We're in Jakarta this week, working on a story that has not a whit to do with food. But that doesn't mean we're not eating well!
We headed out rather than later than usual this morning, still befuddled from an unexpectedly grueling day of travel yesterday (nine hours to get from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta? yes, it is possible, thanks to Air Asia). Hungry and bubble-headed, we didn't want to work too hard for lunch. So we made straight for a part of town where we knew we could find good grub with minimal effort. We weren't disappointed.
In the same Glodok (Jakarta's Chinatown) alley where we last supped on turtle soup (which we believed, during said supping, to be chicken soup) - crowded today with vendors, their mobile stalls, and plenty of enthusiastic eaters (Sunday's a good day to visit Glodok) - we found a spic-and-span corner coffeeshop flanked by stalls offering soto Betawi, gado-gado, nasi campur, and jus buah (various fruit juices).
'Santan (coconut milk)?' the soto Betawi vendor asked me when I held up one finger, indicating how many bowls of sotoa and how many dishes of rice we wanted. Soto Betawi is a beef and beef parts soto with a richly flavored broth that's made with warm spices and a blend of coconut and cow's milk. This stall offers the broth with or without the fruit-and-dairy richness.
We're not afraid of lemak (richness). Of course, we opted for milk.
Our first and, before today, pnly taste of soto Betawi was enjoyed at Kafe Betawi, a very good (really, honestly) chain that I included in the Jakarta recommendations that accompanied our WSJA 'street food off the street' article. We were glad to have the opportunity to try a true street version.
Though it isn't as opulently spiced as Kafe Betawi's soto, this one is no slouch, rich but not over-the-top with the two milks, boasting chunks of tender beef and perfectly delicious 'parts', even floating a few shards of wonderfully smoky dried beef. Rounding out our bowl were slices of sourish tomato, sweetly caramelized shallot and garlic bits, chopped coriander, and kerepok (crackers) that half-melted in the broth. A squeeze of kalamansi brought it all together.
A nice touch here: two types of acar (pickles) - one of sweet-sour shallots and the other a mix of cucumber, shredded carrot, and whole small, fiery cabe (chilies) - included on the tabletop condiment tray. They add texture, heat, and a bit of tartness (always a plus in our book) to the dish.
Accompanied by two glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice, our bill came to Rp 40,000 (roughly $3.50). Warm welcome, wide smiles, and the reminder not to forget my umbrella on the house. Set straight, we hit the road and wandered up to Kota Tua (Jakarta's 'Old Town').
Jakarta catches so much trash talk from travellers. But we're happy to be looking at the rest of the week here.
Soto Betawi 'Afung', alley off of Jalan Pancong next to Pasar Glodok building.