Fast and Faster Food

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PizzaHut-01Fast food, every brand you know is here in Jakarta.  The corporate giants from the US, Europe and China are all peddling their burgers, coffee and noodles but up close you see something is just a little different.  The restaurants are unexpectedly clean, there is a maitre’d in Pizza Hut and live music in the KFC on weekends…LIVE MUSIC? You see, western fast food isn’t Indonesian fast food; your Whopper and Tater Tots can’t compete with the street on price and availability so they don’t try.  Instead, they entice you with a more upmarket experience, so the next time you find yourself short on time and in the queue for a fast food fix, don’t forget to ask the manager who’s playing on Saturday night. StreetFood-01

Got Water?

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Purified water cups siting in a special holder made for theseUnlike many urban Asian cities Jakarta has a relatively continuous water supply, what it lacks unfortunately is safe drinkable water.  All over the city urban housewives are boiling their drinking water or purchasing bottles for their families thirst.  Every suburb seems to have local filtration shop that will sell or refill a big five gallon jug and smaller bottles are sold everywhere right down to single cups, pre-sealed and put out for the occasional guest.

Water shopwater truk

water bulk

Nasi Goreng

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nasi gorengThe fuel that runs the city of Jakarta, contrary to all the blue smoke supporting evidence for it being petroleum products, is Nasi Goreng (fried rice).  Variations on this theme abound but throughout the city from the street stalls to the upmarket pubs and restaurants of Kemang, this dish will appear on the menu.  It fuels the Bajaj drivers, the hawkers, the stockbrokers and surprisingly regularly, foreign product developers.  What you actually get on your plate when you order can vary considerably; chicken, duck, goat, seafood and vegetables have all been spotted in the AIG dinners recently and accompaniments have included prawn crackers, satay sticks, tomatoes and fried eggs.  In all cases it is spicy, tasty and cheap and certainly a dish to remember.

Bengali Sweets

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Indian desserts are uniquely delicious little bits. Unlike desserts in the USA, they’re a reasonable size portion for a person that just ate a heavy curry. But like all food in India, they don’t come up short on flavor. Puddings, fudge like squares and fried delicacies come together in New Delhi at Bengali Sweets, a famous, and very crowded bakery.

One treat stood out: the Jalebi. All cultures have their fried dough but this one takes it one step further. After the thin noodle of batter is deep fried (to order of course), it’s dipped in a lightly spiced sugar syrup. The result is a very lightly crunchy swirl of shiny dough. Each bite releases a bit of the complex syrup that has soaked into the bubbles in the dough.