Best of Bandung served up at Braga Street food soiree

Visitors braved the rain for a taste of Bandung’s famous street food at the inaugural Braga Culinary Festival last weekend. (JG)

Visitors braved the rain for a taste of Bandung’s famous street food at the inaugural Braga Culinary Festival last weekend. (JG)

RAIN CONTINUED to drench the streets. The unrelenting weather and news of inundated streets discouraged people from leaving their houses that night. However, on Jalan Braga, residents of Bandung seemed keen and ready to go out, patiently waiting for the rain to stop, because at 7 p.m. the Braga Culinary Night began.

The brainchild of Bandung’s new mayor, Ridwan Kamil, the culinary festival is scheduled to take place every Saturday night on Bandung’s famous historical street, which closes to traffic from 5 p.m. Vendors soon arrived to set up their stalls, and two hours later the festival officially opened for Bandung’s food lovers, before finally closing at 1 a.m.

As the new weekly event was staged for the first time, the street quickly became packed with vendors and customers who couldn’t care less about the downpour. Organizers fittingly chose to decorate the street with brightly colored umbrellas, which provided some protection from the rain.

The festival offered a myriad of Bandung’s specialty snacks, as well as fried foods, meatballs, grilled sausages, sushi and even steak, as each vendor tried to lure customers into their colorfully designed stalls. Some vendors even tried to be creative in preparing their food – like a fruit juice stand that prepares its drinks using a pedal-powered juicer to captivate visitors.

Ultimately, however, it’s the daring and unique selection of food – something that defines Bandung’s culinary scene – that grabbed the most attention.

The festival is part of an ongoing effort to restore Braga to its past glory. The area is known for its heritage buildings dating back to the Dutch colonial times, but unregulated transport, damaged road surfaces and poor maintenance of the historical buildings have left the street looking shabby and glum.

Mayor Ridwan aims to revitalize Jalan Braga with the culinary festival. He also has plans to make Jalan Braga a pedestrian-only zone, paving the asphalt road with cobblestones.

Ridwan said the event was designed to provide an incentive for people to enjoy the open space and appreciate Bandung’s colonial architectural heritage.

“The concept is basically derived from Car-Free Night but with a culinary theme, because Bandung is well-known for its culinary scene as well as its cold evening weather,” he said.

“The concept is cool and extraordinary because it could become a tourist destination. Moreover, the food sold here is Bandung’s specialty. I was impressed!” said Tyas Nastiti, a visitor from Surabaya, East Java.

Last week’s festival, however, still left room for improvement; it was quite difficult for visitors to even walk, let alone eat, comfortably, and there seemed to be no zoning plans for booths as lines disrupted people’s access.

On his Twitter account, Ridwan promised that for future development there would be benches and tables for people to dine comfortably. The city also has plans to stage similar events in other areas.

For those who want to enjoy Saturday night with food unique to Bandung, amid exotic, historical buildings, Braga Culinary Night is definitely worth a try. – The Jakarta Globe

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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