Preserve and Promote Indonesian Cuisine
A bowl of soto Betawi is seen at Warung Betawie H. Apen. (Good Indonesian Food/File)
Compared to other warteg (food stalls) or Padang restaurants, Betawi joints lag rather far behind in the popularity stakes in their hometown of Jakarta. Although it can be difficult to find a Betawi establishment that is truly authentic and pleasing to the palate, Warung Betawie H. Apen could be the eatery that breaks the mold.
Located beside the TransJakarta Ragunan bus stop in a very Betawi-looking building, even the windows are decorated in Betawi style, with scribbles that remind you of the way Betawi people speak: direct and to the point.
Due to its proximity to Ragunan Zoo, the place is often packed with punters wanting to fill their tummies before or after a visit to the wildlife park.
Founder Hj. Nengsih — the cooking-loving wife of H. Apen — first established a small warung in 2004 with the capacity to serve about 15 people after retiring from a job at the Attorney General’s Office. The green building can now hold up to 100 customers.
(Read also: 5 Betawi restaurants to indulge your palate)
Its varied menu comprises Betawi dishes such as pecak gurame (gourami with bird’s eye chilli), pecak ikan mas (carp with bird’s eye chilli), pecak lele (catfish with bird’s eye chilli), pecak ayam (chicken with bird’s eye chilli), sop kambing (mutton soup), sop betawi daging sapi (Betawi beef soup), ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken), sayur asem (vegetables in tamarind soup), semur jengkol (dogfruit stew), ikan asin sepat dan gabus (salted perch and snakehead), pete goreng dan rebus (fried and boiled bitter beans), gurame goreng (fried gourami), ikan mas goreng (fried carp) and ayam goreng Betawi (Betawi fried chicken).
It also offers a range of snacks and desserts, such as kerupuk (crackers), keripik (chips), emping (melinjo crackers) and es potong Njonja Besar (Njonja Besar popsicles).
Although I showed up during lunchtime on a Saturday, I was quite fortunate to find fewer punters present than I had expected. After choosing a table right next to the kitchen and ordering my food, my eyes were drawn to the walls. A photograph of Pak Bondan Winarno adorned one wall, including his ringing endorsement of the warung. It turns out that apart from Ragunan locals, the famous culinary presenter is also a fan of the place.
The eatery exuded a sense of familial camaraderie, especially when a few guests went over to speak with the employees. I discovered that the majority of customers are loyal followers, which reminded me of the affable Betawi people and their tight kinship with each other.
I ordered a bowl of soto Betawi and a portion of ayam goreng Betawi. The broth of the soto was yellowish white and filled with beef, tomatoes, keripik kentang (potato chips), bawang goreng (fried shallots) and daun bawang (green onions). It tasted heavenly and was not too concentrated. The beef was tender and not too fatty. After finishing the whole bowl, I came to the conclusion that the broth was very kind to the stomach due to the balanced amount of santan (coconut milk).
I must say that the ayam goreng was one of the best I have ever tasted. Fried to a crisp, its top was slathered with slices of red chilies, bird’s eye chilies and shallots that were minced prior to cooking to produce a magnificent aroma. The mix was not too spicy as it had also been stir-fried beforehand. The sizeable portion was ideal for a filling lunch, especially when accompanied by a plate of steamed rice. (kes)
Explore more Indonesian cuisine here.
Jl. Saco No. 12, Pasar Minggu
Ragunan, South Jakarta
Contact: 021 9126 1077
Open from Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Sundays)
Rp 40,000 (US$3) per person
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.