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Fast 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.
The 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.