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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Traditional delicacies survive modern cake invasion

  • Fikri Zaki Muhammadi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, June 18, 2013 | 10:55 am
Traditional delicacies survive modern cake invasion

Sweet tooth: A woman buys traditional delicacies at the Bendungan Hilir Market in Central Jakarta. Traditional snack sellers say they survive despite the popularity of foreign alternatives. JP/Fikri Zaki Muhammadi

Come rain or shine Safana, 23, sits on a stall surrounded by colorful traditional cakes in Bendungan Hilir Market in Central Jakarta.

Although this particular day seemed quiet, half of the cakes were already sold by noon. Safana explained that this was due to the fact that buyers often left with multiple items.

'€œPeople will always love traditional pastries,'€ she assured.

'€œThere are many who want to try new cakes but I believe they will always return to the local taste,'€ said Safana, who runs the business on behalf of her manager.

The popularity of sweet treats means many new players have flooded the market, offering traditional, locally referred to as kue basah, and western fare. Cottage industries normally sell the local delicacies while the larger players dominate the other market.

With bags greater budgets and human resources the bigger shops overshadow the smaller ones. Despite this situation Safana is confident the business will go on.

With her small display Safana can make up to Rp 2 million (US$202) a day.

'€œThe disadvantage of selling kue basah is that leftovers must be thrown away because they become spoiled in a day,'€ she said, although it hardly happens to her shop.

Kadar, 35, has been selling kue basah in Palmerah Market, Central Jakarta, since 2000. He said he was confident his business would continue being successful.

 '€œOur customers are people who hold parties, mass prayers or gatherings,'€ said the man whose daily turnover can be up to Rp 5 million. '€œSome buy from us and sell it on.'€

Many kue basah sellers buy their goods from the legendary Pasar Kue Subuh [morning cake market] in Senen, Central Jakarta.

The market is at its busiest from 11 p.m. until around 7 a.m., and is considered the cheapest place to source cakes for resale. The market has been considered the best market for traditional pastries since the 1970s.

You can find all kinds of kue basah at the market such as lemper (sticky rice cake with meat), nagasari (sticky rice cake with banana), lupis (sweet sticky rice dumpling), kue lapis (layered cake) and kue mangkok (red-tinted cupcakes).

'€œIt is so good that there are many choices [traditional and western],'€ Sarastri, 43, a patron, said. '€œBut for me there is no replacing kue basah for gatherings, because everyone likes them. The others are just substitutes.'€

Maryam, 37, said her family preferred traditional cakes, '€œbut if I buy cakes for gatherings, it depends on the people,'€ she said.

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