Love-Hate Relationship

Most of my life, I live in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. Home to over 10 million people, Jakarta is always bustling, from the sound of the wheel of government turning to the sight of the economy churning. Skyscrapers, single story residential houses, modern apartment complexes, survivalists shanties – all coexist in this city.
Daniel Ziv, the author of ‘Jakarta Inside Out’ described the city from the point of view of a foreigner who proudly called Jakarta as his home:  Jakarta is not what you’d call a beautiful place, it’s chaotic maze of low-lying slums, gleaming skyscrapers and imposing toll roads, enveloped in a gigantic cloud of pollution and trapped in hopeless gridlock. It often seems a miracle the place keeps ticking at all. But it ticks. Like crazy. If it’s sometimes a city in crisis, it’s also one of great opportunity. If it’s a city of despair, it is at turns one of hope. A constant assault on the senses, it oozes wacky character.

So, why should I live in Jakarta?

To me Jakarta has its own quirky vibe which I love but at the same time I hate. The love and hate are tightly woven into a special feeling too hard to explain.

I love  Jakarta because there are so many shopping malls with different sizes and types.  Being a more in-door person I enjoy ‘malling’ – malls are fully air-conditioned, spacy, contains bright glitzy things and have local and imported branded boutiques, book stores, cafes, food-courts, cineplexes……….you name it  and even ice skating.


In the malls you can find many international as well as local chain-cafes such as Starbucks , Coffee Beans, Dome, Gloria Jean, Excelso etc considered by Jakartans as popular place to hangout with friends. Sometimes you can even hangout  at a more  upper class place like Harvey Nichols Social House.  Though the price of the food and drinks are more expensive than regular cafes, it is still within the reach of most middle class people.  What I love the most about malls in Jakarta is most of them provide valet service at the cost of only Rp.20,000 or $2. Though I can drive but I am lousy with parking so this valet service makes my life easier whenever I feel like ‘malling’

Other thing I love about Jakarta is the Umbrella Boys or known as Ojek Payung in the local language. If you’re caught out on the street, running late for an important meeting or temporary trapped under the roof of a Bus Stop or Cigarette stall while it is heavily raining, your would agree with Daniel Ziv that the Umbrella boys are heroes of the hours and surely God’s own little barefoot angels.  The service of an umbrella boy is ranging from Rp. 2,000 – 5,000 (20 – 50 cents US dollar). I really missed the Umbrella Boys when I was  Singapore and suddenly it was raining while I was just stepped out of a bus. I have to wait for almost one hour for the rain to stop and  there was no angel to save me.

ojek payung

What I hate  about  Jakarta is the Bajaj. It is an automotive rickshaw which Daniel Ziv describe it as “THE BRIGHT ORANGE NUISANCE. Bajaj is undoubtedly the cockroach of the automotive world and an element of Jakarta many residents love to hate.


Jakarta is notorious for its traffic and is one of the worst cities in Asia.  Traffic jam is an everyday routine Jakartans have to deal with. I  hate traffic jam but it’s a reality of life  in Jakarta so I choose to enjoy it.  Whenever  I get caught in the jam,  it’s  time for either reading (newspaper or magazines)  or twittering (yes, in Jakarta you can do this). So,  it’s either you get bitter or better.

Other thing I hate is during the wet season, Jakarta so easily gets flooded due to clogged sewage pipes and waterways, deforestation  etc.  Major floods occurred  in 2002 and 2007. Approximately 70% of Jakarta’s total area was flooded with water up to four meters deep in parts of the city.  And my house was amongst the thousands of houses which hit by the flood.


Let us pray for Jakarta, no matter how bad it is sometimes.  Because if Jakarta prospers, we too will prosper.

The Culture

Jakarta is a real melting pot of ethnic diversity, with peoples from all over the archipelago – traditional cultures mix and intermingle, co-existing side by side with modern metropolitan life. In such a diverse, flamboyant setting, it is sometimes easy to overlook the native inhabitants of the city.

The original people of Jakarta are the Orang Betawi. “Orang” means “person”, and “Betawi” indicates the original Dutch name of the city, Batavia. The Betawi dialect has a special place in the Jakarta of today, being the fashionable street language of the younger generation of Jakartans – it has been adopted as the hip, modern, trendy and informal language of kids and yuppies alike.

In the Jakarta of old, the Betawi people dominated the centre of the city, but as it has expanded, much of their land has been bought up for development and the Betawi people have been dispersed.

Ondel-ondel is a gigantic “human puppets”. The existence of ondel-ondel can be traced back to as early as the 18th century. In the past, they were used to protect the community from black magic and afflictions. The two puppets symbolize the spiritual protection provided by the ancestors to the Betawi population. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, people still commonly put on an ondel-ondel shows during family celebrations held when, for example, a boy in the family was circumcised.


Betawi Cuisine

I  can’t talk about Jakarta without talking about the Betawi cuisine. All-time Betawi favorites are Soto Betawi, Nasi Uduk, Kerak Telor and Kue Putu.

Soto Betawi

Is a popular soup cooked in a coconut and beef broth, and served with beef, potato and tomato, which was very tasty and had just the right amount of spice — certainly a good way to start the meal.  One of the best Soto Betawi in Jakarta is Soto Betawi Babeh in Kelapa Gading area where I now live.

soto betwi

Nasi Uduk

Nasi Uduk is an Indonesian style of  steamed rice dish originally from Jakarta, which can be widely found across the country. It is made by mixing steamed rice with coconut (santan), lemongrass and salam leaf. Nasi Uduk is often served with raw cucumber, raw cabbage raw tomato, fried sambal, fried fofu, fried tempeh, fried chicken and beef. Nasi Uduk  can be found throughout the day, some street hawkers open exclusively in the morning, noon, or night, depending on the demographic of the surrounding areas. Some are open during the day and some during the night.


Recipe of Nasi Uduk reported by Yumi.


4 cups Jasmine rice, washed, half-cooked
700 ml thin or light coconut milk
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemongrass, white part, crushed

Cook the coconut milk along with salt, bay leaves, lime leaves, and lemongrass in a medium-sized pot. Bring it to boil, then simmer immediately.
Stir in the half-cooked rice into this mixture. Stir with wooden spoon until the coconut milk is absorbed by the rice. Remove the bay & kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Continue to steam until the rice is fully cooked.

Note: If you think the coconut milk is too much or too little, you may adjust it yourself.

Serving suggestions

Sliced plain omelets [make a thin layer of plain omelet, with salt and pepper only, then slice it into strands]
Dry-roasted peanuts
Fried dried anchovies
Fresh sliced cucumbers
Chili sauce or spicy peanut sauce

Kerak TelorKerak telor consist of ingredients: white sticky rice, egg (chicken or duck egg), dried shrimps, and fried onion; added by some refined spices viz. grated coconut (fried without oil), red pepper, galangal, ginger, peppercorn, salt, and refined sugar.

kerak telornya

Its cooking recipe is somewhat unique. The whole cooking process is not using edible oil. Firstly the white sticky rice which is already soaked is parboiled in a hot wok. Then the stirred egg is poured into the wok and added with fried onion, dried shrimps, and the spices. The egg is flattened on the wok surface. The wok is inverted until touched by the flame lick; and the upper surface of kerak telor is giving the roasted aroma. Thus the curst surface is actually dry.Then kerak telor is served with fried onion and serundeng (relish of grated coconut and spices). Combination of the fried egg aroma with coconut and fried onion mixture can be sniffed. The aroma is really appetizing. It’s yummy, especially when served while it’s still warm.

Kerak telor is sold by the street vendors using a unique litter carried on their shoulders. They’re commonly still using the traditional cooking equipment. Currently kerak telor is still can be found, although only limited in certain places.

Kue Putu

Kue putu is a sweet cake filled with palm sugar and scraped coconut, served on banana leaves is a perfect choice to close the meal, light and sweet. The taste is “luscious, giddying and sinful” when melting hot, especially when taken with the lightly salted grated coconut toppings.

The complimenting sweet aroma of the pandan leaves also never fails to keep our customers coming back for more. It is usually sold by street vendor which can be recognized by the sound of a steam whistle.

    tk kue putuKue Putu Recipe by Desi ChefIngredients:
    2 cups rice flour
    3/4 tsp salt
    150ml + 2tbsp hot water
    1/2 cup coconut without skin, grated
    1/2 cup gula melaka, grated
    Pandan leaves, cut into squaresMethod:
    Dry roast rice flour for 1 minute. Sift and leave it to cool.
    Mix the salt in hot water and sprinkle over the rice flour.
    Rub the water into the flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    Lightly grease a putu mold. Fill half the container with the prepared flour.

    Top with 1 – 2 tsp palm sugar and cover with more flour.

    Place a small piece of pandan leaf over it.
    Steam for 10 – 20 minutes. Serve with grated coconut if desired. Makes about 13 pieces.


    Wikipedia,, Kreasidapurmivanda, Jakarta Post, Jakarta Inside Out (Daniel Ziv).


One response to “Love-Hate Relationship

  1. Really hate the traffic

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