Dining out in Yogyakarta (Jogja) will be confusing, exhilarating, uniquely interesting and at least a bit adventurous. I must remember to bring my antacids, even though Javanese food is not supposed to be as spicy as other Indonesian food. We will have six opportunities for dinner, with many of those nights filled from the list below; there will also be ample opportunity to test out the local foods at the pervasive wareongs (food stalls) that will be everywhere. Here is a partial list of what types of food to look for and popular restaurants and wareongs worth trying.
The Javanese people are a major ethnic group in Indonesia, from the province of Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java. While the cuisine of Sumatra is known for its spiciness with notable Indian and Arabic influences, Javanese cuisine is noted for its simplicity. Some Javanese dishes do demonstrate foreign influences, such as Chinese.
Javanese cuisine tastes sweet compared to other Indonesian cuisines, because of the inclusion of lots of gula jawa (palm sugar) or kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). Javanese food is divided into Central and East Javanese varieties. Central Javanese food tends to be sweeter.
Typically, a Javanese household will purchase food early in the day from the local market. It then will be cooked in the late afternoon for lunch, with the leftovers heated again for dinner. Javanese cuisine can be purchased from street side carts and warungs to fancy restaurants in five-star hotels. Among the most popular low-budget Javanese cuisine establishments are the Warung Tegal and the Angkringan street side carts in Yogyakarta and Solo that sell cheap sego kucing and various wedhang (hot beverages).
Gudeg Yogya: a traditional food from Yogyakarta and Central Java that is made from young nangka (jack fruit) boiled for several hours with palm sugar and coconut milk. This is usually accompanied by opor ayam (chicken in coconut milk), hard-boiled egg stew, and krechek, a spicy beef inner skin and tofu stew. This dish has a unique sweet and savoury taste. The Yogyakarta gudeg is dryer and has a reddish coloring because of the addition of Java teak leaf.
Ayam goreng Kalasan: chicken, stewed in spices consist of coriander, garlic, candlenut, and coconut water feature strongly, then deep-fried until crispy. Served with sambal and raw vegetable salad.
Sego kucing: rice with side dishes in small portion.
Bakpia: a sweet pastry filled with sugared mung bean paste. Derived from Chinese pastry. The famous bakpia producing area is the pathok area near Malioboro .
Ronde (wedhang ronde): a hot Javanese dessert containing glutinous rice balls stuffed with peanut paste, floating in a hot and sweet ginger and lemongrass tea.
Angsle (wedhang angsle): a hot soupy dessert of sago pearls, pre-cooked glutinous rice and mung beans, putu mayang (brightly colored, noodle-shaped flour cakes), fried peanuts, all drowned in hot, sweet coconut milk.
Kipo: the name derived from Javanese word iki opo? (what is this?), a small sweet snack from Kotagede made of glutinous rice flour and coconut milk dough filled with grated coconut and palm sugar.
These are the common Javanese dishes, which can be found throughout Java regardless of the location.
Sate: skewered meat is a common dish in Java. The Javanese variants are Sate Tegal,
Sate Ambal, Sate Solo, Sate Buntel, Sate Madura, Sate Ponorogo.
Soto: this Indonesian soup dish is also a common dish in Java. The Javanese variants are common Soto ayam and Soto babat, Soto Kudus, Soto Madura, Soto Lamongan.
Tumpeng: a rice served in the shape of a conical volcano, usually with rice colored yellow using turmeric. It is an important part of ceremony in Java. Tumpeng is served at important events such as birthday,
moving house, or other ceremonies. Traditionally, Tumpeng is served alongside fried chicken, boiled egg, vegetables, and goat meat on a round plate made from bamboo called besek.
Tempeh: a meat substitute made from soybean fermented with mold. It is a staple source of protein in Java and popular in the world as an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians. (I have hadthis and it will not be on my list of foods to try.)
Gorengan: assorted fritters such as tempeh, tofu, yam, sweet potato, cassava, and chopped vegetables.
Urap sayur: Vegetables in spiced grated coconut dressing.
Lotek: Almost identical with Gado-gado (Indonesian vegetable salad) with sweeter taste. It includes different vegetables, as well as boiled egg slices and a garnish of fish or shrimp crackers and emping (Gnetum gnemon L. nut, flattened, dried, and fried into small thin crackers).
Sayur Lodeh: assorted vegetables stewed in coconut milk.
Buntil: a traditional Javanese dish of scraped coconut meat mixed with teri (anchovies) and
spices, wrapped in a papaya leaf, then boiled in coconut milk.
Botok: a dish made from shredded coconut flesh that has been squeezed of its coconut milk, often mixed with other ingredients such as vegetable or fish, and wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.
Nasi rames: Rice with accompaniments, usually some curried vegetable stew (sayur lodeh), a selection of cooked fish or chicken or meat and offal pieces, and a dollop of spicy sambal.
Nasi kuning is similar to nasi rames or nasi campur, but the rice is cooked in coconut milk and colored bright yellow using turmeric and scented with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
Gule kambing: mutton cooked in a curry-like coconut milk soup.
Sop Buntut: Oxtail soup.
Tumis sayuran: Stir-fried vegetables, usually mixed with chili and a spice paste.
Klepon: A glutinous rice ball stuffed with palm sugar, colored green using pandanus leaf, and rolled in fresh grated coconut.
Jajan pasar: Several types of shaped and colored flour, rice flour, and glutinous rice flour cakes, sprinkled with desiccated coconut and drizzled with melted palm sugar. Jajan literally means snack, and pasar means market, as this snack is usually only found in traditional markets.
Gudeg, a curry of jackfruit, chicken and egg served with rice, and is the most famous local dish. Goopy slop in various shades of brown, the stuff does not look particularly appetizing, but it can be tasty if done right. There are many gudeg restaurants, but the most popular are: Gudeg Wijilan, Gudeg Juminten, Gudeg Bu Tjitro, Gudeg Tugu, Gudeg Bu Ahmad. If you can wake up early in the morning, you may find small stalls serving Gudeg just at the corner of the street, or close to traditional markets. If you can’t sleep at night, you can go to Jalan Janturan and enjoy the Gudeg Pawon (enjoying gudeg inside the old-style kitchen) that open in late night.
Gudeg Tugu offers a complete dish consisting of warm rice, shredded chicken, brown hard-boiled egg, gudeg, areh sauce, and the hot and spicy sambal goreng krecek. Rp 7,000-10,000. Gudeg Sagan is in Jalan Sagan (in front of Toko Sagan Baru) offering rice, seasoned porridge, gudeg, areh sauce, sambal goreng krecek, complete with chicken and brown hard-boiled egg. Gudeg Wijilan Yu Djum offers a more lavish variety of Gudeg, served with thicker sauce, and more expensive, as well.
Ayam goreng Mbok Berek, (Mbok Berek’s fried chicken). Fried free-range chicken with mild garlic and coriander flavor, served with crunchy crackers. Ayam Goreng Suharti is a very popular mbok berek fried chicken restaurant; the recipe still remains a secret.
Nasi langgi, locally known as sego langgi (langgi rice). Warm rice served with various side dishes.
Kipo, bite-size snacks made of green colored tapioca dough filled with sweetened grated coconut. Can be found in Kotagede.
Bakpia, another bite-size snack made from sweetened greenbean paste wrapped with thin dough pastry. The most popular bakpia is known as Bakpia Patuk, which not surprisingly, are sold on Pathuk street, also known as Jl. Aip K.S. Tubun.
Jadah tempe, sandwich of rice cake and sweet beancake. Can be found in Kaliurang.
Es rujak or rujak es krim, a fruit salad made from mangos, papayas, apples, pineapples, cucumbers etc., mixed with palm sugar, lime juice, salt, chillies and (of course) ice cream (es krim). All flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, salty) in one plate..
Angkringan The famous food sold here is Nasi Kucing (Cat Rice) that consists of a small serving of rice with a sambal (chilies) or oseng-oseng and wrapped using a piece of paper or banana leaf.
Dapur Solo Special Yogyakarta and Jawa Tengah delicacies. Famous here for tourists are nasi timlo and nasi liwet.
Yogyakarta is a heaven of inexpensive foods, and some tasty and filling dishes can be had for as low as US$0.25. There are hundreds, if not thousands of hawker stalls offering inexpensive foods. Here are a few choices:
Milas Vegetarian Restaurant Excellent vegetarian restaurant with an organic vegetable garden, multilingual library and handicraft shop. They train local youth in organic farming, cooking and running a restaurant. Eat in small, open bamboo huts placed around a small enclosed garden. Delicious fruit shakes.
Rame Rame Vegetarian A very small restaurant with meat and vegetarian options and owned by a very friendly woman. Has delicious soup, noodles, mushrooms, vegetables, meatballs and cilantro for Rp 9,000 (US$0.80).
Rumah Makan Es Ceria Great, cheap eats – all in a huge smorgasbord, you choose what you like and then the cashier estimates a price. Tasty and dirt cheap. Also ice deserts and fruit shakes.
Sagan Super Sambal Specializing in sambal, the Indonesian delicacy of spicy, hot chilli infused sauce. Also Indonesian-style beef ribs. Rp 5,000-30,000.
Soto Pak Soleh This well-known restaurant is Pak Soleh’s family business and is now
run by his son. They only serve Yogyakarta-style beef soup as their main menu, which has a spicy taste from the added ginger. Rp 5,000.
Waroeng Jepara Famed for their traditional Jepara flavors (only warung in Jogjakarta that serves Jepara food), this modern-furnished warung is run by friendly locals. Specialty includes pecil pari (spicy stingray), bothok tahu (tofu in papaya leaf) and sayur lodeh (jackfruit soup). Rp 5,000-30,000 (US$0.50-2.50.
Soto Pak Marto A local delicacy of beef-based soup served with rice (mixed in or separate), go to the one located near Keraton. Offals are included unless specifically asked for beef only. Fried offals, ordered on the side to be eaten with kecap manis is very delicious.
Pempek Ulu Bundar Located strategically near to Mirota crossroad, serves delicious pempek and kakap meat ball soup. Most expensive menu item is Rp 5,000 (US$0.40).
The House of Raminten Javanese restaurant with traditional food and drink like jamu
godhog (Indonesia’s herbal recipe) and gudeg. Good place to sample local specialties in a sit-down environment; decor is a mix of traditional and funky. From Rp 5,000 (40 cents).
Waroeng Mbah Kakoeng The original taste of Solo city culinary like Selat (vegetables salad)f or Rp. 8.000 (70 cents), gado-gado (mix vegetables with peanut sauce) Rp. 7.000 (60 cents)and Timlo (chicken and vegetables soup) only Rp. 8.000. The waroeng is as homey as mbah kakoeng’s (grandfather) home.
FoodFezt Many kinds of local Indonesian foods: Nasi kebuli, nasi merah, soto betawi, sate buntel, mushroom satay, and also dessert-like pancakes, ice creams, etc. It has a garden with lots of bamboo trees and other plants. The waiters use wireless gadgets to serve their customers in order to maintain a ‘paperless’ order system.
Bakmi Kadin Javanese-style soft-fried noodles. Don’t miss the popular wedang bajigur, a local beverage made from warm coconut milk with subtle ginger flavor and garnished with diced coconut and kolang-kaling. Rp 18,000-20,000 (US$1.50-1.80).
Empek-Empek Kamto Originated from Palembang, deep-fried fish cake and served with sour soy sauce. There are many variety of empek-empek: kapal selam (means submarine) comes with boiled eggs inside, adaaan/bulat has a garlic taste, while lenggang is an empek-empek omelet.
Kedai Tiga Nyonya Peranakan food restaurant, a fusion of Indonesian, Chinese and Dutch cuisine. Their specialty is grilled fish, sour ribs soup, and candlenut chicken. Rp 20,000-50,000.
Pecel Solo Offers a large selection of Solo-style foods like Pecel Solo (vegetables with peanut sauce), Sego Liwet (steamed rice with sweet curry sauce), Nasi Kebuli (pungent rice with roasted lamb), and Bebek Goreng (fried duck Solo style). Rp 10,000-30,000 (US$0.90-2.50).
Quali Resto Serves various kinds of chinese dishes, but their specialty is kwetiaw (wide noodles). Rp 15,000(US$1.30).
Sate Karang Grilled beef satay served with lontongs (rice cake), peanut sauce and thin curry soup. Rp 15.000.
Sapi Bali Serves Balinese-style ribs, although a little too hot and spicy for some foreigners. If you do not prefer hot and spicy dish, opt for soy sauce ribs instead. Rp 25,000.
Sendang K Pitoe, a famous shrimp and seafood restaurant located on the outskirts of the city specifically Jamur, Minggir, Sleman. Very delicious fried shrimp served fresh from the ponds in the still relatively untouched village. Don’t get mistaken by the nearby Mang Engking, also a shrimp restaurant with an ill-earned reputation of dirty food.
EasyGoIn’ A modern and colorful restaurant and bar serving delicious Indonesian and
Western dishes in a comfortable and warm atmosphere. Also a great place for a Happy-Hour drink (2–7PM) at the bar while meeting locals and travelers. Pool table and Wifi are free of charge. Mains: Rp 25,000-60,000. Might have to try this one at the end of a long tour day.
Via Via An excellent traveler’s cafe, there are clocks on the wall showing the time in other Via Via cafes around the world and a mix of travelers and Indonesian locals. Offers a range of western dishes (good French onion soup) and specialty Indonesian dishes at a good price. Caters very well to vegetarians (tofu and tempe). Cane chairs and lots of space and games. Rp 20,000-40,000.
KESUMA Restaurant Javanese blend of family and fine dining restaurant, in the
tradition of the best warungs. In this cozy and pleasant place you will find a fresh local home cooking. There is a small garden where guests can settle in a gazebo. The main room is a traditional Javanese style wooden house (Limasan). Rp 130 000 – 200 000 (US$11-18). This is a little higher priced but looks interesting and will make for a nice evening out.
Royal Garden Restaurant Chinese-Indonesian dishes with kraton-style atmosphere. Rp 40,000-80,000.
Gajah Wong Serves many kind of dishes including French, Italian, Indian, Chinese, as well as Indonesian. Divided into 3 zones: Country, Javanese and Colonial, each is lavishly decorated and themed with live music. In the Javanese zone, you can hear the Javanese gamelan music performed throughout the night, while the Colonial zone has a live jazz band.
Warong Opera – Occupying a wonderful traditional Javanese house built from teak, this unusual and bohemian restaurant is an outstanding place to sample home-style Indonesian dishes. Donny, the flamboyant owner, also does fortune reading from coffee cups.
My mouth is salivating. Ready to rock and roll. Next post: on the road to Yogyakarta.