For indolent blighters like myself, street food is our savior. After all, we can’t live on pizza forever and there are times when even a journey to the kitchen to rustle up an omelet is too much hard work. Thankfully, though, we have plenty of street foods to choose from in Jakarta. Here are some of ‘em:
1. Nasi goreng. Back home in Blighty the Scots like to clog up their arteries by pigging out on deep-fried mars bars. But over here things are different and the preferred dish is “fat-drenched rice”, or better known as nasi goreng. Horses for courses if you ask me, but either way you are well on the road to a coronary before your 45th birthday if you gobble down too much of this stuff. Yet nasi goreng is a very versatile dish, and it can be served for either breakfast, lunch or dinner – although you really wouldn’t want to eat it three times a day. The best nasi goreng I’ve ever had has been in Surabaya, where it’s red - rather than brown – apparently due to the addition of wholesome tomatoes (as opposed to the red food coloring cochineal/carmine which, would you believe, comes from crushed creepy crawlies!!!)
That's a hell of a lot of nasi goreng he's cooking
2. Bakso (Chinese meatballs) – a particular fave of US President Barack Obama, these “testicle” sized (???) chunks of, er, meat?, are not exactly the Dog’s Bollocks but they could well be the cow’s of course - cos that’s exactly the problem with Chinese meatballs; you simply don’t know what you are getting. It could be ***king anything; all mixed together with copious quantities of cacogenic borax… Yummy, I don’t think!!!
3. Bubur ayam (chicken-rice porridge) – much loved by young children and, strangely enough, late night revelers, who after a hard night’s clubbing, dine on this easily-digested mush just before sunrise as if they were vampires getting their last bloody meal. I remember it fondly in Surabaya, but haven’t eaten it for yonks.
4. Sate ayam (chicken sate) or Sate Padang (Padang style chicken sate). Tender chunks of chicken on wooden skewers is what you want, but chewy lumps of fat and gristle is - more often than not - what you get. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. Comes served with lontong (compressed rice cut up into small pieces).
5. Ceker ayam (chicken feet soup) – not that easy to find (*), but well worth seeking out cos it’s said to contain lots of nutrients and, as the podiaphiles among you will attest, there’s nuffin quite as enjoyable as sucking on deliciously tasting feet, is there?
Chicken feet, not
6. Gado Gado - classic Jakarta street food and one of the rare Indonesian dishes ideal for vegetarians as its ingredients are bean sprouts and other vegetables smothered in a savory-sweet Javanese peanut sauce, but, which, unfortunately, has the appearance of mud :(
7. Rujak cingur. Take one Goodyear tire (new or used) and cut it up into lots of little pieces. Serve with dashings of peanut sauce, and chuck in whatever else you can find in the fridge - cucumber, tempe, some noodles, unripe mango - and add a touch of shrimp paste. Half an hour into your meal and you’re still chewing grimly on your first mouthful. Yep folks. This is rujak cingur, possibly Indonesia’s most unappetizing dish, and definitely its most bizarre. Oh and if you’re short on Goodyear tires, cow’s nose (complete with cartilage) makes a fine alternative.
8. Rujuk manis – not to be confused with rujak cingur, rujak manis is an Indonesian fruit salad (papaya, unripe mango, pineapple, jicama, starfruit, water apple, guava) served with a spicy hot peanut sauce! Sounds crazy, but tastes great.
9. Nasi uduk – food fit for kings and the urban masses, nasi uduk is coconut rice Betawi style. Goes down a treat with fried chicken and tempe – although I’m not so sure that all that high cholesterol coconut milk is doing me any good… Oh well. Can’t live forever…
(*) if you’re searching for a place which sells ceker ayam (chicken feet soup), there’s a little street stall on Jalan Sabang in Central Jakarta. In fact, the whole of the street is a haven for street food junkies and most of the eateries are open till late.
Mum, what the hell is that chicken foot doing in me soup!