Compared to a warteg or Padang restaurants, Betawi joints are rather lagging far behind in the popularity stakes in its hometown of Jakarta. Although it can be difficult to find one that is truly authentic and pleasing to the palate, Warung Betawie Haji Apen could be the eatery to break the mould.
Located right beside the TransJakarta Ragunan bus stop inside a very Betawi-looking building, even its windows are decorated Betawi-style – with scribbles that will remind you of the way Betawi people speak: direct and as it is. Due to its close proximity to Ragunan Zoo, this place is usually packed with zoo punters who would like to fill up their tummies before or after a round at the wildlife park.
Founded by Hj. Nengsih – the cooking-loving wife of H. Apen – she first established a small warung in 2004 with a capacity of about 15 people after she retired from her job at the attorney general’s office. Currently, the green-coloured joint can now hold up to 100 customers.
Its varied menu comprises Betawi dishes including Pecak Gurame (gourami with bird’s eye chilli), Pecak Ikan Mas (carp with bird’s eye chilli), Pecak Lele (catfish with bird’s eye chilli), Pecak Ayam (chicken with bird’s eye chilli), Sop Kambing (mutton soup), Soto Betawi Daging Sapi (Betawi beef soup), Ayam Penyet (smashed fried chicken), Sayur Asem (vegetables in tamarind soup), Semur Jengkol (dogfruit stew), Ikan Asin Sepat dan Gabus (salted perch and snakehead), Pete Goreng dan Rebus (fried and boiled bitter beans), Gurame Goreng (fried gourami), Ikan Mas Goreng (fried carp), and Ayam Goreng Betawi (Betawi fried chicken). It also offers a range of snacks and desserts as well, such as Kerupuk (crackers), Keripik (crackers), Emping (gnetum gnemon crackers) and Es Potong Njonja Besar (Njonja Besar cut ice cream).
Although I showed up during lunchtime on a Saturday, I was quite fortunate that the number of punters present wasn’t as much as I expected it to be. After choosing a table that was right next to the kitchen and ordering my food, my eyes were averted to its walls. A photograph of Pak Bondan Winarno adorns it, including his ringing endorsement of this warung. It turns out that apart from the Ragunan locals around, even a famous culinary presenter has become a fan of this joint.
The place exudes a sense of familial camaraderie, especially when a few guests went over to speak with its employees. I discovered that the majority of its customers are loyal followers, and it reminded me of the affable Betawi folks and their tight kinship with each other.
I ordered a bowl of Soto Betawi and a portion of its Ayam Goreng Betawi. The broth of the soto was yellow-whitish in colour and filled with beef, tomatoes, Keripik Kentang (potato chips), Bawang Goreng (fried shallots), and Daun Bawang (leeks). It tasted heavenly and was not too concentrated in texture. The beef was tender and had less fat. After finishing the whole bowl, I came to the conclusion that its broth was very kind to my tummy due to its ideal and balanced amount of santan (coconut milk).
I must say that the Ayam Goreng here is one of the best I have ever tasted. Fried to a crisp, its top is lathered with slices of red chillies, bird’s eye chillies and shallots that were minced prior to cooking to produce a magnificent aroma. They are not too spicy as they are stir-fried beforehand. Its sizeable portions are ideal for a filling lunch, especially when accompanied by a plate of steamed rice.
You can also read this article on The Jakarta Post: Peerless local delicacies to please the palate at Betawi ‘warung’
Jl. Saco No. 12, Pasar Minggu, Ragunan, South Jakarta
T: 021 9126 1077
Open from Monday- Saturday, 10am-5pm (closed on Sundays)
Rp.40,000/US$3 per person