Jakarta Street Food: The Heartbeat of the City

Goreng goreng crew

Jakarta’s street food culture is rich, diverse, and incredibly interesting; I can’t help but think that this is the ‘heartbeat’ of the city.

Please join me on a tour of the street foods I’m familiar with in my local area; as well as introduce you to the hard working food vendors whose livelihood is invested in their recipes, cooking skills and the upkeep of their uniquely crafted food carts.

Street food originates from family recipes that have been passed down through generations, vary from region to region and are popular with Indonesians from all walks of life. Like many cities in South East Asia, eating outside and communally is very normal, due to the tropical heat and minimal kitchen facilities in many homes. Everything from breakfast foods to late night snacks are sold from warungs (covered food stalls) to charming kaki lima (meaning five feet, two wheels plus the back stand, plus two legs of the vendor) who skilfully weave their way through busy traffic. Street food offers a cheap and efficient way to fuel on the way to work and home, a substantial meal, a snack throughout the day, while providing an income for many families.

Breakfast food – Burbur Ayam (rice porridge)

Bubur Ayam kaki lima
Pak Faiz is a local driver who enjoys Bubur Ayam. This is one of his favourite kaki lima close to his workplace. Pak Faiz’ wife teases him calling Bubur Ayam, ‘baby food!’
Bubur ayam group eatin
The ultimate breakfast food of Indonesia. There are many versions but it is traditionally made of rice porridge served with shredded chicken, chopped celery, chopped scallions and topped with Kerupuk (crackers) and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) Bubur Ayam differs across regions, some versions are sold accompanied by sate or chicken curry to spoon over the porridge
Bubur Ayam eat in
Meet Pak Rohith. His Bubur Ayam is enjoyed by many as a quick-sit down breakfast food on Jl. Terogong Raya, South Jakarta. Pak Rohith is adding the obligatory dollop of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
Bubur ayam eat in prep 1
It’s 7am, midweek and Pak Rahith’s Bubur Ayam is ready to serve to a customer who has been waiting in his long queue
Bubur Ayam bunkus dan cabe
Bubur Ayam bungkus (packaged for take away)

Fried Foods – Gorengan

Pak and Goreng goreng
This is Pak Agus. His Goreng Goreng or Gorengan (literally meaning fried things) food cart can almost be found on every street corner across Jakarta. It offers a cheap and tasty snack. Pak Agus’ oil looks fresh and his fried food is sold out quickly..all good signs he cares for his customers
Goreng Goreng man 1
With only Rp. 5000 (50 cents) you can purchase an assortment of of Gorengan such as banana, tofu, tempe, cassava, breadfruit, sweet potato or bak wan (deep fried mix of shredded cabbage, carrots and bean sprouts)
Pak Agus' fried snacks
Pak Agus’ fried snacks

Vegetables – Ketoprak and Gado Gado

Ketopark Gado2
Meet Pak Iwan. Ketopark and Gado Gado are popular dishes served among food carts. The main ingredients of Ketopark are lontong (compressed rice cake) tahu (tofu), rice vermicelli, bean sprouts and mixed with a peanut sauce. Gado Gado is quite similar to Ketopark, as it has the peanut sauce dressing. Gado means to consume something without rice.
Gado Gado ingredients are chosen from an assortment of slightly boiled or blanched vegetables, such as Kangkung (similar to spinach) bean sprouts, green beans, cabbage, corn, steamed potato and ketupark
Pak Iwan and his made- to- order Gado Gado prepared in a traditional cobek ulek ulek (mortar and pestle)
Pak Iwan adds steamed potato
Gado Gado literally means ‘Mix Mix’
serving gado gado
Pak Iwan wrapping his freshly made Gado Gado in a paper package for a hungry lunchtime customer

Gado Gado and Krupuk in a local Warung
(casual eating house)

Gado Gado ingredients
Gado Gado ingredients ready to prepare for a customer in a local Warung (a casual modest Rumah Makan or Eating House)
Ibu Sane at Pondok Indah Canteen, an undercover food market
This is Ibu Sane. She works at a Pondok Indah Warung. Here customers enjoy the benefit of a covered eating place but with similar prices to buying from a kaki lima
Ibu Sane serving krupuk to accompany her Gado Gado
Ibu Sane serving krupuk (deep fried crackers) to accompany her Gado Gado

Noodles with chicken broth soup – Mie Ayam

Mie Ayam kaki lima
Pak Aji’s Mie Ayam food cart parked ready for business
Aji and his Mie Ayam cart
Pak Aji and his Mie Ayam cart
Noodles, hot chicken broth topped with chicken, and dumplings. Pak Aji and the steaming Mie Ayam
Noodles, hot chicken broth topped with chicken, and dumplings. Pak Aji and the steaming Mie Ayam
Mie Ayam ready to be served
Dumplings ready to served with noodles and piping hot chicken broth

Soup – Soto Ayam (Chicken Soup)

Soto ayam cart
A Soto Ayam family business
Serving soto ayam
Soto bungkus (packaged for take away) Soto is a traditional soup, with many variants depending on the region it comes from. It comprises a chicken broth seasoned with turmeric. Added to the broth could be shredded chicken, boiled eggs, and fried shallots.

Skewered Grilled Meat – Sate or Satay

Sate Padang served out the front of Pagi Sore, Jl. Cipete Raya, Cilandak
Sate Padang served out the front of Pagi Sore, Jl. Cipete Raya, Cilandak. Sate originated from Java and is often referred to as the national dish
Taking sate orders. Today on the menu is chicken and beef
If you pass by a sate vendor you will attracted to the aroma of the barbecued meat by the vendors blowing the cooking smoke with a hand-held fan
Sate on the grill
Chicken and beef Sate on the grill
Packaging sate
Skewered meat served with a rich peanut sauce ready to take away (bungkus)

Sate a journey bespoke card

Afternoon Snack – Jagung and Kacang Rebus

(Steamed corn on the cob and peanuts)

Pak Purwento
Pak Yanto serving hot corn on the cob in the afternoon on a corner of a busy street. Most of his customers are people coming home from work and need a snack while they are sitting in traffic
Pak Purwento 3
Pak Yanto chatting with his fellow food cart friend Pak Purwento, and preparing hot steamed peanuts for his afternoon customer
Pak Purwento 4
Kacang rebus (steamed peanuts bungkus) take-away
Pak Purwento 6
Pak Yanto
Pak Purwento and the hot corn
Pak Yanto packaging the hot corn on the cob for a customer who has pulled up beside his cart
Pak Purwento making a sale
Pak Yanto making a fast drive by sale
Another happy customer!
Another happy customer for Pak Yanto

Warm Bread Snack – Bakpao

Bakpao - Steamed buns filled with chicken, chocolate
Bakpao is adopted from the Hokkien name which literally means ‘bun or dumpling’. Bakpao’s initial recipe used pork meat, while Indonesians have adapted Bakpao to include chicken, nuts or chocolate or even vegetables
Meet Pak Perwento, his food cart is next to Pak Yanto's corn on the cob and hot peanuts
Meet Pak Perwento, his food cart is next to Pak Yanto’s corn on the cob and hot peanut cart
Pak Perwento and Bakpao chocolate
Pak Perwento and Bakpao chocolate for a hungry customer smiling in the background
Pak Perwento sealing the bag
Bakpao bungkus…ready for take-away

Sweet afternoon snack – Es Podeng

Es Podong kaki lima
Es Podeng kaki lima are often located next to savoury food carts. They offer a very sweet treat after a savoury meal
Es Podeng1
Literally meaning ‘Es Puter’. Puter in Bahasa Indonesia means turn as the process of making ice cream involves a lot of turning and spinning
Es Podong3
Cups of brightly coloured sago pearls line this kaki lima ready to be topped with a range of sweet treats including: chopped bread, avocado, condensed milk, chocolate sprinkles and roasted peanuts

Indonesian Fruit Salad – Rujak

Mas Nana selling rujak on Jl. Cipete Raya
Rujak is available from street vendors all over Jakarta. They use a combination of fruits and vegetables served with a sweet, spicy, sour sauce. This is Abang Nana (a young man named Nana) selling rujak on Jl. Cipete Raya
Rujak ingredients
An assortment of Rujak ingredients: pineapple, papaya, bengkoang water apple, kedondong
packaged rujak
Rujak bungkus (prepared to take away) There are a variety of dressing recipes, but most include water, palm sugar, tamarind, peanuts, shrimp paste, salt, and chili

**We can’t say that good food safety practices are followed by any particular food vendor. Rather, we hope this post acts as an easy identifier to the familiar street cart vendors that make up the fabric of Jakarta daily life and culture; as well as shine a light on the resilient street food vendors.

What are your thoughts on the Jakarta street food culture?
Let us know in the comments section.


Words Liz Photography a journey bespoke

You might also like:

How to make our Javenese – Style Rujak
How to make this aromatic meal in a bowl: Soto Ayam
Our Quick and Easy Guide to Morish Martabak


  1. says

    Nice Info Bu Elizabeth… My Favourite is Indonesian Fruit salad.. and Pa Faiz Favourite is Bubur Ayam ( rice porridge )..

    I hope this information will make a lot of foreigners buy these foods and will increase their income..

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Selamat Pagi Pak Made, I’m very happy you liked the Jakarta Street Food story today, and appreciate your comments. Do you have a favourite location or kaki lima where you buy Indonesian fruit salad?

  2. says

    My mother was selling rujak and Gado gado for my school fees, so I very liked rujak my mother made. That maybe make me have talent to sell my wife’s coklat..

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello Pak Made, thank you for sharing the reason why rujak is your favourite Indonesian street food. Your mother sounds like a very impressive lady!

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