'Kerak telor', a traditional
Jakarta snack tries to

Leo Wahyudi S, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakartans have long been fond of kerak telor, one of the capital's traditional foods that are often sold whenever a major event like the Jakarta Fair or the Jl. Jaksa Festival takes place.

This particular snack is rarely seen on normal days, unlike ketoprak or ketupat sayur, which are usually served for breakfast or dinner.

Kerak telor is made up of a spoon of glutinous rice put in a hot pan. Then spoonfuls of grated coconut, fried shallots and ebi (small shrimps), add with pepper, are put on top of the rice. A duck or chicken egg omelette is then draped on top of the other ingredients.

Using a duck egg is reckoned by connoisseurs to produce a more delicious taste compared to a chicken egg, although the price is more expensive at Rp 6,000 (US cents 68.9) compared to Rp 5,000 for the latter.

The cooking process uses charcoal and when the cooking is done, the vendor adds a spoon of grated coconut and fried shallots before wrapping the whole ensemble in a piece of paper.

""It's better served hot,"" said Fahmi, a vendor at the south entrance of the basement of the Sarinah building on Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Central Jakarta.

Fahmi, who has been selling the dish for four years, is one of the surviving kerak telor vendors, most of whom live in Mampang and Buncit, South Jakarta. He feels lucky about being able to operate his business at the Sarinah building as fewer Jakartans want to buy kerak telor these days. He can earn Rp 30,000 in profit per day.

""People prefer to buy rice and a kilogram of eggs than to spend the money on a piece of kerak telor,"" he said. ""But my friends operating at the Jakarta Fairground in Kemayoran are luckier as they can earn more money than here.""

Acang, a 40-year-old Betawi (native Jakartan), said he could earn between Rp 50,000 and Rp 150,000 profit per night based upon a total turnover of about Rp 300,000.

""During the weekends, the number of customers increases sharply,"" he said.

Acang has been selling kerak telor during the Jakarta Fair for five years. His main job, however, is as a construction worker.

While Fahmi has to hand over 30 percent of his income to the building management, Acang and the other vendors at the Jakarta Fairground must pay Rp 300,000 for permits to operate outside the venue.

Not all their customers are Betawi people. Various other ethnic groups are partial to kerak telor.

""Most of my customers are Chinese rather than Betawi,"" said Tahe, a colleague of Acang.

Nina, a passer-by who is partly Betawi, admitted that it was her first time to have kerak telor.

""I'm just curious to know how it tastes,"" she said while ordering the duck-egg variety.

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