Betawi cuisine

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Betawi dishes; soto betawi and asinan betawi in a Betawi restaurant at Sarinah, Central Jakarta.

Betawi cuisine is rich, diverse and eclectic,[1] in part because the Betawi people that create them were composed from numbers of regional immigrants that came from various places in the Indonesian archipelago, as well as Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European traders, visitors and immigrants that were attracted to the port city of Batavia (today modern Jakarta) since centuries ago.[2]

History and influences[edit]

Kerak telor vendor selling spicy coconut omelette, a popular delicacy during Jakarta Fair.

The Betawi cuisine developed and evolved with influences from various cuisine traditions brought by waves of newcomers to the port-city on the north coast of Western Java. From the small port of Sunda Kalapa, it grew into an active hub of international trade, primarily involving Indonesian, Chinese, Indian and Arab traders. By early 16th century, drawn by the spice trade, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive, followed by the Dutch later in the same century. During colonial VOC era, foreign communities were kept in enclaves under Dutch colonial rule, as the result the culinary concentration grew in each area: Tanah Abang for Arab cuisine, the Glodok and Kuningan area for Chinese food and Tugu in North Jakarta for Portuguese.[1]

Betawi cuisine is in fact really similar to Peranakan cuisine, as both are hybrid cuisine heavily influenced by Chinese and Malay, as well as Arab and European cuisine, to neighboring Sundanese and Javanese cuisine. Nasi uduk for example, which is a savory rice cooked in coconut milk and served with several side dishes, may be a local version of the Malay dish nasi lemak.[1] On the other hand, asinan, cured and brined pickled vegetables, and rujak juhi, vegetables served with shredded dried squid and peanut sauce, demonstrate Chinese influences. Because of this common heritage, some of Betawi cuisines, such as asinan and lontong cap go meh, are shared with Chinese Indonesian. Betawi cuisine also shares some recipes and dishes with neighboring Sundanese, such as both of them are familiar with sayur asem, gado-gado (lotek) and semur jengkol.[3] Another examples are nasi kebuli and soto betawi that uses minyak samin (ghee), which indicates Arab or Muslim Indian influences.[4][5]

A gastronomy expert suggests that some Betawi dishes can describes the past condition of Betawi people reside in Batavia. For example, kerak telor was created due to the low quality of local glutinous rice, with the egg and other toppings added to make it more tasty and satisfying. Soto tangkar, which today is a meat soup, was mostly made from the broth of goat rib-cage bones in the past because meat was expensive, or the common population of Batavia were too poor to afford some meat back then.[1][6]

Today, many authentic Betawi dishes are hard to find even in its native land. This is partly because as a cosmopolitan city, Jakarta also features dishes from many far-flung parts of Indonesia, as well as international cuisines — which is a myriad dishes for Betawi cuisine to compete with. Moreover, Betawi community were pushed out of the inner city to the marginal suburbs in and around Greater Jakarta in the wave of development.[1] Nevertheless, some Betawi restaurants are striving to preserve their heritage cuisine, such as rare gabus pucung,[3] and pecak gabus, snakehead fish (Channa striata) in pecak sauce.[7]

Ingredients and cooking method[edit]

Cooking nasi goreng kambing (fried rice with goat meat) in bulk in Kebon Sirih area, Central Jakarta.

Betawi cuisine uses rice as staples, numbers of its dishes are revolved around rice, either steamed, cooked in coconut milk as nasi uduk (coconut rice), or compressed as ketupat sayur or lontong sayur rice cakes in vegetables soup. As a Muslim-majority community, Betawi people favour beef, mutton and goat meat, as they adhere to Islamic halal dietary-law which forbid pork consumption. Fishes are consumed too. Unusual for a coastal city, there are hardly any seafood dishes in Betawi cuisine. But there are plenty of freshwater fish dishes, using local varieties of snakehead fish and carp.

Popular Betawi dishes include soto betawi (beef offals in milky broth), sayur asem (sweet and sour vegetable soup), sop iga sapi (beef rib soup) and kerak telor (spiced coconut omelette). Most of Betawi dishes are cooked in deep-fried, stir-fried, barbecued or braised methods, and feature a delicate balance of sweet, sour and salty flavours.[2]


Ketoprak street vendor in Jakarta.
Nasi uduk with empal, krechek and semur jengkol.

Snacks and desserts[edit]

Kue ape or serabi Jakarta.
  • Bubur cha cha, dessert or breakfast dish made of pearled sago, sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, coconut milk, pandan leaves, sugar and salt. The ingredients are cooked in coconut milk, and the dish can be served hot or cold.
  • Bubur sumsum, white congee made from rice flour and eaten with brown sugar sauce.
  • Cakwe, cruller or fried long bread, served with sweet, sour and spicy dipping sauce.
  • Cincau, grass jelly—jelly-like dessert.
  • Dodol, a sticky confectionery made of coconut, glutinous rice and brown sugar
  • Emping, bite-size snack kripik cracker, made of Gnetum gnemon nuts (which are seeds). Emping crackers have a slightly bitter taste.
  • Geplak, sweets made from sugar and grated coconut.
  • Kembang goyang (lit. shaking flower), traditional snack made of rice flour which is mixed with eggs, sugar, a pinch of salt and coconut milk. The dough can be fried after heating the oil and the kembang goyang mold.
  • Kue ape, a soft-centered cake with a flimsy but crisp crust.
  • Kue cubit (lit. pinch cake), traditional pancake that uses flour, baking powder, sugar and milk as its primary ingredients. This cake is related to poffertjes.
  • Kue cucur, a pancake made of fried rice flour batter and coconut sugar.
  • Kue gemblong, a rice flour dough covered in sticky brown coconut sugar.
  • Kue ku, a small round or oval-shaped pastry with soft sticky glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a sweet filling in the centre.
  • Kue pancong, a sweet coconut hot cake.
  • Kue pepe, a sticky, sweet layered cake made of glutinous rice flour.
  • Kue putu, traditional cylindrical-shaped and green-colored steamed cake.
  • Kue putu mayang, idiyappam-like rice noodles with a mixture of coconut milk and served with liquid palm sugar.
  • Kue rangi, coconut waffle served with thick brown coconut sugar.
  • Kue talam (lit. tray cake), traditional cake made of rice flour, coconut milk and sugar steamed in cake mold or cups.
  • Lumpia jakarta, lumpia that usually being deep fried. Unlike Semarang lumpia that uses rebung (bamboo shoots), Jakarta lumpia uses jicama and served with spicy peanut sauce as a dipping sauce.
  • Pastel de nata, an egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon from Kampung Tugu—derived from Portuguese cuisine.
  • Semprong, wafer snack made by clasping egg batter using an iron mold (waffle iron) which is heated up on a charcoal stove.
  • Wajik, diamond-shaped compressed sweet glutinous rice cake.


  • Bir pletok, a non-alcoholic drink made from the bark of the secang tree.
  • Cendol, an iced sweet dessert that contains droplets of green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup.
  • Es cincau, grass jelly drink served with shaved ice, coconut milk and sugar.
  • Es selendang mayang, a sweet iced dessert made of kinca or liquid palm sugar, coconut milk, pandan leaf for aroma, ice and cakes made of glutinous rice flour or hunkwe (mung beans starch powder).
  • Sekoteng, a warm beverage made of ginger and milk, poured with peanut, cubed bread, and pacar cina (tapioca pearls).


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Maria Endah Hulupi (22 June 2003). "Betawi cuisine, a culinary journey through history". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 14 September 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Petty Elliott (23 June 2011). "Food Talk: In the Salad Days of Betawi Cuisine". Jakarta Globe. Archived from the original on 14 September 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b Indah Setiawati (8 November 2013). "Weekly 5: A crash course in Betawi cuisine". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Nasi Kebuli Gaya Betawi". Kompas (in Indonesian). 21 February 2009. Archived from the original on 28 April 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  5. ^ "'Cipratan' Luar Ke Dalam" (in Indonesian). Femina. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  6. ^ Suryatini N. Ganie
  7. ^ a b Ayu Cipta (19 October 2014). "Preserving Betawi Traditional Cuisine". Tempo. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Sajian Kebuli, Mandi, dan Biryani". 6 July 2014. Archived from the original on 27 June 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  9. ^ Mama Sya. "Nasi Mandhi@Mandy & Ayam Bakar". Photo Blog, Fotopages, October 07, 2009. Archived from the original on June 30, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2020.

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