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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Must try dishes in Jakarta - Exotic Local Flavours
Joanna James Joanna James
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Must try dishes in Jakarta - Exotic Local Flavours

Jakarta is by no means a small city. This is reflected in its cuisine as well, which is vast and diverse. These are some of the top contenders for must-try food in Jakarta.


Fried banana with chilli

Locally known as Pisang Goreng Sambal Roa, it an Indonesian version of a battered fritter. Unlike the banana fritters from Singapore or other neighbouring countries, the bananas used for Pisang Goreng Sambal Roa are firm and starchy, not as ripe as others. This battered fritter is served with a chilli sambal. It is made using fish and adds quite the spicy kick to the dish. As the dish balances out the starchy sweetness with the spiciness of the chilli, it is a popular snack among the locals.



Literally translated to "fried things", Gorengan is usually found in a cart that is pushed around the city. The snack is so popular in Jakarta that you will find Gorengan vendors even outside luxury apartment complexes like Ascott Sudirman Jakarta. The variety of items that could be fried seems to be endless: pineapple, yam, fermented soybeans, spring rolls, and tofu are among the more popular. Although Gorengan definitely proves that anything tastes better when it is fried, this could be a health issue in the long run. The oil is reused multiple times, but reused oil adds a special layer of flavour to the snack that is truly irresistible. Gorengan vendors are considered a blessing when one is stuck in the infamous Jakarta traffic and gets the munchies.


Meat Bun

Bakpao is the local name for this delicious staple food. Bakpao is a derivative from its Hokkien name, which translates to meat dumpling. The original Bakpao comes from China and used a generous amount of pork in its filling. However, as there is a large Muslim population in Jakarta, you will find that Bakpao in the area favours other types of meat such as chicken or even vegetables. The dough expands when steamed, and is a process that is fascinating to watch.


Spicy Omelette

An egg is almost everyone's cup of tea, but the spicy omelette known as Kerak Telor is a special snack that may not be for everyone. It is made using duck eggs and has dried shrimp, fried shallots, and shredded coconut as the topping. It is a traditional dish, and therefore more likely to be found during the festive season like the Jakarta fair. There is a certain degree of prestige attached to this dish, as once upon a time Kerak Telor was the favoured party food of the rich and wealthy.


Brain-brain fish cake

Brain-brain fish cake
Brain-brain fish cake or Otak-Otak is a popular snack that you can buy by the dozen and enjoy in the comfort of your hotel room or Sudirman apartment. Otak means brain, but these snacks are not made of real fish brains. The ingredients are wahoo fish, lemongrass, coconut milk, and spices. This fish paste is then steamed in a banana leaf or grilled, creating a small delicate bite-sized snack. The snack has the potential to look like a fish brain, though, which is probably where the name is derived from. While different versions of Otak-Otak can be found in other Southeast Asian countries, the Jakartan Otak-Otak is unique in that it is less spicy.

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