Yogyakarta, also known as Jogja, is indeed a heaven for culinary lovers. Now, after an exciting day visiting the Sultan Palace or strolling down the colorful city, how about recharging your energy with scrumptious meals? The big question is: What to eat? You’re new to the city and the foods seem to be alien. Worry not and just read on. Here are Yogyakarta’s five best food that you’ve got to try when you are in town.
Gudeg: Specialty of Jogja
Ask Indonesians about the most popular food in Jogja, and they will give you one answer for your question: Gudeg! It is a sweet-flavored dish made from jackfruit stew. Together with coconut milk, palm sugar and spices (salt, pepper, garlic etc), the raw jackfruit [known as gori] is cooked in a claypot. It’s not easy to cook the dish, as the stewing process takes hours. But, the end result is worth the long cooking process. After boiled, the gori becomes soft and tender. Infused with the sugar and spices, the gori becomes deliciously sweet.
Gudeg is always served with white rice and side dishes such as krecek (spicy beef skin), telur pindang (sweet egg), tofu or tempeh bacem (sweet tofu or tempeh cake), ayam bacem (sweet chicken), and areh gurih (coconut milk dressing). Since gudeg is cooked for hours, the food won’t easily go bad and you can even save the food till the next day. There is one area named Wijilan street where the street is packed with gudeg warung (Indonesian style restaurant, with modest facilities and casual service) and food stalls. It is located near Jogja’s main street of Malioboro and Keraton (Javanese Royal palace) area.
Our recommendation: Find Warung Yu Djum. It’s easy to find, as it has a big banner displayed on its facade. Why? Warung Yu Djum, opened since 1950, is the busiest gudeg warung (a type of small family-owned business) on the street. It’s not without a reason, though. They cook the gudeg atop stove fed with firewood instead of the common gas stove, making the cooking process longer and as a result, the food becomes more tender with all the seasonings that seeped through the food. Another thing is, instead of chicken egg, this warung uses duck egg with the gudeg (it’s more chewy!).
Brongkos: Yummy spicy dark beef
The next food you’ve got to try while in Jogja is Brongkos. The main ingredient for this luscious dish is beef. Cooked with coconut milk, kecap manis (dark, thick and sweet soy sauce), ginger, lemongrass, galangal and chili, the beef in brongkos tastes sweet and also spicy. Just like gudeg, brongkos is always served with white rice and best enjoyed while it’s hot. For the best Brongkos, go to Warung Handayani. Located at Yogyakarta’s alun alun (town square, south of Yogyakarta, about 2 kilometer from Malioboro street), it is one of the the oldest warung that sells Brongkos and the business is always good all week long, giving you a good signal that this is the best in town.
Sego Pecel: Best for vegetarians
Another must-try on the list is Sego Pecel. Just as the name suggest, sego pecel is sego [Javanese for rice] served with pecel. Pecel itself is a dish made of various vegetables dressed with spicy peanut sauce. Pecel is just like salad, but the vegetables are cooked and the sauce dressing is spicy as it is also tasty. Spinach, green bean and bean sprouts are cooked in boiling water, drained and served with spicy peanut sauce.
Pecel are served with rice, krupuk (prawn cracker) and fried tempeh [fermented soy beans]. This is a perfect food for vegetarians! If you don’t know where to find a good pecel, go to Yogyakarta’s most popular warung pecel named Bu Wiryo near the biggest university in Jogja, Gajah Mada University that is located in the east of Jogja. For 9,000 IDR (0.70 USD) you will get a large portion of vegetables with sweeter and thicker peanut gravy. However, you can’t have the chili sauce separate from the dish, as it is included in the food, so be ready for the spice!
Jadah Tempe: Chewy Javanese rice cake
This dish is very simple looking. A slice of white, savory and chewy rice cake served with a piece of tempeh bacem [sweet soy cake]. The chewy texture is resulted from glutinous rice, a type of rice that is usually used for Japanese mochi cake. Well, the texture is just like mochi; chewy and sticky but it isn’t sweet and the savory fragrance comes from pounded coconut. As it is made from rice, eating just a few slices of this dish will be enough. Jadah tempe is sold everywhere in Jogja, starting from pasar (Indonesian traditional market where many people do their business activities) to food stalls in almost every corner of the city.
Botok Mandingan: Unappealing look but appetizing taste
Last but not least is a simple Javanese dish called botok mandingan, sometimes known as botok mlanding. The main ingredient for the dish is what Javanese call lamtoro/mlanding/mandingan, beans of leucaena leucocephala, which can be found easily in Jogja. The small beans are mixed with anchovies, grated coconut and ground spices, and then wrapped in banana leaves before they are steamed. The dish is eaten with rice and like jadah tempeh, it can easily be found in pasar. It may look gross upon first sight when you open the wrap, but trust me, the mixture of anchovies, grated coconut, mlanding and oriental spices is so delicious.
Cheap and easy to find
You can easily find these food in Jogja. Just walk down Malioboro street and you will find gudeg, brongkos, pecel, jadah tempe and botok easily. They are sold on the streets as well as in restaurants located nearby. And the best news is… they are cheap! The ones sold in street food stalls will cost less than 1 USD, but if you prefer dining in a restaurant, 5 USD will be more than enough to enjoy a yummy serving of Jogjanese local cuisine.