Bakmi babi in Jakarta

bakmi pork indonesia

Bakmi literally means meat noodles and despite the Muslim majority capital of Indonesia, there are shops which caters for people who wants a dose of porcine goodness. One of these is located in Mangga Besar – a quirky name which means “big mango” (a tropical variant of the Big Apple ;)).

Bakmi Ahau claims to have been around since 1962 – that’s a good 50 years (!!!) of operation. It’s still situated in a dingy stall right by the roadside but that’s part of the appeal. If the claims are true (or if the date is based on the Muslim calendar, which produces its peculiar brand of irony) it means that they must serve a really good bowl of bakmi babi (pork noodles)…

bakmi ahau 1962

…and I can attest to that!

It has been around for a couple of years at least, a friend of mine brought me here to eat a very late supper when I was in Jakarta. The place was packed even though it was way past midnight.

bakmi jakarta

The bakso (that’s meatballs) accompanying the bakmi here is made with pork and it’s deep fried before being served, producing a crunchiness that goes very well with the juicy pork meatballs. They don’t skimp on the meat – there’s just a thin coating of batter on top. I reckon it’s the deep fried bakso that makes this stall stand out.

bakmi mangga besar

The noodles are also tossed with lard and there’s bit of char siew (barbecued pork) and deep fried pork skin to go with it. It’s also not fully “dry” – almost a quarter of the dish is filled with the seasoning gravy (or bumbu) which is a mixture of lard, soy sauce, and other things the workers are reluctant to divulge.

pork bakmi

However, it is 100% goodness! I have had a lot of pork noodle dishes and this is one of the times where it stood out in my mind. The bakmi in Mangga Besar is just one stall in a long chain but you can find it from the distinctive t-shirts that they wear.

bakmi jakarta me

A large bowl of pork bakmi with extra bakso with a glass of iced jeruk (local Mandarin orange juice) from the stall beside just cost under 20,000 rupiah (about RM 6) – a nice break if you want something other than chicken in Jakarta. A mean and delicious dish of authentic roadside bakmi at a price that’s hard to beat.

A morning stroll at Kota Tua Jakarta

old batavia

Kota Tua is loosely translated as “Old Town” and it’s the old part of Jakarta. It’s also known as Old Batavia and you can still see the scars of the 1998 riots here – burned buildings are still around and refurbishment hasn’t touched most of it yet.

kota tua

We were staying at a hotel just nearby and one morning, Jazz woke me up to experience the place. The streets were closed on that day, due to a function that’s happening on the square.

kota tua no vehicles

It was the event itself that caused the closure of the streets – it’s called Hari Bebas Kenderaan Bermotor Kawasan Kota Tua 2012 which translates to “(Motorized) Vehicle Free Day (in) Kota Tua Area 2012”. Heh.

kali besar

Kota Tua is bordered by a canal called Kali Besar which is famous for its overpowering stench. I could smell it, but it wasn’t anywhere as bad as I was told.

buskers

The beauty of Kota Tua Jakarta lies in its vibrant community of stalls and buskers – there were people playing various musical instruments and I even saw an improvised percussion system made of glass bottles nestled on a wood frame!

pos indonesia

This is one of the refurbished buildings – their post office. It’s part of their efforts at making this historical town into a UNESCO heritage site.

kota tua stalls

It is primarily a tourist attraction with it’s souvenir stalls – there’s also a theater called Museum Wayang there that plays traditional Indonesian Wayang Kulit (a shadow play with puppets).

museum wayang

Several vendors also offers rides on pimped up (or rather dolled up) bicycles for two, complete with flowery hats.

old jakarta bicycles

However, it’s definitely worth a visit – you can catch a local puppet show or grab a snack from a roadside stall. I had Otak Otak Ikan which is completely different from the soggy fish paste we get here.

otak otak indonesia

The Indonesian version of otak otak is crispy and eaten with a chilli paste. It’s cheap street food, I think I paid less than RM 1 for this.

indonesian otak otak

Kota Tua Jakarta has something for everyone. It’s called Old Jakarta for a reason – a lot of history and heritage can be found in this area. I’ll allocate at least half a day for a proper visit, and a full day if you want to pop into all the museums and catch a wayang kulit show.

kota tua indonesia

…or you can just sit at one of the cafes and watch the vibrant scenes – families at play, people collecting discarded cans for recycling money, old men chatting animatedly while standing around in loose circles.

3 interesting things I saw while grocery shopping in Jakarta

1. Two feet long aloe vera

huge aloe vera

It’s called lidah buaya in the local parlance, except these monstrosities grow up to 2 feet long (!). The shortest one is easily 1 1/2 foot and the girth is pretty impressive too.

2. Sukkari dates

sukkari dates

The appearance of dates means the fasting month of Ramadan for Muslims is around the corner. Sukkari dates hails all the way from Medina in Saudi Arabia and it’s hard, dry and intensely sweet. The appearance is conical and Sukkari dates are considered a delicacy – premium items that’s very much in demand according to the people at Hero (a grocery store chain in Jakarta). It retails for IDR 35,000 (RM 12) for 100 grams and I ate a couple thanks to the person manning the place.

They also sell Anbara dates – the largest date species in the world, and the polar opposite to Sukkari dates texture-wise. I had Anbara dates a couple of years ago and it’s soft and chewy unlike the “grainy” mouthfeel of Sukkari dates.

3. Short bean sprouts

short bean sprouts

This is something I’ve never seen before despite trawling the specialty grocery stores back home. It’s simply called “short taugeh” and you can see the bean with just a hint of sprout. The unusual retarded sprouting process is pictured next to regular bean sprouts for comparison. It looks like an adolescent trying to grow facial hair. smirk

Posted: 1:55 am Jakarta time (GMT +7)

Couchsurfing in Jakarta – don’t forget your towel

couchsurfing

I’m currently staying in Taman Anggerek after one night at a hotel in Kota Tua which cost us IDR 420,000 (about RM 140). It was a really last minute decision, we headed out to Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK) to meet with friends and it was suddenly decided that we’ll just crash at their place.

taman anggerek jakarta

It was about 12:30 pm (!) at that time. We rushed back to the hotel and checked out just in time before heading back to Condominium Taman Anggerek. I grabbed the toothbrush and shaver from the hotel before checking out and went to Matahari – a departmental store here – to get a towel for IDR 37,000 (RM 12).

taman anggerek

Here’s the view from the 26th floor – the view of Jakarta Barat (West Jakarta) is quite polluted but it looks like it’s going to be an awesome place to stay. I haven’t couch surfed in a while.

couchsurfing jakarta

Thanks for having us Eric + wife and Yong Ming! :)

Posted: 9:40 pm Jakarta time (GMT +7)