“I detected the same ingredients that I mentioned in the beginning of this article being used by Pak Misbah to create his take on Rujak Juhi. And when the time came for me to sample it, I was excited.”
Before we start, allow me to supply you with a brief explanation regarding Rujak Juhi (cuttlefish salad) and what it is all about. Rujak Juhi is a Betawi dish that takes its inspiration from the Chinese cuisine. Comprising dried cuttlefish, lettuce, egg noodles, fried potato, and peanut sauce, this is one rujak that will gloriously knock you out with a single bite and have you begging for more. It’s just a crying shame that even with its other-worldly zest, we only have a limited number of stalls or shops that sell Rujak Juhi. One of them, as I found out, was Pak Misbah.
After gathering enough information on its whereabouts from my sources, I arrived at around 2pm. Now, I’ve never seen what he looks like, nor did I have a clue as to how the man peddles his wares. As I looked around, a lady who I saw was sitting in front of an alley in the area when I got here approached me. “Misbah isn’t here yet. Come back at around 3pm or 4pm,” she says. I decided to leave for a bit.
By the time I returned for my second visit of the area, I could see a green-coloured cart right in front of SMPN 72 Jakarta, with a long wooden table and a line of plastic chairs set up next to a gutter. Pak Misbah himself – sporting a polo shirt and a pair of shorts – looked like he had his hands full preparing plate after plate of Rujak Juhi for his customers. I greeted the man, which was met with a smile, after which he proceeded to take my order.
I detected the same ingredients that I mentioned in the beginning of this article being used by Pak Misbah to create his take on Rujak Juhi. And when the time came for me to sample it, I was excited. The salty and spicy flavours that emanates from this dish are addictive, while the lettuce is fresh and crisp. The next series of events that I experienced while I was eating had a peculiar effect on me, as they displayed social warmth that I rarely see or get exposed to during the couple of years since my return from abroad.
As Pak Misbah handed a glass of warm water while I munched away, I had a look around at my surroundings and saw children laughing in joy as they played football in the middle of the empty road. A number of the neighbourhood’s residents were conversing and laughing with Pak Misbah, who I overheard was talking about a new neighbour. It’s not every day that I get to witness scenes like these.
After wrapping up my meal, I introduced myself to Pak Misbah. He straightaway apologised in a reserved manner for his tardiness. “I’d usually open at 2pm, but circumstances dictated that I had to come late today,” he explains. Describing himself as the third generation in a family of Rujak Juhi sellers, the business was actually kick-started by his wife’s family, or more specifically, her grandfather. He’s not sure when it all began, but he has been running it since 1989.
As the realisation that I was a journalist hit him, he became visibly more excited about sharing his know-how on Rujak Juhi. “I also sell a different type of Rujak Juhi from Wednesday to Friday. It consists of the cuttlefish’s tentacles and fins, which I cook with sweet soy sauce,” he explains.
As I bade my farewell to Pak Misbah and walked out on to the main road to grab a taxi, I felt a warm feeling in both my tummy and my heart. That was one magical Rujak Juhi.
By Jessicha Valentina
Jl. Petojo Binatu Raya, Jakarta
T: 021 638 5512
Monday to Saturday, open from 2pm-9pm