Can a modest food stall beat and inspire a higher end restaurant at the hotel? In some cases, yes. Warung Sop Buntut Cut Meutia (Cut Meutia Oxtail Soup Eatery), is one of the examples.
Opened in 1970 by Hj. Nurjanah, Warung Sop Buntut Cut Meutia operates for the first time under its original and unusual name, Warung Semoga, literally meaning Hopefully Stall. The present name, Warung Sop Buntut Cut Meutia, is actually easier to remember because it’s taken from the closest landmark of the stall, which is Cut Meutia Mosque in Menteng, South Jakarta.
Approximately, in 1972, a Pertamina (a state petroleum company) director had business trips to Jakarta and became a regular guest in Borobudur Hotel. During his stay, most of the time he ate oxtail soup at Warung Semoga instead of consuming food from the hotel. . One day, the hotel management was curious and sent one of their chefs to their loyal guest’s favourite warung to taste the famous oxtail soup and find out its secret recipe.
Finally, Borobudur Hotel launched their own oxtail soup restaurant called Sop Buntut Bogor Cafe in 1973. Nowadays, it has several branches in notable shopping malls, such as Pacific Place and Pondok Indah Mall. It is not told, however, if it succeeded to persuade the Pertamina director to switch his loyalty to the hotel’s restaurant.
Leaving from Museum Joang 45, Gondangdia Food Tour members from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta and I took about 10 minutes on foot to the Sop Buntut Cut Meutia. We arrived at 11 o’clock, which was an hour earlier than scheduled, thanks to one of the team member’s idea.
Situated in the alley of Jalan Menteng Kecil no. 4/5, Menteng, Central Jakarta, modesty is the first impression of the famous oxtail soup eatery outlook, but its cleanliness is well-maintained. Woven partition replaces the façade wall. Inside, there are framed pictures attached on the orange wall of the family’s founder and artists who visited the eatery.
Accommodating about 30 guests maximum with high traffic at lunch time ever single day, we were lucky enough to be there earlier, so everyone got seats. There are a few more seats available, though very limited, and a grill machine on the extension site on the other side of the alley.
Basically, they offer 4 types of oxtail soup dishes, such as Sop Buntut Rebus (steamed oxtail soup), Sop Buntut Super (super oxtail soup), Sop Buntut Goreng (fried oxtail soup) and Sop Buntut Bakar (grilled oxtail soup).
Sop Buntut Rebus (steamed oxtail soup) is oxtail soup mixed with sliced meat, sold for Rp, 45,000 ($ 3.5). The other option is Sop Buntut Super (super oxtail soup), that contains entirely oxtail soup without sliced meat, sold for Rp 50,000 ($ 4). The latter two, fried oxtail soup and grilled oxtail soup, are served with clear soup in a separate bowl.
I personally would go for the Sop Buntut Super, that’s for sure.
For those who don’t feel like eating oxtail, there are chicken skewers, mutton skewers, perkedel (fried patty made of mashed potato with minced meat), teri kentang (fried shredded spicy potato with anchovy) and udang balado (hot and spicy mixture with prawn).
One thing you need to be aware of about this warung sop buntut is that the waiters’ habit of not taking notes of your orders, regardless the situation. So, yeah, in case you change your mind in a minute or two, or your orders don’t come, just inform them (again).
One special characteristic of the oxtail meat in Warung Sop Buntut Cut Meutia that any other restaurants and eateries don’t have is the reddish colour of the meat, which is seen very clearly in the steamed oxtail soup. The tenderness of the oxtail meat was top notch. Served with fresh cut tomato and carrot, the clear soup had a light, refreshing taste, emphasizing the juiciness of the oxtail broth.
I had a bite of the grilled oxtail soup from the tour member and lovin’ it. I suggest to slurp the soup simultaneously, since it harmonizes and balances the sweetness from the home made barbecue sauce dominated with sweet soy sauce.
There’s no doubt that the warung serves higher grade of the oxtail, yet sold in affordable price. It cost me Rp. 56,000 ($ 4), including the orange juice for Rp. 6000 ($ .50), which is indeed very cheap compared to those in Sop Buntut Bogor and other restaurants at the mall, that could cost over Rp. 100,000 ($ 8), excluding the beverage.
Besides the one we visited in Central Jakarta, Sop Buntut Cut Meutia has several branches Jakarta and one in Lampung, South Sumatera. It also participates in some big culinary events, such as Festival Jajanan Bango in March 2019.
I just can’t get enough with this oxtail soup warung and one day I would return to either get the same Sop Buntut Super or try the grilled oxtail soup for myself.
My advise is to come earlier to avoid peak hours for more comfortable dining experience and to make sure that you won’t run out of the legendary oxtail once you visit the warung. However, if don’t feel like queuing on the spot, you can order it online through Go-Food and GrabFood.
Warung Sop Buntut Cut Meutia
Address:No. 4/5, Jl. Menteng Kecil, RT.9/RW.5, Kb. Sirih, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10340
My hometown Jakarta is the capital and the biggest city in Indonesia situated in Java island. Over the years, the 491 year-old city has developed into the busiest, the most populated city in the country due to fast economic growth, and also known for having one of the worst traffic jams in the world. Moreover, overloaded shopping malls overshadow the city’s historical elements. I even had no idea where to take my friends from overseas when they visited Jakarta besides shopping malls. The only historical site I know is Kota Tua (literally means old town), nothing else. What a shame!
Thanks to the growing trend of walking tours in Jakarta, organized by Jakarta Good Guide and Wisata Kreatif Jakarta for instance, not only are foreign tourists able to explore each area of Jakarta without traffic jam. But also for Jakarta residence like me, walking tours introduce alternative ways to enjoy the city other than hanging out in shopping malls, from visiting survived historical buildings turned into museums, Dutch heritage railway station, culinary spots until places of worship from different religions.
After joining walking tours since 2017, it’s a wake up call for me that I have very little knowledge about the rich history and diverse culture in my own city regardless how many years I’ve been living. To be honest, it’s been an interesting experience related to my travel life. I have become somewhat addicted in participating in the tours and it’s been my 8th time already and still counting.
Indeed, Jakarta is not only about shopping malls and it doesn’t necessarily take a thousand miles or land somewhere far far away to call it travelling.
MUST VISIT SPOTS THAT ARE NOT SHOPPING MALLS
Of all the places I visited, mostly with the troops from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, these are my favourite places of interest in Jakarta you should not miss, that are definitely not shopping malls:
Tugu Kunstkring Paleis
Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, originally named Bataviasche Kunstkring, was created by a Dutch architect Pieter Adriaan Jacobus Moojen from NV. Bouwploeg, the first property and architecture firm in Jakarta during the Dutch colony period. It was opened in 1914 to hold fine and decorative art exhibitions. Van Gogh, Chagall, Picasso and Gauguin paintings were among other finest works exhibited between 1939 and 1943.
After 1942, the function changed into the Islamic Council of Indonesia main office, immigration office, until Buddha Bar that brought a controversy. Since 2013, Tugu Hotels and Restaurants Group renamed it into Tugu Kunstkring Paleis and transformed it into a fine dining restaurant serving Indonesian and peranakan cuisine. The Dutch rationalist architecture style building also provides cafe, bar, wine tasting, gift shop, ball room and a balcony.
Exhibiting antiquity inheritance from Oei Tiong Ham, a sugar trading tycoon, the old glory of Bataviasche Kunstkring has returned. A golden gate (for real) and other precious artifacts from 2 Surakarta Kingdoms and a 9-meter-painting of “The Fall of Java” by Anhar Setjadibrata (the restaurant owner), inspired by Raden Saleh painting, decorated Diponegoro Room. The original memorabilia of Soekarno, Indonesia’s first president, is well-kept in Soekarno room on the 2nd floor, a private dining room occupying up to 25 guests. Each room has its own unique name inspired by prominent people in Indonesian history, such as Diponegoro, Soekarno, Multatuli, the owner’s favorite movie, Darna, and a legendary Greek god, Hercules. The bar name, Suzie Wong, is inspired by a famous novel by Richard Mason in 1957.
The 3-storey building has an elevator to comfort those who are not willing to climb the stairs to the top. If you take the stairs, observe the walls along the way as it displays nostalgic pictures of Tugu Kunstkring Paleis dated 100 years ago.
The fine dining restaurant plus gallery has a free entrance. All you have to do is to try their refreshing mocktails, such as Meik Wei Meik Wei, the best-selling Grand Rijsttafel Betawi, etc, and take your time as much as you like to see all the invaluable antique collections in each side and corner of the room.
Museum Taman Prasasti
Museum Taman Prasasti (Inscription Museum) was built in 1795 and little known that it is also the first public cemetery in the world. The land was inherited by Van Riemsdijk, the 30th governor-general of Dutch East Indies, for the last resting place of Protestant prominent people and government officials, such as Marius Hulswit (the architect of Cathedral Church in Jakarta), Olivia Mariamne Raffles (the first wife of Thomas Stanford Raffles, a Lieutenant General of Dutch Indies during British occupation), Dr. HF. Roll (the founder of STOVIA, School of Medicine, now University of Indonesia (UI) and many more).
The cemetery was closed in 1975 and all the remaining bodies of the deceased were taken by their families. Since July 9, 1977, it has been transformed into a museum.
What makes the open air museum so particular and funny at the same time is that the former Protestant cemetery looks like the Catholic one, which is more lavish because of the abundant of angle statues situated almost everywhere in the neighborhood and a Jesus Christ statue on top of Kapitein Jas’ grave. This happens due to lack of understanding the differences between Catholic and Protestant although both religions are derived from the same root, Christian religion.
Despite the misconceptions, I think the statues enhance the beauty of the museum and has become one of favorite locations for photo hunting and pre-wedding photography.
Ereveld Menteng Pulo
While Père Lachaise in Paris and Okunoin in Koyasan are popular cemeteries for tourist attractions, many Indonesian people still think otherwise about cemeteries. Dirty, slummy and haunted are the first impressions when they heard about it. I can’t blame them, though, since it’s unfortunately the fact that there are still many cemeteries in the country are untreated because of bad management and ignorance. Nonetheless, visiting Ereveld Menteng Pulo may change stereotypes about cemeteries.
Ereveld Menteng Pulo is a war cemetery managed by The Netherlands War Graves Foundation (OGS), to provide a resting place of over 4000 World War II victims between 1942 and 1945, both Dutch and Indonesian nationalities, against Japan. To reduce the amount of Ereveld in Indonesia from 22 to 7 cemeteries, victims from outside Java island were reburied in Ereveld Menteng Pulo between 1960 and 1970. Unlike other war cemeteries, most victims are civilians, including children, who died from Japanese concentration camp. Only one-fourth of them were on military duty.
Compared to other 6 Ereveld in Indonesia, Ereveld Menteng Pulo is the most beautiful of all. A lotus pond outside Simultaan Church and Columbarium, a place to store ashes of 754 Dutch soldiers. Assorted flowers in several spots within the 29,000 square-meter land. Seats with a shelter to protect visitors from heat and rain. My first impression about Ereveld menteng Pulo is that it’s a very well-maintained and peaceful garden in the middle of a concrete jungle. There’s a moment that I forgot that I’m still in Jakarta. Also, I heard that it has a magnificent view to catch the sunset, too.
The challenge when the cemetery is open to public is to educate the locals to break negative perceptions about a cemetery and realize that it’s a potential tourist destination when they help maintaining its cleanliness and comfort by avoiding the bad habit of littering and vandalism.
Situated behind Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, Candra Naya was built somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House. After the major’s passing, the house was rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s, holding many social-oriented activities, including Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta.
After the prohibition of the three-syllable names (aka Chinese names) in Indonesia, Sin Ming Hui Association was renamed into Tjandra Naya Social Union, whose spelling has changed into Candra Naya.
The demolition of the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya by Modern Group in 1993 to build Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices, raised protests from heritage conservation groups. Finally, the only survived part is the front side of the house, consisting of a living room, semi-private room, room for maids, concubines and their children and the gazebo.
Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Around the neighborhood, there are several restaurants, such as Kopi Oey (Peranakan food), Token Resto (Taiwanese restaurant), and Fubar (Chinese restaurant).
Museum Maritim, or Maritime Museum is situated in the neighbourhood of the port of Tanjung Priok. Starting its soft opening since December 7, 2018, Maritime Museum exhibits the history of maritime in Indonesia over the centuries, from Majapahit, Sriwijaya, Mataram Kingdom until modern times. It includes the role of Indonesia in international spice trading until an interesting and less-known history of where the usual term of “celengan” (piggy bank) comes from, that eventually related to how Majapahit Kingdom introduced a habit of saving money in a piggy-shaped container (piggy bank).
To be honest, it is so much better than I expected and has reached the next level, just like those in developed countries. The layout is visually comfortable, spacious, including the reading room where visitors can take a rest and read provided books and magazines. Dioramas and historical artifacts have better quality compared to those in other museums I’ve visited in Jakarta. The simulator of a ship, where you can get a chance to be a helmsman, is one of the most interesting part of the museum. Don’t forget to visit the rooftop as well, where you can see the top view of Port Tanjung Priok and its surroundings.
THAT’S NOT IT
If I don’t mention other beautiful places in Jakarta, it’s probably either because I haven’t visited them or I don’t have proper images to show you. So, there will be the second part of this post. Remember, Jakarta is more than just shopping malls. So, stay tuned!
Mangga Besar is a densely populated, hustling and bustling area in West Jakarta, the melting pot of bars, night clubs, discotheques, hotels, restaurants and street food stalls. Not to mention the less–known Avalokitesvara Temple and abundant medical clinics situated in residential areas somewhere behind the street food areas.
Joining Wisata Kreatif Jakarta on walking tour to Mangga Besar, the last destination of the tour is what I had been waiting for: eating cobra skewers and its blood and bile. The snake meat itself was not the biggest challenge for me, but the blood and bile were!
Along the street of Mangga Besar Raya, a few hundred meters from the famous Durian Acin, there are several stalls selling cobra skewers, among others Cobra 34 Pais. Established by Pais since year 2000, the family-owned business is inspired by his grandfather who has been selling cobra before 1980s, whose stall name is “34”. In Chinese belief, number 34 means life and death.
Generally speaking, cobra food stalls in Mangga Besar only open in the evening, starting from 5 pm until midnight.
BEST-SELLING COBRA SET MENU
The most well-known dish from Cobra 34, perhaps as well as other cobra snake food stalls, is a set menu of cobra skewers, blood and bile sold for Rp. 90.000 (about $7). King cobra package is sold for Rp. 300.000 (about $25). There are also cobra floss, cobra soup and cobra oil. The non-cobra product is biawak (tropical giant lizard) skewers, soup, floss and oil.
My cousin and I ordered the Rp. 90.000 cobra package. The rest of the tour members hesitated to get one and some would only like to have a bite or two, only if they finally had guts in the last minute.
“Do you want the blood and bile as well?” The vendor asked.
“Well, not this time. But we would like to have it pictured, so don’t throw it away.” I replied.
To be honest, the day before the tour, I promised that I would challenge myself to consume the blood and bile for the sake of compelling story telling in my blog. Nonetheless, my stomach felt bloated in that afternoon for reasons only God knows. Since they would be mixed with alcohol (and honey) to reduce the fishy taste, I wasn’t sure if I could stand the alcohol in my condition. Therefore, I decided not to consume them.
ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
The “slaughter” show began. After taking the cobra out of the cage, he (the vendor) closed the snake’s mouth with a bamboo clip and chopped its head off. Then, he stretched the headless cobra’s body and squeezed it to pour the blood and bile into the prepared plastic mug. Skinning and separating the cobra’s meat and bone were faster than I thought, less than 30 seconds, by tying the front part of the body with a rope and peeled its black skin with bare hands. The last step was to remove the remaining organs attached in the inner side of the cobra’s meat using a bamboo skewer.
During the 3 minute process of slaughtering, both cobra’s head and its beheaded body kept writhing. Slow but sure, it was a very agonizing way of facing death. If I were the vendor, I would first smash or stab right to its brain before doing anything else to end its pain. Especially the head kept flipping and the mouth kept moving after being left for an hour. Its body stopped writhing after 5 minutes since it was instantly cut and pierced in bamboo skewers to grill.
One cobra equals to one portion of cobra skewers, that consists of 9 pieces. Although it was about 2 meters long, the whole body mostly contains of bone and the organs inside, which are definitely inedible. The only meaty part is located in the outer part attached to the bone, which is not as much as I thought.
Watching the whole process of turning the venomous predator to be on our dinner plate is either curiosity or something too hard to handle, depending on your personal perspectives.
One of the tour members mentioned about her friend, who had severe acne problem and her prescribed medicines didn’t work, was advised to drink snake blood and bile, but not necessarily the meat. After consuming them regularly, the acne turned dry and gradually peeled off from her skin. Doing so was the last option for her, so eerie and disgusted feeling were swept away by the sense of urgency to get cured.
The vendor justified her story. He added a notion that many of his customers are women having skin problems.
THE TASTE OF ADVENTURE
We were so carried away witnessing the slaughter show that we almost forgot asking about where the blood and bile drink were. It turned out that he only knew that we didn’t want to consume it, but he didn’t get the idea that we still wanted to take a picture of them in the mug . He gave it to the parking lot caretaker instead, who apparently often volunteers to drink them every time customers are not willing to.
One of us asked the parking lot guy how it tasted.
“Nothing really special, just like Vicks Formula 44.” He replied.
Vicks Formula 44 is a liquid cough medicine, that can be obtained easily in drug stores without prescription. Well, I’m not a fan of the taste of any cough medicine, but it gave me an impression that drinking snake blood and bile doesn’t taste terrible at all.
Grilling the skewers took about 20 minutes and added with sweet soy sauce when served to our table. It looked and tasted exactly the same as chicken skewers, and the plus point is that it was completely fresh. Nonetheless, it was more chewy than chicken, but not as chewy as crocodile meat in Cambodia. I remember trying fried snake with turmeric spices many years ago elsewhere and the meat was much more tender than the skewers.
Eventually, some tour members dare to get some bites from us. They said that it’s just like chicken, but the only problem is that they still can’t get rid of the memory of how the cobra is “processed” into food.
Apart from food, Cobra 34 Pais also offers medical products, among others Kapsul Cobra (Cobra Capsule), Minyak Bulus (Softshell Turtle Oil) and Salep Cobra (Cobra Balm). I tried the Cobra Balm, that merely costs Rp. 30.000 ($2) per bottle. Using cobra oil as the main ingredient, Cobra Balm solves skin problems, such as skin allergies, acne, itchy, chapped skin, wounds and so on. I use it to cure acne problems and it works pretty well for me.
In a nutshell, I can guarantee the freshness of the food from Cobra 34 Pais since I witnessed the whole process from the start. All you need to do is to prepare yourself to see how it’s made. Otherwise, you can turn your back away when it’s in progress or watch it blindfolded.
Have a great dining adventure!
Cobra 34 (Pais)
Address: Mangga Besar Raya, West Jakarta, Indonesia
Finding Candra Naya building was a bit funny experience when I had to be there for a gathering with Chinatown Walking Tour members of Jakarta Good Guide. At a glance, Candra Naya is like a hidden gem in a concrete forest, that only can be found after passing the alley of Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, right before Green Central City superblock. Its unconventional location is in fact has an interesting story behind it.
It is estimated that Candra Naya was built in the rabbit year in Chinese Lunar Calendar, somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, who inherited the house from his father, Khouw Tjeng Tjoan, who had 14 wives and 24 children. Khouw Kim An was the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and re-elected from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House.
Born on June 5, 1879, Khouw Kim An was not only the Major of the Chinese, but also an entrepreneur and a shareholder of Bataviaasche Bank. He received numerous awards from the Dutch for his merit to the local people. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 1942 during Japanese occupation and died in the concentration camp on February 13, 1945.
After the major’s passing and not long after the end of World War II, the house is inherited to his family and rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s. Initially founded to help victims of the riot in Tangerang in 1946, Sin Ming Hui Association held many social-oriented activities in Candra Naya building, from establishing a medical clinic, sports center, Candra Naya school to Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta founded in 1948.
After the prohibition of the three-syllable names (aka Chinese names) in Indonesia, Sin Ming Hui Association was renamed into Tjandra Naya Social Union, whose spelling has changed into Candra Naya. It was also a popular wedding venue in 1960s to 1970s.
Unfortunately, it is quite common that cultural heritage buildings in Indonesia are not always save from harm, even if they are protected by law, including Candra Naya building. After the property was sold to Modern Group, the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya were demolished in 1993 to be the site of Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices. The demolition lead to protests from heritage conservation groups.
Finally, the front building manages to survive, consisting of a living room for guest receptions and Khouw Kim An’s office, semi-private rooms for close guests, right and left wing side for maids, concubines and their children, and a gazebo behind the main building with a veranda and a pond. The demolished buildings have never been rebuilt ever since.
For older generations, like my dad for instance, visiting Candra Naya brings back his memory when my grandfather took him there to play badminton. On the other hand, millennials may not notice the role of Candra Naya for new generations and never heard of Sin Ming Hui Association.
Nonetheless, its legacy still remains nowadays. The medical clinic is the predecessor of notable hospitals in Jakarta, such as Sumber Waras Hospital and Husada Hospital. Candra Naya school has developed into Tarumanegara University, situated in Grogol area, West Jakarta.
Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out on lazy Sunday afternoon (or any day you prefer) with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Overall, the environment at Candra Naya is convenient, safe, well-maintained and clean.
The only thing that needs some improvements is the public toilet. The circle gates with their pink borders looks classy and quite eye-catching. Nonetheless, the facilities and cleanliness are poor. The toilet bowl looks shabby and dirty, no toilet paper and the room is a bit smelly. The wash room has neither soap nor toilet paper. I believe it won’t break the bank by providing those basic necessities. The only problem from this matter is negligance. Well, poor toilet facilities happens lots of times to main tourist attractions in Indonesia, unfortunately.
When hunger strikes, there’s no need to leave Candra Naya area. The are some restaurants in the neighborhood, whose building is a former guard house. Kopi Oey is the one you will instantly notice when you visit Candra Naya, situated on the right hand side of the building. Serving Chinese Peranakan dishes, Kopi Oey Candra Naya is the most beautiful branch of the chain. The food is pretty good in affordable price and the interior is very cozy to hang out.
Other restaurants are Token Resto, a Taiwanese restaurant, and Fubar, a Chinese restaurant. If you like spicy food and some Taiwanese snacks, Token Resto is the right place to try. The only restaurant I haven’t tried is Fubar and I’d like to have a visit someday.
Despite obstacles over the years, I’m so glad that it still stands gracefully nowadays, so all of us and the next generation are able to witness of the most beautiful Chinese style heritage houses in Jakarta. Overall, I enjoy visiting Candra Naya and make sure you don’t miss it when you visit Jakarta.
Pantjoran Tea House is situated in Glodok area, Jakarta, the biggest Pecinan or Chinatown in Indonesia that has been existing since 380 years ago. Jalan Pancoran is part of Glodok area coverage, apart from Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley) and Petak Sembilan. The two-storey building is also the main gate to Jakarta Old Town, formerly called Batavia, from the south.
The name “Glodok” is inspired by “grojok grojok”, the sound of running water from the douche in the yard of the City Hall. Nonetheless, Chinese people pronounced it as “glodok”, that finally becomes an official name of the area. On the other hand, the translation of “douche”, which is pancuran in Indonesian, inspires Pancoran (local’s unofficial pronunciation of pancuran) as a street name.
Operating since nearly 3 years ago, Pantjoran Tea House is definitely not the oldest tea house and restaurant in Jakarta. Nonetheless, the age of the building is much older than the tea house itself because it used to be Apotheek Chung Hwa (Chung Hwa Pharmacy), the second oldest pharmacy in Jakarta opened in 1928.
After it runs out of business, the building was neglected and untreated for years, occupied by illegal tenants and shop houses on the 2nd floor. After the government initiated a revitalization program in the Old Town area, The Head of Indonesia Architect Association, Ahmad Djuhara, lead the former Apotheek Chung Hwa renovation project started in September 2014. 16 months later, in December 2015, Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corp (JOTRC) CEO, Lin Che Wei, reopened the privately-owned building, transforming it into Pantjoran Tea House. It also has been nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Commemorating the tradition of drinking tea is one of the major reasons why the building is functioned as a tea house. The birth of tea culture can be traced back in the 17th century, when a Dutch botanist named Andreas Cleyer brought the tea seedling from Japan by a VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or Dutch East India Company) ship that regularly harboured around the Old Town.
At around 9.30 am, our tour guide from Jakarta Good Guide, Cindy, I and the rest of tour members arrived at Pantjoran Tea House that took 7 minutes walk from Candra Naya building. What makes it distinctive is the presence of 8 teapots on the long table situated on the right side of the entrance door.
The teapot display is in fact not only for the sake of eye-catching view, but also a symbol of solidarity in diversity that has been told from generations to generations.
The tradition began when Gan Djie came to Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1659 for his trading business and lived in Kota Tua (Old Town) area. In 1663, he was appointed by the Dutch to be the third Kapitein der Chineezen (Chinese Captain), a prominent leader in the semi-autonomous Chinese community, until his death in 1666. His wife replaced his position until her retirement in 1678.
Captain Gan Djie and his wife were famous for their kindness and solidarity during their lives. They always put eight teapots in front of the captain’s office for peddlers and those who were tired to shelter while zipping some tea with for of charge. Those days, cafes, restaurants as well as other food and drink vendors were rare.
Since then, the area where they lived is known as “Patekoan”, whose name is originated from pat (eight in Chinese) and teko (teapot in Indonesian). Although the name of the area has changed into Jalan Peniagaan (Peniagaan Street), a lot of people still call it as Patekoan.
To revitalize the spirit of solidarity, those tea in the teapots are served for free for everyone, forever, even without dining at the restaurant itself. The inscription in front of the teapots says it out loud, “Tradisi ‘Patekoan’ (8 Teko); SILAKAN MINUM! TEH UNTUK KEBERSAMAAN; TEH UNTUK MASYARAKAT” (‘Patekoan’ (8 Teapots) Tradition; PLEASE HAVE A DRINK!; TEA FOR TOGETHERNESS; TEA FOR THE PEOPLE)
Cindy gave us some time to drink the tea before heading to Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley). The tea house waiter also encouraged us to do the same and convinced that it’s free.
A month later, I returned to the same place with my family. In my case, it’s my second time to taste the free black tea from one of the old-fashioned white-green teapots next to the entrance door. We planned to taste the dim sum, but it was too late. Opening at 7 am, most of the dim sum menus were already finished by 10 am. The peak hour is usually between 7.30 am to 9 am, where nearly all the guests who just finish walking and jogging around the Old Town area.
Therefore, we finally ordered some main courses to share, such as fried noodle, fuyung hai (egg omelette with minced prawn), the signature nasi goreng Pantjoran (beetroot fried rice with seafood), stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce, and 2 other remaining dim sum menus still available, ha kau (prawn crystal dumpling), chicken siomay and jasmine tea.
The tea house interior is dominated Chinese style wooden shutters that allow sunlight coming into the dining room. The first floor where we sat is a non air-conditioned room with a fan placed on the high ceiling. Fortunately, it wasn’t so hot inside because the entrance door remained open facing our seat.
I love what I saw on the second floor. Long and vertical windows, Chinese style wooden shutters and antiquities deliver nostalgic moments of Chinese occupation during the Dutch colonization era, although the whole parts of the interior is brand new and nothing like the original because its condition was so bad that it was hard to see the traces of the original look at that time. Moreover, it’s air conditioned and has roomy spaces among the seats.
There are several paintings depicting the old glory of Apotheek Chung Hwa on the walls. The original building was bigger in the past, yet it was cut off from 400 meters to 300 meters left due to the expansion of the street. Also, there are other paintings showing the same building with distinctive elements of colonization from 2 countries, the Japanese red torii gate and Dutch style trams passing by.
Apart from paintings, there are some frames of cheatsheet and chart showing the history of drinking tea, types of tea and how tea culture enters Indonesia. Suppose you have a patience in reading them all, visiting this floor feels like entering a museum.
Well, I think it’s my time to return to reality and I believe our food should be ready to serve.
The ha kau and chicken siomay was pretty good. We also liked the jasmine tea. Nonetheless, the fried noodle, nasi goreng Pantjoran, fuyung hai were just okay and not very special. I didn’t consume the last 3 meals since I have severe allergy in fried food, so I only conclude from what my family said about it.
There was an issue with my stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce. The chicken was deep fried with flour instead of stir-fry. Apparently the chef improvised the menu without informing the waiter. It’s a common sense that every dish should be in line with the image and description in the menu book. I asked for a replacement since it would trigger my allergy later on. She agreed to change it with the stir-fry chicken as it should be and the taste was quite good.
In a nutshell, Pantjoran Tea House is an interesting tourist spot and a lovely ambiance for gathering, especially in terms of history and unique heritage of Patekoan tradition that remind us to embrace cultural differences as part of a nation’s pride.
The price range is middle to high segment with an approximate total spending of Rp. 70.000 to Rp. 100.000 ($5 to $8) per person, depending on what you order. Although there are many more recommended Chinese restaurants in Jakarta, it still has a decent food quality and not a tourist trap at all.
New Year celebration is over according to Gregorian solar calendar, but it’s just about to start according to Chinese lunar calendar. Usually, Chinese New Year celebration ranges from January 21 until February 20. The 12 animals in Chinese Zodiac, such as rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, have a cycle that runs every 12 years. In 2018, it’s the year of dog that will fall on February 16.
Apart from celebrating Chinese New Year with my family, I’d like to celebrate it online as well through my blog. Therefore, during the month of February, I will dedicate my posts to historical destinations in Chinatown Jakarta I visited with Jakarta Good Guide, such as:
Candra Naya, the former residence of Khouw Kim An, the last Major of Chinese during the Dutch occupation, once housed 14 wives and 24 children.
Pantjoran Tea House,a Chinese restaurant whose building used to be a pharmacy called Apotheek Chung Hua before its revitalization project in 2015.
The oldest temples in Jakarta called Dharma Bhakti Temple, known as Kim Tek Ie Temple, and Dharma Jaya Toasebio Temple.
And some more Chinese related destinations I still need to think about, probably in the following month? Oh well, let it be a surprise for you. So, stay tuned!
New Year’s Eve celebration is identical with fireworks, booze, fancy dinner, traveling and gathering in public places at night. Which is great, actually. But I just don’t do that anymore.
Being a Jakarta resident, staying at home on New Year’s Eve has been my choice for the past few years because of the terrible traffic jam in the evening (of New Year’s Eve) every year, which is killing me. Not to mention road blocks on main roads for stage installations for night performances and street food vendors, that worsen the existing bad traffic.
Instead, I joined my uncle for photo hunting on December 31, 2017, the last day of Car Free Day in Jakarta at 6 am. It was a great effort for me to be on site at 6 am since I’m not a morning person, but I think it would be a great alternative way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
A GLIMPSE ABOUT CAR FREE DAY JAKARTA
Car Free Day in Jakarta has been initiated since 2002, held every Sunday morning, to reduce dependency on using vehicles to commute. At the same time, it encourages healthier activities, such as walking, jogging, cycling and hopefully, the level of air pollution decreases. From time to time, the week period and duration of Car Free Day have experienced some changes. Finally, since 2012 until now, Car Free Day starts every Sunday morning from 6 am to 11 am.
PRIOR TO PHOTO HUNTING
Arriving at around 6.10 am, we passed the vendors, who were in the final stage of setting up their tents and merchandise along the street, to reach the roundabout of Hotel Indonesia known as Bundaran Hotel Indonesia or Bundaran HI with the signature Selamat Datang (literally means “welcome”) Monument situated on MH. Thamrin Street. Although it wasn’t crowded yet, I still couldn’t avoid the presence of “unwanted” figure on the left side in my photo.
I zipped a glass of hot Milo drink while sitting on the pavement of Bundaran HI facing the front side of Grand Hyatt Hotel. It felt like hanging out at an outdoor hotel cafe in a shoestring because it cost me only Rp. 5000 ($ 0.30) per cup.
ACTIVITIES ON CAR FREE DAY
Mingling with people from various background and activities on street when no cars passing by, except Transjakarta public buses, is an amazing experience. It opens my eyes that I’m looking at 2 sides of a coin simultaneously. One side shows a number of people who depend on Car Free Day as a(n) (additional) source of income, while on the other side shows a number of people who enjoy a day off from work and tend to spend some amount of money when necessary.
THOSE WHO MAKE A LIVING
Occupations on the street may vary, and each of them is unique in its own way.
Street Food Vendors
When hunger and thirst strike, there’s nothing to worry about. Vendors on the bike sell coffee, coffee milk, ginger drink, oatmeal, hot chocolate and cup noodles. I got my hot Milo drink from one of these fellas on the bike, anyways.
Besides, the carts parking along the street offer more food variety. Gorengan or deep fried food is what most vendors sell,such as tahu bulat (round shaped tofu), fried fermented soybean, fried tofu, chicken nugget and many more. For healthier options, there are half-ripe mango, fresh cut bell fruit with spicy sugar, papaya, palm juke water and fresh juices. Heavier meals from vermicelli or egg noodle with meatballs, chicken porridge, fried rice until fried noodle are also available. If you are a sweet tooth, traditional lolly pop and cotton candy could be a perfect choice.
Ondel-ondel is originally a giant puppet having 2.5 meters high used for welcoming important guests. The tradition belongs to Betawi folk, the indigenous people of Jakarta, and ondel-ondel the icon of Jakarta. Nowadays, these puppets are also produced in smaller sizes to take home. They also appear in the form of illustrations on t-shirts, mugs, bags and more, but mostly sold in outlets at shopping malls.
Other vendors sell masks, bubble solutions, non-branded and counterfeited branded bags, shoes, shirts, jeans, belts, as well as bras and underwear. Besides, there are trumpets, confetti and other new year related goods.
Additionally, vintage bike spare part stall is also quite popular because the members of Vintage Bike Community or Komunitas Sepeda Onthel have a gathering every Sunday morning on Car Free Day. And these items don’t come that cheap since their availability is rare nowadays.
In this picture, Odong-odong is kid’s rides assembled on a modified rickshaw or motorcycle. It usually comes with fast-paced music like dangdut or kid’s songs the attract future customers, who are obviously children. The rate per ride may vary, between Rp. 2000 ($0.10) and Rp. 5000 ($ 0.40).
Street artists usually wear costumes of famous cartoon characters or imaginary creatures they create themselves.
However, you will find more than one street artists dressing up like pocong.Pocong is an appearance of a dead body whose soul is trapped in its shroud and one of the most popular ghost characters showing repeatedly in Indonesian horror movies. What they need to do is to stand still until somebody wants to pose with them.
The main cause of Library on the Go or Perpustakaan Keliling is to encourage local citizens to have more interest in reading. Librarians are assigned to serve walk-in customers who wants to borrow some books for certain period of time or read them on the spot.
THOSE WHO ENJOY A DAY OFF
If earning some money is not the purpose, what do the rest of people do on Car Free Day?
Walking the Dog
Human beings are not the only ones who need some exercise, after all.
Cycling is a sport that you can either do it individually, with a group of friends and families or gather in a cyclist community.
We specifically drew our attention to the members of Komunitas Sepeda Onthel or Vintage Bike Community, who labelled themselves as onthelist. The community incorporates people with common interest in cycling and old bicycle called onthel bikes, the type of bikes used in Jakarta during the Dutch colonization period until the year of 1970’s.
Unlike other cyclists with their sportswear, onthelists outfits are replicas from the old generation era, such as KNIL soldier, traditional Betawi and Javanese clothing, World War II pilot and many more. Many of the outfits are custom made since it’s hard to get the right style and fitting from the stores.
Moreover, onthelists are born to be cool models.
Posing with some of the onthelists, why not? They are nice people and proud to be captured with someone else’s camera. Simply ask for their permission and there’s no need to sneak and chase them just for a picture. Before we left, one of the onthelists reminded us to watch our bags since he has witnessed several daredevil pickpockets regardless the gender.
Last but not least, I’m not sure in which community this kid belongs to, but I think he looks cute in that outfit.
NOT AS CROWDED AS USUAL
During Christmas and New Year holiday, a lot of Jakarta residents are either traveling to other cities within the country or overseas, affecting the decreasing amount of participants on Car Free Day.
not as crowded as usual
Unexpectedly, we heard a woman’s voice at around 8 am, probably one of the Ministry of Transportation officials, saying that there was no car free day on that day and she warned everybody on the street to leave the spot. Get real! A lot of people, including us, were confused and disappointed since there was no official announcement beforehand.
Fortunately, we were about to leave the spot and continued our journey to the Port of Sunda Kelapa. Although sometimes things just don’t happen like the way we want to, we still cherished the day to conclude the year of 2017.
Happy new year and may all of you be blessed in 2018!