Jakarta has a huge variety of ethnic food eateries, from the fine dining to warung (food stalls) level. Some major ethnic groups like Batak and Minang (Padang) are represented by hundreds of eateries that are patronized by people outside of those ethnic groups. But for the real deal, we have asked the best authorities, which are the people from the regions themselves.
Although rumah makan Padang (Minang food stalls) can be found easily in every corner of the city, many Minang people say it is hard to find ones that offer similar flavors to those back home in West Sumatra.
Doni Agusta, 34-year-old of Minang descent living in Jakarta, claims the only restaurant that provides food that closely represents the authentic flavor is Mekar Jaya on Jl. Mampang Prapatan in South Jakarta.
Doni said Mekar Jaya was his favourite as the prices were affordable, it was open 24 hours and the menu was varied and fresh.
"The restaurant doesn't only offer the standard menu of a Padang restaurant but also food that we usually only find in West Sumatra like ikan bili jengkol [signature small fish from West Sumatra served with dogfruit]," he said.
"I eat in the restaurant three to four times a week. I also always bring my friends and colleagues there. They always come back again," he said proudly.
Other rumah makan Padang that are well-known among Minang people include Garuda Restaurant, Medan Baru (although the name says Medan, it sells Minang food), Sari Bundo as well as Sate Padang Ajo Ramon in Santa Market and Soto Padang H. ST. Mangkuto in Kebayoran Baru, both in South Jakarta.
Many Balinese restaurants in Jakarta sell nasi campur (mixed steamed rice) and duck, but finding the iconic dish babi guling (roast pork) in Jakarta is hard.
Tucked inside a pura (Hindu temple) in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, an eatery offers a plate of rice, lawar (chopped vegetables and minced meat with shredded coconut, herbs and spices), babi guling, pork satay and crispy pork skin.
IGA Meliyani, a Balinese living in Tangerang, Banten, said the food sold at the temple tasted as good as what she ate in her hometown.
The temple has dedicated a corner as a small food court for around five food stalls which offer Balinese-style food, such as young jackfruit soup, pork with soy sauce and fish satay. Food and beverages here are sold at prices ranging from Rp 15,000 (S$1.50) to Rp 30,000.
The stalls usually open for business from morning on Sunday and holidays and open from lunchtime on weekdays. Roast pork is only served on Sundays.
There were plenty of restaurants serving the authentic dishes of North Sumatra in the Greater Jakarta area, ranging from warung to upscale restaurants.
The majority of Bataks are Christians, therefore many kedai or lapo (eateries) sell grilled pork. But halal Batak restaurants, albeit much fewer in number, are available in Jakarta.
Kedai Kak Ani in Kemang, South Jakarta, is one of the most popular restaurants serving halal North Sumatran dishes, with nasi campur and lontong sayur (rice cake with various side dishes, it is more popularly known outside North Sumatra as lontong Medan) as its signature dishes. As the capital of North Sumatra, Medan, is known as a melting pot for various ethnic groups, including Melayu and Indian, many of its dishes are influenced by different culinary traditions.
Lapo Ondihon on Jl. Pramuka Raya is one restaurant famous for its grilled pork, favoured by the majority of Batak people living in the capital. Manado
Minahasa cuisine, or Manado food, is among the best, and spiciest, ethnic foods in Indonesia.
According to Minahasa people in Jakarta, their favourite Manado restaurants include Tinoor Permai on Jl. Kramat Lima, Central Jakarta; halal restaurant Rarampa on Jl. Mahakam II, South Jakarta and the food court in Mall Ambassador, which has several different Manado stalls with halal and non-halal selections.
"I'm currently into Rarampa now, especially for the brenebon [red bean soup] and its skipjack tuna dishes," Yeremia Lalisang said.
Retta Simson, a Minahasan living in Jakarta, preferred Tinoor Permai, which is open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. but often runs out of its popular dishes by 4 p.m. due to heavy demand.
Makassar people in Jakarta say only certain restaurants can give the true feeling of home.
Journalist Trie Suharman, 30, regularly treats his taste buds at Daeng Memang restaurant on Jl. Ampera Raya, South Jakarta, which specializes in coto Makassar (seasoned meat broth).
"It's not only that the taste [of the coto] is right, but the atmosphere of the place never fails to make me feel like home. It's humble and a bit hot," he said.
Among other famous Makassar restaurants are the H. Mamink Daeng Tata chain, which has several branches in Jakarta, and RM Sulawesi in Melawai, South Jakarta.