With over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is considered to be the largest archipelagic country in the world. The metropolitan area of its capital city, Jakarta, is home to more than 31 million people, making it the second largest city in the world next to metro Tokyo in terms of population. As the city draws more people from different regions of Indonesia and from different countries, Jakarta’s food culture also continues to evolve and absorb new influences.
The food in Jakarta—especially the street food—are some of the most decadent and flavourful in the world. That’s why while visiting the city’s attractions on your Jakarta tour package, you should make sure not to miss out on the unique gastronomic adventure that only Jakarta’s must-try street eats can offer.
Start off your food crawl with one of the most iconic dishes in Indonesia (and probably the healthiest in this list). Satay, a grilled meat skewer dish, originates from the island of Java and comes with endless varieties such as goat, pork, beef, chicken, and more. While similar to other meat skewers like yakitori in Japan and shish kebab in Turkey, satay is dipped in a unique peanut butter and soy sauce mix whose flavour can vary depending on the vendor’s recipe. In addition, the portion of meat is deliberately kept small so you can taste more variety of satays without getting prematurely full.
Stuffed Pancake (Martabak)
Martabak is a fried “pancake” that comes in two main varieties: savoury or martabak malabar, and sweet or martabak manis. The savoury variant comes with a stretched wheat dough that’s fried, then layered with an egg mixture that includes minced meat and shallots. The excess dough is folded to make a rectangular “pancake,” then sliced into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, the dessert variant of martabak uses pancake batter and is layered with a variety of death-defying ingredients like margarine, butter, condensed milk, chocolate, sprinkles, cheese, and Nutella. Needless to say, if you are diabetic, you’d better stay away from this dessert, as tempting as it is!
Fried Foods (Gorengan)
Gorengan is at the top of the most popular street food for locals. These carts often appear at the most opportune times to save hungry commuters from Jakarta’s legendary traffic.
Gorengan literally translates to “fried things,” and these “things” vary widely depending on who’s selling them. From sweet pineapples to savoury tofu, there’s no way to tell what could be under all that flour batter unless you ask! What’s more, people don’t even mind that the oil is so black from being reused countless times. As long as the mystery fritter is piping hot and crispy, it’s all good.
Duck Egg Omelet (Kerak Telor)
Kerak telor is one of the traditional Betawi dishes of Jakarta with a unique cooking method. The omelet starts with glutinous rice, coconut, and egg mixed together, then carefully spread on the surface of the wok. Next, the wok is turned upside down over the fire to roast the omelet. It’s unclear how the mixture defies gravity, but after a topping of fried shallots and dried shrimp, you get a crunchy roasted rice omelet that’s unlike anything else you ever tasted.
Grilled Bread (Roti Bakar)
For breakfast, the locals usually go for a “ropita” or “roti bakar.” These are thick toasts that come with a variety of toppings like strawberry, chocolate, and cheese. As if there are not enough sweets on this breakfast, condensed milk is drizzled generously on top to finish it off.
If you’re really testing the limits of your pancreas, you can up the sugar level even further with the additional scoops of ice cream!
Fried Banana (Pisang Goreng)
One of the favourite quick snacks in Jakarta is the pisang goreng or fried banana fritters. Before coating the banana with the usual flour batter, it’s sliced thinly and spread out like a fan. This ensures a wider and flatter surface for a crispier banana fritter. Another thing that separates this fried banana from similar dishes in Singapore and the Philippines is the sambal dip that comes with it. It adds a spicy kick to the rich and oily snack.
Jakarta has such a wide variety of rich street food that tasting them all might put you in a serious food coma. If you ever find yourself in this megacity hungry and craving for sweets, be sure to have your insulin shots ready because the city is going to indulge you, big time!