It's a beautifully crisp blue-sky morning here in the Berkshires, but I'm about to tell you about a street treat we ate in Jakarta last April. I've no choice; the Photographer hasn't been on food photography duty since we landed in the States a week ago.
No matter -- kerak telur is nothing to turn your nose up at.
Kerak telur used to be thick on the ground in Jakarta, or so we've been told. Though we'd previously encountered this egg and rice 'omelet' it in an indoor food court or two this was our first time to find it sold on the street.
Holding court in a corner of Kota Tua's (Jakarta 'Old Town') Fatahillah Square around sunset, as skateboarders practiced their moves nearby, this ambulant vendor was doing a steady busines, turning out the Betawi specialty one at a time.
There are a couple things to note about kerak telur. One, it's traditionally (and most deliciously) cooked over charcoal. And two, it involves a pretty cool technique that somewhat mimics that used for an Italian frittata.
It goes like this:
The vendor spreads a thinnish layer of cooked rice in the bottom of a small single-handled wok and places it over the coals. He then sprinkles over some browned crisped shallots, breaks a couple of eggs over the top,
whisks eggs and yolks with his fork, and smears it all over the rice.
After leaving the eggs to set for a minute,
he flips the pan over to expose the eggs directly to the heat of the coals. Amazingly, though it will later slide (seemingly) effortlessly from the pan, when it's suspended over the coals the omelet clings tenously to the metal.
Turned upright again, the kerak telur gets a final browning over the newly stoked and fanned coals,
Crackly brown on the bottom now, the kerak telur is loosened from the pan with that ever-useful fork,
and transferred to a paper-lined plate, where it's topped with heaps more crispy shallots and sprinkled with coconut dry-toasted with - I'm guessing here - turmeric.
Puffed and golden, sweet and savory, substantial but light enough to go down well as a pre-dinner snack -- and quite unlikely to find its way to a corner near you anytime soon.
Kerak telur vendor, Fatahillah Square, Kota Tua, Jakarta. Evenings.