Vendors of the Betawi omelette or kerak telor are easily the most ubiquitous participants at the Jakarta Fair in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, scattered as they are throughout the exhibition area.
Kerak telor has also become a must-have menu item for visitors at the monthlong annual event, having become a rarity on usual days.
Kerak telor is made from eggs and sticky rice, cooked in a pan over a charcoal fire. A mixture of fried small shrimps, onions and various spices is put on top of the rice, thus creating a unique taste.
The eggs can be chicken or duck, although duck eggs are considered more delicious by foodies.
Modern-day vendors of the snack are no longer dominated by native Jakartans, with many coming from Tegal (Central Java), Padang (West Sumatra), Garut and Cimahi (West Java).
Yahya, from Cimahi, is one of them. He learned to cook kerak telor from a native Betawi in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta.
Once the most widely recognized Betawi dish, kerak telor now faces dwindling popularity, with fewer natives willing to preserve it.
However, the ubiquity of kerak telor at the fair has kept up the Betawi ambience, amid the phasing out of traditions for modern amenities.
The large number of vendors at the venue, however, has made competition tight. Many vendors complain of not making enough profit.
Outside the fair, kerak telor vendors are hard to come by, at least compared to ketoprak or baso vendors. However, many of them still roam the city offering the delicacy.
The Jakarta Fair was first held in 1968 as a continuation of the Gambir Fair. The governor at the time, Ali Sadikin, was inspired by the Gambir Fair's success to call for a larger event to accommodate the country's trade affairs.
The fair was first held at the National Monument Park, before moving to the Jakarta Fairground in Kemayoran in 1992.
- P.J. Leo