The most recognizable variety of street stall is the Kaki Lima, which means “five legs”. The first three “legs” are the three bicycle wheels on the cart. The other two “legs” are the legs of the person pushing the cart! While the carts can all look very similar to each other, each one specializes in a particular food item, usually written with tape or sticker letters on the glass pane of the cart.
Gado-Gado (Corner of Jl. Agus Salim and Gg. 12 Kebon Sirih Barat I)
By far, my favorite street food item is Gado-Gado. Actually, on most food carts, it’s usually written on the carts as “Gado²”, which I find amusing. It’s basically an Indonesian style salad, and contains a variety of items such as potatoes, string beans, spinach, baby corn, cabbage, cucumber, tofu, tempeh, and hard-boiled eggs. The veggies can vary depending on the food cart, but in general the dish always includes hard-boiled eggs and tofu. Most varieties in Jakarta also include rice or lontong (rice cake) in the Gado-Gado. And as for the dressing, (and this is my favorite part), it’s all covered in freaking awesomely delicious peanut sauce. I may have an addiction to peanut sauce actually. To top off the dish, we get the Indonesian functional equivalent of croutons: Kerupuk, a deep-fried chip made of starch and prawn paste. Actually, labeling it as the equivalent of croutons is unfair to the kerupuk…it accomplishes the same function of croutons – adding texture and “crunch” to the dish – but with substantially more deliciousness. I always eat tons of Gado-Gado when in Jakarta, because it’s rather hard to find in Kalimantan. If you want to try Gado-Gado in Jakarta, do yourself a favor and skip the gourmet and tourist-oriented restaurants, as you’ll likely receive watered down, “westernized” versions of the dish. The real Gado² is found on the street.
2. Ketoprak (Corner of Jl. Agus Salim and Gg. 12 Kebon Sirih Barat I)
There is one other dish, very closely related to Gado-Gado, which I also love: Ketoprak! It’s basically like Gado-Gado, but it swaps a few of the veggies and rice for rice vermicelli noodles (locally called bihun). Just like Gado-Gado, the entire dish is drowned in sweet, delicious peanut sauce. I actually just tried Ketoprak for the very first time this past week, so I haven’t made up my mind whether I like it better than Gado-Gado or not. So I suppose the only solution to this dilemma is to have BOTH and have them OFTEN!
3. Satay Ayam (Jl. Wahid Hasyim, between Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Agus Salim)
My other favorite street food in Indonesia is Satay, a skewer of seasoned and grilled meat, covered in…PEANUT SAUCE. If you sense a pattern here, yes, I LOVE peanut sauce, and my favorite dishes are definitely biased towards dishes involving it. Satay (sometimes spelled Sate) is available in different meats. Chicken (satay ayam), beef (satay sapi), and goat (satay kambing). My favorite by far is Satay Ayam, and lucky me because it’s the most common kind. Satay is the kind of food that I rarely consume as a stand-alone meal. You can certainly eat it this way, and if you sit down at a Satay joint and order it in-house, you’ll get Satay paired up with rice or longtong, certainly a filling enough meal. To me however, Satay is the perfect “to-go” food. When I’m busy with errands on the streets of Jakarta, and hunger kicks in, nothing is better than running into a Satay food cart and ordering a half-dozen satay ayam skewers dibungkus (which means “wrapped up to go”). They grill them up quickly and give you your chicken skewers inside a paper bag 1/3 filled with peanut sauce. As I make my way to my destination, I shake and dip the skewers inside the bag to ensure they are generously covered in peanut sauce, and eat them one by one. They actually give you the skewer-filled paper bag inside of supermarket-style plastic bag, which makes carrying it easy, and you can conveniently dispose of the empty skewers inside the plastic bag as you walk. When I’m finished, I just dispose of the entire thing at the nearest trash can. BOOM, that’s what I call the perfect street food.
To get to the Gado-Gado and Ketoprak (they are right next to each other) from Jalan Jaksa, walk down the street (in the same direction as the traffic). On your right side, you will see an alleyway named Gg. 12 Kebon Sirih Barat I. Follow it all the way to the end, and upon exiting, you will see two food carts to the left. These sell Gado-Gado and Ketoprak. The Gado-Gado one in particular is great because they use an extremely large pestle and mortar to grind all of the spices.
As for the Satay, there are multiple places all along Jalan Jaksa and Jalan Agus Salim. There is one place in particular however, that seems to be the most popular spot. It’s located on Jalan Wahid Hasyim, between Jl. Agus Salim and Jl Thamrin (the big street where Sarinah mall is).
Check out the map below for the locations: