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Six must-try Betawi dishes

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, June 16, 2016  /  04:53 pm
Six must-try Betawi dishes

Gado-gado is one of Betawi's traditional dishes that uses vegetables as the main ingredient. (Shutterstock/-)

The word "Betawi" refers to people living in Jakarta during the colonial age, says Mulyawan Karim from the Indonesian Anthropology Discussion Forum (FKAI). Aside from the native Betawi, Jakarta's residents consist of a mix of various cultures, such as Javanese, Sundanese, Malay, Bugis, and other foreign influences. The diversity is captured in its food, as these are six Betawi dishes you should definitely try.

1. Gado-gado

If you love salad, "gado-gado" is a dish you should not miss. Safe for most vegetarians, it consists of slightly boiled vegetables, tempe, and boiled egg. It's served with a peanut sauce topping that generously covers all of the ingredients. Potatoes, string beans, green leaves, bean sprouts, cucumbers, and lettuce are vegetables that are used as the bases of gado-gado. Gado-gado's texture is varied, with a crunch of crackers that are usually added when it is served.

2. Nasi Uduk

Nasi uduk is essentially steamed rice cooked in coconut milk and is one of the most widely known Betawi dishes. It can be found easily on street side warungs (food stalls) especially in the morning as people usually eat it for breakfast. Even though the rice itself is already flavorful, it's still added with side dishes, such as dogfruit stew (semur jengkol), crackers, egg (usually an omelette or stewed), fried vermicelli noodles, sambal kacang (peanut sauce), and other mouthwatering side dishes. Aside from the additional dishes, some people still eat it with bakwan (vegetable fritata) or fried tempe. The combination generates a delicious dish that will satisfy you until lunchtime comes.

3. Semur Jengkol

Semur jengkol (dogfruit stew) is ultimately based on dogfruit or jenkol plant that grows in Southeast Asia. It's shaped like a round giant bean that is covered with a thin brown membrane. Many people avoid eating the fruit for its smell, although the taste is unique and delicious with a small hint of bitterness. The dogfruit is cooked in thick brown gravy that has a sweet and spicy taste. It can be eaten as a side dish of nasi uduk or just plain white rice.

(Read also: Five 'martabak' to try in Jakarta)

4. Kerak Telor

When you ask people about Betawi traditional food, kerak telor may be one of the answers. At a glance, kerak telor may appear like a pancake, but it's more crusty, rich, and spicy. It's made from glutinous rice that is cooked with your choice of egg, chicken or duck. When the crust is cooked, fried shallots, dried shrimps, and serundeng (desiccated coconut) are added as its toppings. During the cooking process, the seller flips the clay pan when the dish is halfway done and uses hot charcoal as the source of heat. Kerak telor is best eaten as a snack.

5. Soto Betawi

Soto Betawi is a type of Indonesian soup. However, unlike other soto from other areas in the country, Soto Betawi has a thicker broth as it contains milk, coconut milk, herbs and spices that are blended together. Beef is the main ingredient of Soto Betawi, typically cooked until tender and served with other boiled cow innards. The dish is served with white rice and condiments like fried shallots, leek, melinjo crackers (emping) and a sprinkle of lime juice.

6. Ketupat Sayur

Similarly to nasi uduk, ketupat sayur  (rice cake and vegetables) is typically eaten for breakfast. The dish is a complete combination of carbohydrates from the ketupat (rice cake), fiber from the green papaya and chayote, and protein from the boiled egg. Ketupat sayur has a sharp and spicy flavor because it is made from coconut milk soup mixed with a variety of spices, such as red chili, lemongrass, and galangal. Even though it is already full of spices, sometimes people add peanut sauce sambal to add a kick. (asw)