Indonesia: Jakarta

Indonesia: Jakarta

By
Luke Nguyen
Contains
16 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743792193
Photographer
Alan Benson

Capital of Indonesia and the major city of Java, the most populous island on earth, Jakarta is a vibrant, fascinating place with a unique, elegant and proud culture of its own. Yes, the streets can be off-thecharts clogged, pretty much constantly, but there’s so much to see and experience (and eat!) that I’m hopeful more people will cotton on to its charms.

There’s a ton of character in Jakarta. It’s got an addictive, raw vitality and some mind-blowing street food, available 24/7. I love walking the busy streets and looking at all the architecture, from the shiniest of shiny shopping malls to the pockets of old, crumbling, character-filled European-style buildings – a hangover from the colonial days of the Dutch East Indies. People-wise, it’s a total melting pot, with different populations from all over the far-flung archipelago living here, each bringing their dialects, their distinct ethnic character and, of course, their varied cuisines.

Tell any Jakartan that you love their food and you’ve got a best friend for life. Sambals, peanut sauces, great ways with offal, noodle dishes, salads, deep-fried snacks and outrageous sweets... these are just some of its key elements. There are distinctive ingredients, notably tempeh, a pressed, cake-like substance made from cultured, fermented soybeans, which they like to deep-fry. Then there are the numerous types of rice cracker that get served with practically everything. Jakartans have an addiction to crunch and deep-frying. Oh, and did I mention how much they love chilli here?

I love hanging out with passionate food blogger The Hungry Doctor; his real name is Verdi. He takes me to some places in South Jakarta that I’d never find on my own, to eat foods I’d otherwise never know about such as ketoprak, a salad that’s a sister dish to gado gado. Consisting of fried tofu, sliced lontong, sprouts, vermicelli noodles and a fried egg, it’s slathered in a thick, sweet, spicy peanutty sauce that’s ground by hand on an enormous old stone. And the local version of cendol, a dessert–drink based on worm-like strands of green rice flour noodles, served in a glass with shaved ice, jackfruit, avocado, palm sugar, chocolate syrup and condensed milk. Believe me, when it’s 37°C and rising, this stuff is the bomb.

I hunt down the best satay in Jakarta and, here, I’m in awe of its smoky, juicy succulence. Other dishes I think I know are also a revelation. Like nasi goreng, the simple Indonesian fried rice that the whole world loves. Here, it tastes different, fresh out of the pan, rich with curry spices, white pepper and chilli paste, sweet with generous glugs of kecap manis and gamey with bite-sized bits of mutton. Oh Jakarta, you’ve ruined me. I have to keep coming back... and I’m bringing you with me.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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