The Jakarta Post
A recent Sunday evening was like any other weekend night for a culinary gem situated on a corner of bustling Jl. Kebon Sirih Raya in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
Indulging their appetite for nasi goreng (fried rice), the all-time favorite Indonesian dish, hundreds of hungry customers swarmed the sidewalk eatery.
The name of the legendary spot? Nasi Goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih.
Initiated around 50 years ago by the late Haji Nein, a Jakarta native, the eatery is now gaining prominence among the capital's foodies, becoming a serious crowd-puller, its popularity built on its distinctive fried rice served with diced mutton and crumbled emping (slightly bitter fried crackers made from melinjo nut kernels).
'What we serve today is a result of my innovative father's years of creative processes, testing various kinds of seasoning and compiling the best recipe,' said Nein's son Rahadi, 33.
Rahadi, who took over his father's business alongside his brothers Rudi, 35, and Edi, 41, said that one of the main ingredients of the fried rice was ghee.
'Its alluring taste lies in its use of ghee. This typical flavor has been maintained for years,' said Yova Utomo, 27, a visitor to the eatery, on Sunday.
'Its seasonings are very powerful; that's what draws me back here several times a month,' said another diner, Alfianto, 39.
More than 200 people flock to the stall, which is open from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., every day on weekends, mainly to enjoy the mutton fried rice, sold for Rp 32,000 (US$2.3) per serving, according to Rahadi.
On weekdays, when it opens from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., almost as many ate at the street eatery, he added.
'This place is rarely quiet, as our customers range from nearby office workers and civil servants to culinary adventurers and holidaymakers,' Rahadi said, adding that diners included people from across the archipelago.
The stall's popularity, he added, was achieved without resorting to special promotions.
'As long as you serve delicious food, the information about it will automatically spread. Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective,' Rahadi said.
Serving such a large number of customers every day, the stall, which started with just three workers, now has a staff of 20 and uses two vast pans.
'We cook more than 15 kilograms of mutton and 30 kilograms of rice each day,' said Rahadi, whose stall also serves sop kambing (goat soup) and sate kambing (goat satay), which cost Rp 30,000 and Rp, 60,000, respectively.
The eatery has also added smaller tables and chairs to its original set-up of one long table and stools.
'We try to keep it open and informal. This makes people feel free while eating and hanging out with their families and friends,' Rahadi said, pointing to the tables and chairs scattered about the sidewalk.
Furthermore, the eatery has opened branches in Bintaro, Blok M and Cinere in South Jakarta, as well as Pamulang in South Tangerang.
Given its success, Rahadi said that Nasi Goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih should be considered as one of the capital's main culinary destinations.
'For instance, while people visiting Semarang will look for lumpia [traditional spring rolls], those visiting Jakarta will come to us,' he said. (alm)