If you’re a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, Jakarta is the perfect place to explore. The diverse city has plenty of options for those craving delicious falafel, kebab, and other flavorful dishes. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the history of Middle Eastern cuisine in Jakarta, the top restaurants to visit, the must-try dishes, and even some vegetarian and vegan options. Let’s dive into the world of Middle Eastern food in Jakarta!
A Brief History of Middle Eastern Cuisine in Jakarta
Before we get into the delicious food offerings, it’s worth understanding the history of Middle Eastern cuisine in Jakarta. Middle Eastern traders have been visiting the Indonesian archipelago for centuries, bringing with them their unique spices, cooking styles, and ingredients.
The Influence of Middle Eastern Traders
Arab traders were the first to introduce Middle Eastern cuisine to Indonesia, with a particular focus on spice trading. These traders came from various parts of the Middle East, including Yemen, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. They introduced dishes to the locals such as kebab, gyros, and shawarma, which quickly became popular in Indonesia. The locals were fascinated by the unique taste and aroma of the Middle Eastern spices, which were unlike anything they had tasted before.
The Middle Eastern traders not only brought their cuisine to Indonesia but also left a lasting impact on the country’s culture. They introduced Islam to the region, which is now the dominant religion in Indonesia. The Middle Eastern influence can be seen in the architecture of mosques, the traditional dress of Muslim women, and even in the language spoken by the locals.
The Growth of Middle Eastern Restaurants in Jakarta
Over the years, Middle Eastern cuisine continued to gain popularity in Jakarta, leading to the rise in restaurants specializing in the cuisine. Today, there are a variety of fine dining options and casual eateries dedicated to serving Middle Eastern food. These restaurants not only offer traditional Middle Eastern dishes but also fusion dishes that combine Middle Eastern and Indonesian flavours.
One of the most popular Middle Eastern restaurants in Jakarta is Nusa Indonesian Gastronomy, which offers a unique twist on Middle Eastern cuisine. The restaurant combines traditional Indonesian ingredients with Middle Eastern spices to create a fusion of flavours that is truly unique. Another popular restaurant is Turkuaz, which offers a wide variety of Middle Eastern dishes, including lamb and chicken kebabs, hummus, and falafel.
For those who prefer a more casual dining experience, there are street food vendors serving mouth-watering Middle Eastern snacks. One of the most popular snacks is the martabak, which is a type of stuffed pancake filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. Another popular snack is the kue cubit, which is a small, fluffy pancake that is topped with a variety of sweet and savoury toppings.
In conclusion, Middle Eastern cuisine has a long and rich history in Jakarta, dating back to the days of Arab traders. Today, Middle Eastern cuisine continues to be a popular choice among locals and tourists alike, with a variety of restaurants and street food vendors offering delicious and unique dishes.
Top Middle Eastern Restaurants in Jakarta
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best places to indulge in delicious Middle Eastern food in Jakarta. There’s something for everyone, from fine dining options to casual eateries and hidden gems.
For a fancy night out, head to one of the fine dining establishments offering Middle Eastern food. Try Lawless Burgerbar, which offers an upscale atmosphere and delicious Middle Eastern-inspired burgers
Another must-visit is Turkuaz, which offers Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine in an elegant setting.
Baba Rafi Kebab
If you’re looking for something more casual, there are plenty of options to choose from. One standout is Baba Rafi Kebab, which serves up some of Jakarta’s best kebabs.
Another option is Kopi Kalyan, which serves up Middle Eastern-inspired coffee drinks and light bites in a relaxed ambience.
Sosis Arab Asli
For those looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, Jakarta has plenty of hidden gems to explore. One popular spot is Sosis Arab Asli, which serves up delicious hot dogs and other Middle Eastern-inspired dishes.
Another great option is the Middle Eastern kiosks in Grand Indonesia, where you can taste authentic shawarma and falafel.
Must-Try Middle Eastern Dishes
Now that you know where to eat, let’s take a closer look at some must-try Middle Eastern dishes. We’ll break it down by course, starting with appetizers and salads.
Appetizers and Salads
You can’t go wrong with classic hummus or baba ghanoush as an appetizer. For something more adventurous, try the spicy fatta, a Middle Eastern bread salad. Tabbouleh, a parsley-based salad, is also a popular choice.
For a hearty main course, try the classic kebab, served with rice and grilled vegetables. Another popular choice is the shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce with spices. And of course, don’t forget about falafel!
Desserts and Sweets
Satisfy your sweet tooth with some traditional Middle Eastern desserts. Baklava, a layered pastry with nuts and honey, is a popular choice. Another delicious option is halva, a sweet made from sesame paste. And for a refreshing treat, try the rose-flavoured ice cream at Turkuaz.
Vegetarian and Vegan Middle Eastern Options
For those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, fear not – there are plenty of Middle Eastern options for you too!
Plant-Based Dishes to Look Out For
Vegetarian options include dishes such as the vegetarian kebab, stuffed grape leaves, or the classic falafel. For a vegan option, try the fattoush salad or the lentil soup.
Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Jakarta
Several restaurants in Jakarta offer vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. Some must-visit spots include Vegan Seed, a fully vegan restaurant serving up Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, and Burgreens, a plant-based restaurant with a variety of options.
The Role of Spices in Middle Eastern Cuisine
No discussion of Middle Eastern cuisine would be complete without mentioning the role of spices in the cuisine. The unique blend of spices is what gives Middle Eastern dishes their distinct flavour.
Commonly Used Spices
Some of the most commonly used spices in Middle Eastern cuisine include cumin, coriander, turmeric, and sumac. Other popular spices include cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron.
Health Benefits of Middle Eastern Spices
Spices not only add flavour to dishes but also offer several health benefits. For example, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, while cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar levels. Sumac is also high in antioxidants.
Summing It Up
From classic kebabs to vegetarian-friendly options, Jakarta offers endless choices for those looking to explore Middle Eastern cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or street food, there’s something for everyone. With its rich history and influence on Indonesian cuisine, Middle Eastern food has become a beloved part of Jakarta’s food scene. So grab your fork and explore the delicious flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine in Jakarta!