Like any major international city, Jakarta has no shortage of quality restaurants serving western cuisine. For the tastiest flavours though, it’s better to go local. In terms of traditional fare, you’re likely to come across Central Javanese cuisine which is sweeter and less spicy compared to East Javanese cuisine which uses less sugar and more chili.
Rice is the common staple food, served with every meal, and bread and grains other than rice are uncommon. Common meals include ayur asem, made from vegetables in tamarind-flavoured soup. Pepes is meat, chicken or fish mixed with a spice paste, wrapped in banana leaf, then steamed or grilled. Tumis sayuran is stir-fried vegetables with chilli while sayur lodeh is a curried vegetable stew.
Some of the regional specialities include gudeg yogya — a sweet mix of young jackfruit and hardboiled egg stew — and bakso solo, a dish of meatballs served in hot soup with noodles, green vegetables, shredded cabbage, chilli and tomato. Sometimes it comes with super-sized meatballs as big as tennis balls!
Ayam goreng kalasan is a tasty broth of chicken stewed with coriander, garlic, candlenut, and coconut water and then deep-fried until crispy, served with sambal and raw vegetables. Timlo solo is a popular beef and vegetable soup while lumpia semarang is delicious fried or steamed spring rolls. The filling varies, but commonly consists of meat and bamboo shoots.
For something a little more adventurous, order the swikee purwodadi. It’s frogs’ legs in fermented soybean soup.
Like the rest of Indonesia, it’s not advisable to drink Jakarta’s tap water. Bottled water is cheap and readily available.