Every time people ask me what's interesting to enjoy in Jakarta, I usually say, enjoy the traffic jam (sarcastically) and (also) have a bite of local food. And of course, when they go a bit deeper about what kind of food they should try, I would recommend jajanan kota para pedagang kaki lima (snacks from street-side sellers) that exists in every corner of the city. That itself is an experience.Have cart, will sell food
Pedagang kaki lima
is a large part of our food culture in Indonesia where the seller uses gerobak
to ply their food trade. Gerobak
is a movable wooden box which contains a hot stove, complete with mini table and chairs in case the consumer wants to eat by the side of the road. It’s like a mini circus magic cart with food!
O Seller, what tasty treats await for me?
The funny thing about the term pedagang kaki lima
which loosely means street-side seller but translated literally is 5-feet seller, is the fact that the seller has two legs and three other 'legs' from their gerobak itself (two wheels and one stand hence physically having 5 feet). Historically, this term was established during Dutch colonial times, where the government ruled that pedestrian walkways should be 5 feet in width. Years after independence, pretty much every inch of these walkways are used by sellers to sell their stuff, mainly food.
With this culture alone, I always feel it's a cosy way to enjoy local food back home. The fact that they also roam around in residential areas makes it even easier to eat whatever you want to eat at any time, without really having to go out. All you need to do is wait for them to pass by your house, stop them and get your dishes made in front of your door!
Door to door service!
And in case you're wondering how to differentiate the sellers passing by, it's easy. Due to their marketing efforts, I found it hilarious that there are actually different sounds and colours for every gerobak
. Take a look at my top three favorite gerobak
- Bakso, Bubur Ayam and Nasi Goreng. They come with different knocking sounds, some of them even play cute songs not unlike an advertisement jingle. Funny! Each gerobak
also diversifies their design element, in terms of the colour that they use. Nowadays they even decorate their gerobak
in all sorts of ways to be more eye-catching.
Wish they had bubur ayam like this in KL
Being far away from home, I do miss the easy access of food like this- the idea of having your food come to you without you having to leave your home. I see gerobak
as a branch of Jakarta’s local culinary arts. Not only do they serve people fast and good food, they have also become one of my city’s cultural icons.
Just wave and they will come...
So, for those who still ask me about the terrible traffic jams back home, don't worry. You’ll never go hungry with our gerobak
culture. Open your window and wave to them. In a split second they will serve you kacang rebus, pisang goreng, tahu goring or anything you want to munch on while killing time. Awesome indeed.