There’s no denying the fact that Warung Tegal – shortened as “warteg” (a warung specifically dealing with Javanese food) – is big with those who are looking for an affordable yet filling meal. The variety of dishes in its disposal could cater to the preferences of many, while it also serves kerupuk (crackers) and an array of beverages. However, are you familiar with warteg’s origins?
As its name suggests, warteg has its roots in the city of Tegal in Central Java. Initially run by the citizens of the villages of Sidapurna, Sidakaton and Krandon, its management would rotate once every three to four months and would come from the same family. This custom is still followed even in large cities such as Jakarta or Bandung, and is actually done to avoid boredom by staying at the same place. Those whose turn is not yet up would fill their time farming.
The food that are on offer at a warteg are simple and easy to cook, including Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Mie Instan (instant noodles), along with Pisang Goreng (fried bananas), coffee, tea, and various drinks. A few would serve specific dishes, such as Sate Tegal (Tegal satay), Gulai (curry stew) and Teh Poci (tea from a teapot). The menu provided by the multitude of warteg in Jakarta offers a rather more complete package, with the likes of Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), Ikan Goreng (fried fish), Ikan Balado (grilled mackerel with balado sambal), Orek Tempe (tempeh in sweet soy sauce), Telur Balado (eggs with balado sambal), Sayur Sawi (Chinese green mustards), and fritters among the obligatory treats. Some warteg may also add Soto Ayam (chicken soup) or Sayur Sop (vegetable soup) into the mix.
Nobody knows for sure when the first warteg was founded in Jakarta. A number of people believe that it first made its presence felt in the capital city of Indonesia during the period between 1950-1960. It was a time when the rapid development of Jakarta grabbed the attention of those who lived in the countryside, which encouraged them to try their luck in the then-budding metropolis by becoming construction workers. This turn of event was taken advantage by the Tegal people who were already in Jakarta to put forward food that are affordable enough for these labourers.
These days, one of the most famous warteg in Jakarta is Kharisma Bahari. Owner Sayudi is a Tegal native who within the space of just four years managed to establish a warteg empire that encompasses 92 outlets in the Big Durian and South Tangerang. His dream of breathing new life into the notorious and dirty reputation of warteg spurred him on to make Kharisma Bahari as a clean and cosy warteg for all to dine in.