Food Stalls and Ramadhan Snacks: Jakarta, West Java

Passersby. Cars. Motorcycles. The cacophony of vehicle horns. The regular chaotic Jakarta traffic seems to get worse during the holy month of Ramadhan. Some try to beat the traffic so they can break the fast at home with their families, while others hit the streets to satisfy their taste buds after a day of fasting.

Lovers, friends, families and lone wanderers all flocked Sunday afternoon to Bendungan Hilir traditional market, Central Jakarta, where more than 83 stalls are participating in the month-long food fair that takes place every Ramadhan.

People bumped into each other in the small spaces between the rows of temporary stalls, while others had to walk alongside moving vehicles on edge of the street.

Some were in the search of, or just browsing for, snacks and drinks to break their fast, while others were hunting for a new taste sensation.

At the stalls you will find fruit cocktails, juices and traditional drinks like cendol — green glutinous rice flour pieces mixed with palm sugar syrup and coconut milk.

An array of main courses and traditional cakes are also available, like serabi — a thick green or white pancake covered with coconut milk and brown sugar sauce — and bubur sumsum — a dish made from rice flour, coconut milk, pandanus leaves and a sweet sauce.

A mother of two, Lala, who lives in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta, said she and her family visited the stalls for a new experience.

“We learned about the stalls from the TV news. So, here we are now,” she said.

“I’ve spent at least Rp 150,000 (US$15.96) already on snacks and drinks. I’m still looking for nasi Padang (Padang cuisine).”

Lala’s daughter, Imelda, said the family usually browsed the food stalls in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, “because it’s closer to our house. So, this is our first time here”.

Meanwhile, another buyer, who asked not to be named, said she had not heard about the food fair.

“I passed this street by coincidence. I saw many people and thought to stop by for a while,” she said.

“I bought a few things. I wanted to buy serabi but I was too late. So, I was only able to get sosis solo (minced meat inside a pastry roll).”

The food fair has apparently brought not only opportunities for food hunters and fasting Muslims, but also fortune for the vendors there.

Dede said she earned more than Rp 6 million a day by selling dishes such as bubur sumsum, tapai ketan hitam — sweet fermented black sticky rice — and ketan srikaya — sticky rice with brown sugar and coconut milk — on weekends and ketupat sayur — a rice cake snack with vegetables stirred in coconut milk — on weekdays.

“The business is good, although our goods usually run out by 4:30 p.m.,” said Dede, one of the employees at the stall, who has been selling dishes at the Ramadhan food fair for seven years.

“We usually open our stall at 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. and close by 4 p.m., and that’s enough time to collect more than Rp 6 million a day.”

The food fair seems to offer similar economic opportunities for both old and new traders.

One seller, Yuni, who usually sells dishes in Ekonid — the German chamber of commerce and industry in Indonesia, located in Central Jakarta — said she was blessed to have the opportunity to sell fruit cocktails during the food fair.

“We pay Rp 1.5 million to rent stall space during the food fair but Alhamdulillah (Thank God), I earn nearly 1 million rupiah a day,” said Yuni, who began participating in the food fair last year.

Around dusk, sellers began to close their stalls, as food and beverages started to run out at the end of another busy day.

Mustaqim Adamrah