From classic, ubiquitous meals to secret family recipe and quirky creations, the wealth of taste at Jakarta’s lively street food scene reflects the city’s diversity and versatility.
While the metropolitan Jakarta is not short of lavish restaurants, street food remains one of the best ways to truly taste the city. Jakarta street food stalls are where you can feast on delicious meals; no fuss. Everything is straight and simple as you forget all finicky table manners and simply enjoy the meal, then pay later for the generous portion without breaking the bank.
Mixing together tasty food with delightful and casual local settings, the street food scene brings people together, from common foodies to celebrities, in enjoying unpretentious local delights.
Every night, dozens of cars are parked at the sides of Mahakam street as people swarm in for a warming and delicious gulai. Known and loved for the spicy savoury taste, gulai consists of beef slices drenched in spices-rich sauce, served with rice and optional chili condiments. Gultik (short for Gulai Tikungan) serves rather small portions, but at less than $1 per serving, many people find it customary to order second (or third!) helpings of the aromatic gulai.
In coastal North Jakarta, seafood can be enjoyed in both lavish settings and humble street food carts. Seafood Ayu serves restaurant-grade dishes in a humble tent, bringing unpretentious big portioned meals to the table, with a very affordable bill. They have everything from crabs, prawns, and clams, to various fish, ready to be prepared however you like — fried, grilled, or sauced. Don’t forget to order a serving of stir-fried water spinach (kangkung) to go with the scrumptious seafood.
Bubur Ayam (chicken congee) is an ubiquitous street food dish in Jakarta, especially popular as a breakfast dish. This food stall in Barito street has increasing numbers of fans across the city thanks to the dense, aromatic porridge and overflowing toppings. In addition to the usual shredded chicken and cakwe, a bowl of chicken congee at Bubur Ayam Barito is also served with cheese sticks. The unlikely extra has proven a much-loved quirk that keeps people coming back.
Established in 1958, Nasi Goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih has become somewhat legendary among Jakarta’s culinary connoisseurs. Managed now by the founder’s grandson, the humble street warung still retains its sought-after mutton fried rice, with generous spices and seasoning that result in a strong Indonesian flavor. You can also complete the menu with a selection of satay. One of the fascinating highlights while eating here is the cooking action — the skillful cook prepares the fried rice in massive portions using a huge wok.
While satay (or sate in Indonesian) is a renowned classic, not many tourists realise there is actually a wide variation to this traditional grilled skewer. Sate Padang is a specialty satay from West Sumatra’s Padang, distinguished by its thick savoury sauce and tender meat. Different from many other sate padang stalls in Jakarta, Ajo Ramon uses the Padang Pariaman recipe, which has a thick reddish brown sauce instead of yellow. Ajo Ramon serves this delectable satay recipe in a humble tent, but that doesn’t stop celebrities and public figures from enjoying the authentic sate padang.
Indonesian instant noodles is an inescapable casual meal present in virtually every warung you can find in Jakarta. Even so, Warung Abang Adek is different to the others. The place is notorious for breaking sweat and burning the tongue of its customers with exceedingly spicy instant noodles. When ordering, customers will be asked how many chilis they’d like to use in the seasoning. Answers vary from 10 to 100, as responses range from scratching your head while gasping for air, to actually passing out right on the spot. Consider yourself warned.
Sambas street in South Jakarta is home to some legendary satay vendors in Jakarta. Popular for selling simple chicken satay, there are actually many variations you wouldn’t think of. From chicken innards satay, chicken breast satay, to young eggs satay, the wide variants present options to satisfy your very taste. Chicken breast satay is especially popular among fitness buffs who like their protein intake to come with a delicious serving of no-guilt satay.
Warteg (short for ‘warung tegal’) is a generic term used to describe any humble streetside food establishment selling ready-to-eat food at cheap prices. Warteg Warmo is among the most popular wartegs in Jakarta, with a real presence on social media, courtesy of its savvy fans. The glass display shows almost 40 choices of menu, from vegetables to meat dishes. All you have to do is point at the desired food and it will be added to your plate of rice. And don’t be surprised when the cashier says the overflowing portion of rendang, satay, tempeh, soup, and rice costs you less than $2. This warteg also opens 24 hours, if you ever need a fulfilling meal in the middle of the night.
After starting off as a humble stall on the side of the street, Roti Bakar Eddy is now an established brand with branches across the city. Even so, the establishment still keeps the humble setting and simplicity that made it popular in the first place. The menu lists simple street food dishes, including the specialty toast (roti bakar). Roti Bakar Eddy serves a wide range of options for the toast fillings and toppings, but what really sets the meal apart is the homemade, preservative-free, and definitely tasty bread.
Ketoprak is an all-time favourite traditional food of Indonesia, bringing together an assortment of fried tofu, bean sprout, rice cakes, and rice noodles, drenched in tasty peanut sauce. Ketoprak Ciragil takes it up a notch with a scrummy sunny side up and its own special, soft sauce. The slightly higher price compared to other ketoprak food stalls (although still very affordable when compared to restaurants) is justifiable by the taste and quality of ingredients. The vendor also sells other Indonesian classics such as bakso and somay, along with refreshing iced traditional beverages.
While many street food stalls and warungs serve the all-time favourite dish mie ayam (chicken noodle), this kiosk in Menteng is certainly legendary. First established in 1968, Mie Ayam Gondangdia has at least three generations of loyal customers who keep coming back for the authentic Chinese-style chicken noodle. You can order a portion with meatball or wonton to accompany the tender, delicate noodle and savoury minced chicken topping.
One of the best places to eat the classic nasi goreng, this street food stall combines seasonings for kebuli, the Arab-influenced spicy steamed rice, with the renowned nasi goreng recipe. The unique mix of Middle Eastern spices and an Indonesian recipe attracts not only curiosity but many loyal customers, because apparently, the fusion works marvelously. Be prepared to wait for your aromatic nasi goreng as the place is always busy with orders.
Nasi Uduk is made from white rice cooked with coconut milk and a mixture of herbs, making the flavour curiously aromatic and hearty. Nasi Uduk Kebon Kacang is a legendary establishment, retaining its place as the top-of-mind nasi uduk since the 1960s. The rice is served with different side dishes to choose from — chicken, shrimp, tempeh, innards, and more. The selection of condiments intensifies the savoury taste of the dish, whether you opt for the peanut sauce, chili shrimp paste, petai sauce, or some combination of those.
In this seafood tent, a generous serving of clams are priced less than $2. That amount of money will also get you a serving of squid dishes or three plates of stir-fried water spinach. But the cheap price is no indication of the fresh seafood ingredients and delicious taste. Many loyal customers, including some celebrity patrons, swear by the quality and taste of the food, while the ever-packed streetside tent justifies the place’s popularity. The seafood stall offers fresh seafood in different sauces and recipes, and feel free to munch on the appetising fish-based snacks while waiting for your order.
Soto Betawi is Jakarta’s own take on the traditional savoury soup. Soto Betawi Haji Husein serves a hearty bowl of fresh soto, with the signature creamy yellowish broth. As for the contents, customers can choose whether to have just the beef meat or mix it with the innards. Feel free to add more soy sauce, lime juice, or chili condiments according to your taste. Soto Betawi Haji Husein is particularly crowded during lunch hours, and it usually doesn’t take long after that for the soto to be sold out.