Enjoying Jakarta through
culinary nostalgia

Need an adventurous culinary experience? Put on your comfy shoes and casual clothes and head to the capital's long-standing food stalls to taste authentic Jakarta cuisines from tempo doeloe (the olden days).

Gado-gado Bonbin
If you love vegetable dishes, you can try Gado-gado Bonbin, which has delighted food lovers for 48 years, on Jl. Cikini IV, Central Jakarta.

Bonbin is short for kebon binatang, or zoo, because the street was formerly called Jl. Kebon Binatang where the old zoo stood.

Lanny Wijaya, 78, established the food stall in 1960 because of her passion for gado-gado.

"I started the business by selling es cendol (a chilled and sweetened coconut milk drink with jellied sweets) to students in the area because the stall is near schools," Lanny told The Jakarta Post recently.

"I later decided to make gado-gado to sell. I was delighted when so many people liked it," she said.

She claimed her peanut sauce was tastier than others because she fried the peanuts with very little oil.

She sells a plate of gado-gado (a hefty portion), for Rp 19,000 (US$2).

You can also order other dishes: lontong cap gomeh is steamed rice cake with coconut-braised chicken, nasi rames is rice with many side dishes and asinan Betawi is pickled vegetables.

Gado-gado Bonbin, serving daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., has been getting positive responses from Jakartans.

Citra, who works at an office nearby the stall, said she often bought the gado-gado for lunch.

"Two years ago, my office mates recommended this stall to me, saying it had the best gado-gado in town. They're right. I like the peanut sauce. The price is a bit expensive, but it's worth it," said Citra.

Mi Ayam Gondangdia
Perhaps you have already tasted gado-gado and need something more adventurous. You can go to Mi Ayam Gondangdia Lama on Jl. R.P. Soeroso (formerly Gondongdia Lama) also in Central Jakarta about 200 meters from Gado-gado Bonbin.

Called Godila for short, the noodle stall specializes in Mi Ayam, or chicken and noodles.

Established by the late Kurniadi in 1968, it used to be a popular hang-out for junior and senior high school students from SMP 1 Cikini and SMA 1 Jalan Batu.

Ari, a former student, said the stall was memorable because he sometimes took his girlfriend there.

"Last time I came here was about eight or nine years ago. I remember the noodles were great and today they still taste just the same. The fried wonton is also yummy," said Ari, 37, who came to the place for lunch with a couple of friends.

Mi Godila offers not only many noodle dishes -- wonton meatball noodles, fried wonton noodles, chicken mushroom noodles and beef with black pepper noodles -- but also Chinese food. You can sample cap cay, or mixed vegetables; sapo tahu, or tofu with sweet sauce; and fried rice.

The prices range from Rp 7,500 to Rp 48,000.

"We offer various dishes, but chicken and noodles remains the favorite item. We use more than 40 kilograms of noodles every day," said Ayong, one of the staff.

Mi Godila serves daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Soto Betawi Bang Madun
If you like soup, then try out another Jakarta tradition, soto Betawi, a hearty beef soup with a coconut milk base.

A popular one is Soto Betawi Bang Madun on Jl. Barito, South Jakarta.

The late Madun, who started his business in 1960, was an itinerant soto vendor before setting up a curbside stall on Jl. Barito.

Madun's son, Malik, and Malik's wife Siti Fatimah, took over the business when Madun died in 1989.

Customers said what made the soto special was the peanut sauce.

"Soto Bang Madun is pretty different than any other because the peanut sauce is tasty and thick," said Ardi, 33, a customer.

Siti Fatimah said she cooked up as much as 50 kilograms of beef each day to make more than 250 portions of soto.

A bowl of soto plus rice costs Rp 16,000. Chips made from melinjo or Gnetum gnemon, called emping, come with the soto.

Soto Bang Madun is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It also has a branch in Ciledug, Banten.

Sop Sapi Berkah
The famous Sop Sapi Berkah (Berkah beef soup), located on Jl. Jeruk Purut in Cipete, South Jakarta, began serving Jakartans in 1970.

You can order a large portion of beef soup costing Rp 27,000 or a small one for Rp 22,000.

You can also try their side dishes like pepes ikan (fish wrapped in banana leaves), fried tofu or tempeh and emping.

The stall developed a loyal following including public figures, said Rohis, 55, the stall owner.

"I've noticed many similar beef soup stalls try to imitate mine, but I don't care. Because I believe plenty of customers will keep coming to my stall to taste my soup," said Rohis, adding that income from the stall may make it possible for him to go on haj next year.

Some people even make a special trip from their offices or homes just to have lunch there.

Edi, 53, traveled about 25 kilometers from his office in Kuningan, South Jakarta, to have a meal there.

"Even though the price is high, I don't mind traveling far from my office to have lunch here with my friends. The soup is so delicious and the service is good," Edi said.

Sop Sapi Berkah is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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