“Most importantly, the Semur Jengkol didn’t stink at all, so kudos to Pak Asnawi and his masterful cooking skills for that.“
Despite being one of the traditional dishes of the Betawi people, Jakartans are more likely to be familiar with Nasi Uduk (coconut milk rice) than Nasi Ulam, which is unfortunate, as people are missing out on a very flavourful dish. Essentially, Nasi Ulam is steamed rice that is cooked inkemangi (lemon basil) and served with chilli and vegetables. It may sound simple, but it actually requires a lot of effort in cooking up Nasi Ulam, which may explain why we seldom find even our Betawi friends whipping one up in their kitchen. One of a handful of warung that offers this special dish is Nasi Ulam Ibu Yoyo, which has been around since 1952 and is currently helmed by Pak Asnawi – Ibu Yoyo’s son.
I went with a colleague of mine and as it is located inside a small alleyway, we had to rely on my smartphone’s GPS system. Upon arrival, it looked like an old warteg (warung Tegal, a shop that serves cheap ready-to-eat dishes) from the outside. Despite its exterior, I was shocked to find white-collar employees in fancy office attire making up the bulk of its customers. It was lunchtime, so we had to move quickly to avoid getting swept up by the crowd. We had a choice of Nasi Ulam, Nasi Uduk, or plain steamed rice. As for the side dishes, the selection comprised Semur Jengkol (dogfruit stew in soy sauce), Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), Empal (deep-fried beef), Semur Tahu (tofu stew in soy sauce), and Perkedel (potato croquette). I ordered the Nasi Ulam with Semur Jengkol and Ayam Goreng, while my workmate went for its Nasi Uduk with added Empal.
If you’ve never heard of Semur Jengkol before in your life, then I must implore you to be wary of its pungent smell – it reeks so bad. I had to take some time to contemplate on whether to it or not because I was a tad nervous that it would annoy my co-worker. However, to eat Betawi food without Semur Jengkol would be like committing a cardinal sin, so I decided to ignore my good conscience.
It turned out that I made the right decision. First of all, the Nasi Ulam exuded the pleasant aroma of kemangi – very fragrant and excellently cooked. Secondly, the Semur Jengkol was otherworldly. The dogfruit featured a soft texture that was slightly thicker than a potato, but not as tough. Most importantly, it didn’t stink at all, so kudos to Pak Asnawi and his masterful cooking skills for that. On the opposite side of the table, my work colleague also gave the thumbs up for her food. She was pleased that the Empal was appropriately tender. Although it was a tad too sweet, she had the flavourful coconut milk rice to thank for balancing the overall taste of her meal.
Jl. Karet Pedurenan, Gang Dogol,
T: 021 9821 3513
Open daily from 7am to 10pm
Rp.20,000-30,000/US$1.40-2.20 per person