Nasi goreng and Indonesian pancakes in Jakarta

Posted on Friday, 29th August 2008

Colonial Jakarta

Colonial Jakarta

On account of the heat and jetlag yesterday, I had done little else but wander around the air-conditioned shopping malls.  So today was my first real sightseeing expedition of Jakarta. On the whole, it was a little lacklustre – a maze of traffic and chaos, a concrete jungle interspersed with shanty buildings. However, my visit to the Indonesian National Museum proved to be reasonably interesting.  There were cultural artefacts from around Indonesia on display and a collection of Chinese ceramics including some from the Han Dynasty.

Night traffic in Jakarta

Night traffic in Central Jakarta

This evening I decided to eat Indonesian street food, having started the day in such a fashion.  On all my travels throughout South East Asia, I generally haven’t been able to fault these vendors, in terms of flavour at least, although some were obviously better than others.  They were authentic, cheap and filling, and catered to local taste buds as well as wallets.  On occasions I found the food at these little one man mobile operations better than at some restaurants where you paid more, although you obviously compromised on service and ambience.  No doubt the key was to head for the busiest stall, the one with the most locals.

On a street around the corner from my hotel, there was an abundance of warungs (food vendors on mobile carts) dishing up an abundance of Indonesian specialties.  They offered a variety of local dishes including nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), sates, curries and fried meats such as fish and chicken.  I headed for one of the busiest warungs I could find and ordered nasi goreng (about 60p).  It was mildly spicy and mixed with shredded chicken, finely diced beef, liver and spring onions and was suitably tasty, although it was missing a pan fried egg on top.  It also came with prawn crackers, which the Indonesians seemed to love as an accompaniment to their food, and of course the mandatory chillies. Also available on the table was sambal (a spicy Indonesian condiment) for those wanting that extra bit of kick.

The making of martabak manis (Indonesian pancake)

The making of martabak manis (Indonesian pancake)

Fielding a sweet craving, I followed my eyes to this scrumptious-looking ‘cake’ being cooked to order in a pan over a fire. It was a martabak manis (an Indonesian pancake also known as Terang Bulan) and from the number of different toppings on offer, I chose the chocolate and peanut topping.  The pancake was made with a batter mix of flour, sugar, milk, eggs etc, and poured into a deep-set pan. Once cooked, it became quite thick, rising to about double its original size.

A large amount of shortening was then spread over it, chocolate and peanuts were then liberally sprinkled on top, and it was finished with a generous drizzle of condensed milk.

TA-DA! The finished product in bite-sized pieces

TA-DA! The finished product in bite-sized pieces

Cut into manageable pieces it was deliciously hot. The texture was similar to a crumpet, only less dense and with all the scrumptious toppings tasted like a chocolaty sweet sate. It was extremely rich and enough for probably three to four people, but naughtily I just about managed to finish it all. In the end, I got my pancake wish from the morning after all.

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