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Jakarta Post

'€˜Martabak'€™ vendors in war of flavors

  • Corry Elyda

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 14, 2015   /  06:08 am
'€˜Martabak'€™ vendors in war of flavors

No ordinary pancake: A worker prepares a serving of martabak at the Martabak Factory in Tebet, South Jakarta, on Tuesday. The café caters to a niche market in Jakarta. JP/Awo

Competition over sweet martabak (pancake) has escalated in the past few years, with old and new vendors experimenting with various fillings, including imported ingredients like Japanese green tea KitKat and Ovomaltine crunchy spread.

The current talk of the town is Martabak Boss, which offers fillings ranging from classic to voguish to outlandish.

Jayanti and her friend, for example, drove all the way from their houses in Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta to try the flavors of Martabak Boss in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

'€œI read a review of this place on a blog under an article entitled '€˜Five most delicious martabak in Jakarta'€™. It made me curious,'€ she told The Jakarta Post recently.

She said that although she was devoted to classic toppings cheese, chocolate sprinkles and ground peanuts, she would go back to try other flavors. '€œI'€™m curious to try pandan martabak with fermented cassava,'€ she said.

At Martabak Boss, martabak with Ovomaltine crunchy cream and cheese is priced at Rp 150,000 (US$11.35), a hefty price compared to the standard Rp 35,000 charged on the street.

Another martabak lover, 27-year-old Gayatri Nadya, said many martabak vendors were offering pricey new varieties.

'€œWhen a new martabak vendor is booming, I usually try it. However, I will still go back to my favorite vendor in Fatmawati, South Jakarta,'€ she said.

Ruthie Pasaribu, a public relations officer at Martabak Boss, admitted that although their prices might not be low, they were worth it, as they used premium ingredients like Wijsman butter and Ovomaltine.

'€œAt first, we wondered if our product was overpriced. However, demand has been high. Our best sellers are Ovomaltine and matcha [green tea KitKat]. Maybe Jakartans have a lot of purchasing power, or they just love it,'€ she said. Opened on Feb. 20, 2014, Martabak Boss has expanded to five branches located in Menteng in Central Jakarta, Tebet, Jl. Panglima Polim and Jl. Gunawarman in South Jakarta and Bintaro in South Tangerang, Banten.

New martabak vendors are springing up around the capital city, trying to win the hearts of customers with innovative concepts and distinctive choices.

Ika Hendrani, the owner of the newly opened café Martabak Factory in Tebet, said individual portions of martabak and new fillings were her ways to lure customers.

'€œMartabak is usually served in such a big portion that people can'€™t manage all at once,'€ she said, adding that by ordering a small portion, customers could try a range of fillings.

Ika plans to introduce new flavors every four months after her new black glutinous rice topping attracted customers.

With Jakartans'€™ undying craving for martabak, this business looks promising.

Risman, the store manager of Martabak Orins, said that by ensuring quality and good service, the company had boomed into seven outlets in Greater Jakarta after opening its first in 2011.

Risman said the transaction value of its first store at Gondangdia Station in Central Jakarta could reach up to Rp 350,000 million per month.

'€œWe started with only four workers, but now we have around 60 workers in all outlets,'€ he said.

Martabak Orins'€™ USP is martabak pizza, with the batter not folded but left open.

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