The largest Chinatown in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is Glodok area. Situated in the west side of Jakarta, to be exact, Glodok has been the silent witness of cultural diversity and long history of Chinese ethnics settlement since the 18th century. The name Glodok is derived from the sound of shower from a small building in the Townhall courtyard, whose sound is like “grojok… grojok”. Then, the locals pronounce it as “glodok” since they have a difficulty in pronouncing straight and sharp “r” sound.
Not only is Glodok a melting pot for Chinese descendants’ community, but also foodies’ favorite spot. Although culinary business is very competitive nowadays and Glodok is not as busy as it used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s (aka the year of my childhood), it doesn’t mean that the oldest Chinatown in Jakarta completely lose its vibe because it offers unique food varieties in a shoestring.
Therefore, I decided to join Glodok Food Tour organized by Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, a walking tour specifically for culinary experience in Glodok area. Although I live not very far from Glodok, it doesn’t mean I know everything about it. To be honest, I seldom explore the area by myself and I feel like being a total stranger in my own city. I’m not only bad at road directions in general, but also I become worse when I have to memorize a winding road with densely populated shophouses along the way. So there I was with 2 other participants and a licensed guide.
There are 2 main alleys to get mouthwatering Chinese street food: Gloria Alley (Gang Gloria) and Kalimati Alley (Gang Kalimati). At first, let’s take a closer look at Gloria Alley. When you walk around Gloria Alley, you need to be aware that most transactions are cash only and don’t accept credit cards. If you’re lucky, you can use a debit cards, though not always. Besides, you need to share the lane with workers bringing huge and loaded goods for the stores or stalls. It’s also a public secret that narrow and crowded streets are usually a place where pickpockets do their job as well.
In my opinion, these are culinary spots worth to try:
- Pork Dumpling
The pork dumpling are sold on an old-fashioned bike so-called sepeda ontel without a permanent stall and brand. Using peanut sauce as a dressing, the dumpling is offered for Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.50) for 10 pieces, with the choice of dumpling, potato, egg, bitter gourd and pork skin. Since most buyers consume it on the go, there’s a satay stick so you can eat it easily without making your hands dirty. I love it for its balanced taste of the meat and flour altogether without draining my money.
- Mi Pan
Literally meaning rice flour in Hakka dialect, Mi pan is a snack from Kalimantan (Borneo) made of rice flour, garlic oil, fried minced garlic and sweet black sauce for merely Rp. 7000 ($ 0.50) per piece. My fellow foodies advice me to ask for more fried minced garlic to make it more fragrant and savory. They’re completely right about this as fried minced garlic also harmonizes the sweetness of the black sauce. Just like the pork dumpling seller, he doesn’t have his own stall and just sitting in front the wall separator of shophouses.
- Kopi Es Tak Kie
Established in 1927 oleh Liong Kwie Tjong, Kopi Es Tak Kie (Tak Kie Iced Coffee) is nowadays managed by the third generation of his family. I tried the iced milk coffee, for Rp. 25.000 ($ 1.70) and I think it has an old-fashioned taste by only using a dark roast robusta coffee and condensed milk without creamer. It’s definitely a strong coffee to keep you awake.
Although it’s called kopi es (iced coffee), Kopi Es Tak Kie also has its signature mixed pork rice, consisting of cha sieuw (roast pork), crispy pork, lap chiong sausage and Javanese style braised egg. You’d better come in the morning, because the coffee house will run out of it instantly after lunch. For a Rp 55.000 ($ 4.50), it’s not very cheap but still worth it for a great taste.
Nowadays, Kopi Es Tak Kie has some branches at the food court in some shopping malls. It also participates in culinary bazaar events, yet unfortunately, the portion is not as big as that in Gloria Alley for the same price, most probably because it has to compensate with a quite large amount of revenue sharing or expensive rental cost.
- Sek Ba 77 Bek Tim
There are several food stalls selling sekba and bektim, steamed pork innards immersed in soup made of Chinese herbs and sweet soy sauce, in Glodok. The difference between 2 of them is that sekba is served dry. On the other hand, bektim is served with the soup. Sek Ba 77 Bek Tim, situated in front of Kopi Es Tak Kie is one of the popular stalls. Despite selling in a modest cart, the business has been running for 2 generations and still counting. Sold for Rp 20.000 ($ 1.50), the herb soup tastes amazing although I don’t like most of the contents, except intestine, tongue and the meat attached in pork belly and skin.
- Pioh Tim Tauco
Suppose you are adventurous enough and feel lie trying something unique, pi oh could be perfect choice for you. Pioh is steamed turtle meat (so-called bulus in Indonesian, to be exact) served with soup made of turtle broth. Still situated in front of Kopi Es Tak Kie, there’s Pioh Tim Tauco, whose soup is mixed with tauco, fermented soybean, resulting with more savoury taste. This is the only food I haven’t tried since I’m usually not really a fan of soft and chewy meat. I feel so pity for the turtle, anyways.
- Snack Shop
Assorted sweets from chocolates to candies, snacks, dried fruits, sweetened fruits sold in giant glasses jar is the signature look of snack shops in Glodok, that I think they are instagrammable enough to capture. Besides, it has old-fashioned and less known candy and chocolate brands not provided in modern supermarkets. I can guarantee that binge eaters will have a lot of fun exploring this shop. You can purchase them in a small quantity since the price is per 100 grams.
Apart from culinary experience, Gloria Alley also offers Chinese New Year attributes, Buddhist related prayer tools, accessories, convenient store, fruit market and butcher shop. Our tour didn’t just end there because we were about to visit 2nd alley: Kalimati Alley (Gang Kalimati).
It’s getting more excited, I promise you. So stay tuned for my next post on culinary adventure in Kalimati Alley!