 2:00pm. Closed Sunday.
No matter where you’re travelling to we always recommend you have travel insurance. We use and love World Nomads. The great thing about them is that you can purchase travel insurance while you’re already travelling!