Remember about the first part of my culinary adventure in Gloria Alley in the oldest Chinatown in Jakarta, Glodok? The saga continues to the second part of the food tour, which is in Kalimati Alley.
Situated about 300 meters from Gloria Alley, Kalimati Alley is reachable on foot. Nonetheless, a newbie (like me) will have a difficulty to find one. Leaving Gloria Alley, my fellow tour members and I passed through winding streets that didn’t seem to have any single clue where it ended. Fortunately, we only only needed to follow wherever our tour guide lead us without thinking too much.
Finally, we found Santa Maria de Fatima Church, the only church with a Chinese influence architecture, and Strada Ricci School, where my mom used to study when she was a child. Then, we headed straight to the dark alley in the end of the street. I was wondering whether it was another winding path to our destination or…
“This is Kalimati Alley!” the guide said enthusiastically.
Okay, so the dark alley was indeed Kalimati Alley. Assuming that Gloria Alley was already narrow and busy, it was nothing compared to Kalimati Alley. Kalimati Alley was so narrow that only a motorcycle can fit in the lane. Shophouses on both sides had canopies almost “touching” each other. As a result, the sun has a difficulty to shine our way and the alley looked dark from the distance. Nonetheless, the real temptation remained from free smells and curious appearance of the food everywhere we went.
- PD. Jaya Abadi
PD Jaya Abadi is the oldest convenient store in the area, whose building is still well-maintained in its original design since 1907. The original name of the store is Tjang Thjang Sen, referring to its first owner, now run by the 4th generation of the family. It sells a lot of things, including various imported snacks, sauces and spices from China and dried plants for medication purposes. If you take a look at the rear side of the store, you’ll see imported eels commonly used for unagi sushi in Japanese restaurants and turtles for pioh (turtle meat soup). These animals are sold alive to guarantee their freshness. Honestly, I just don’t have the heart to watch the turtles chopped alive for customer’s order.
- Cempedak Goreng Cik Lina
In western countries, cempedak is considered an exotic and rare fruit with pungent smell, although the intensity is less than that of durian. Being similar to jackfruit, cempedak has stronger smell, yellowish skin when ripe, smaller size fruit and softer meat texture.
Cempedak is no strange for Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, but it’s not very easy to find compared to jackfruit. How about fried cempedak? Yep, it’s even harder. If fried bananas and jackfruit chips are everywhere, cempedak isn’t. Suppose you want to try one, make sure you get it from the best, like Cempedak Goreng Cik Lina (literally meaning Sis Lina’s Fried Cempedak).
The process of making fried cempedak seems very simple and nothing more than deep fried with flour. Nonetheless, the secret weapon of the great taste lies on the preferred cempedak fruit itself, that has to be ripe, soft texture, orange color and sweet taste. Cik Lina inherits the business from her mother who started it in 1990s. Sold for Rp. 15.000 ($1) per piece, the size is as big as your palm. The crunchiness and sweetness of the fried cempedak is addictive, I’m telling you! No wonder there are many loyal customers (and still counting) after more than 30 years in the business. Watch out, as you may be the next “victim” after tasting the mouthwatering fried cempedak!
- Pia Lao Beijing (Lao’s Beijing Style Pia Cake)
Pia is originally a Chinese-style cake made of mung bean and sugar wrapped with dough. Nowadays, pia cake has more varieties of filling. At Lao’s, pia cakes are available with choices of durian, cheese, chocolate and red bean. Lao referred to the owner’s name, who comes from Beijing and now an Indonesian resident.
What I love the most from Pia Lao Beijing is the cake is served fresh from the oven, so the dough is warm and crunchy while eating on the spot. However, the main reason why it’s baked directly at the stall is to prove that the pia is halal and doesn’t use lard in the baking process. This tactic works very well, especially in the Chinatown situated in the country whose 94% of its inhabitants are moslems.
The best seller is the mung bean flavor, yet I prefer the cheese one because I like cheese much more than any other flavors. The filling is abundant yet balanced with the amount of dough covering the content. The shape and size of Lao’s pia is easily recognizable because it’s wider, flatter than any pia in other stores and sprinkled with sesame seeds (while others aren’t). It’s so affordable as well, only Rp. 6000 ($ 0.40) per piece.
- Vegetarian Ko Handi
Not far from Pia Lao Beijing, Ko Handi Vegetarian restaurant is the only vegetarian food at Kalimati Alley. Rendang (Padang-style stewed beef in coconut milk and spices) and roast pork are the most wanted ones. Using mushroom and flour as main ingredients, the taste is surprisingly very similar to the original meat flavors. The only difference is vegetarian meats aren’t as fibrous as real meat, therefore they lessen the chance to stuck between teeth when chewed. That’s what I love the most about fake meats, anyways. And the price? No worries, its just Rp. 8000 ($ 0.50) per piece.
- Mie Baskom
Mie Baskom means “noodle in a big bowl”. The stall is called that way because the fried noodle as the main menu is placed in a big stainless steel bowl, which choices of fried kwetiau (wide-shaped noodle) and fried vermicelli. It also offers deep fried snacks. The big bowl noodle business has been running for 2 generations and my parents were one of the main customers during their childhood. For Rp. 18.000 ($ 1.30), it’s served in quite a large portion and fit for 2 persons when not too hungry. The taste is pretty good and the noodle is in the right al dente texture that I like. Apart from that, my parents said that the distinctive flavor hasn’t changed since 1960s.
- Lao Hoe
Operating since 1980s, Lao Hoe restaurant is famous for its Belitung style noodle and laksa (vermicelli in coconut milk soup). I instantly chose Belitung style noodle because I didn’t have any clue of what it’s like. Belitung style noodle consists of noodle, prawn, bean curd, potato, cucumber and prawn crackers. The soup was thick and tasted a bit sweet, that reminds me of another noodle soup called lo mie. One day, I’d like to try the famous laksa!
Anyways, there was something really special about the prawn cracker. Not only because it’s home made, but also has an intense savory taste of prawn, thin dough and very crispy. To be honest, it’s the best prawn cracker I’ve ever tasted! Offered for Rp 25.000 ($ 1.50), the portion was not that big. Very suitable for those who want to take it as a “snack”. Don’t skip the big-sized deep fried snacks in front of the restaurant looked very eye-catching as well, sold for Rp. 10.000 ($ 0.80) per piece. Last but not least, Lao Hoe restaurant never uses MSG and preservatives in their cooking.
Of all the abundant choices that you may not be able to try all of them at once, which ones you wanna try in the first place? Suppose you don’t have all the time in the world to return and its too much for your tummy, you can have some of them to go as well. I guarantee, you wont be sorry!