Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 13 July 2014 • Destination
In the month of Ramadhan, moslems will fast from dusk till dawn. For the whole day, Muslims will not eat, drink, nor fall into our emotions whatever they may be (more on Ramadhan 101 here). While this sounds like a month of cutting back, it’s the opposite in Indonesia. It’s a month of festivity. Putting aside the religious side of things, when it comes to food Ramadhan is about having it all. It’s the month where special menus appear, pop-up vendors come to live, and people start getting crazy over cravings. It’s pretty ironic really, but it’s an irony that can make the tummy happy. One place to fulfill these desires is the Bendungan Hilir Market (or Benhil Market), that pop-ups annually during Ramadhan month in Jakarta.
Benhil Market is eye candy of traditional food. You would rarely find burgers, hotdog, cappuccinos, spaghetti or other international menus on the table. Maybe, there will be a chance of dim sum and grilled sausages, but that’s just about it. The menu would be savory or sweet grub. Savory food would be that which you will eat with rice, such as curry, fritters, veggies, and proteins. Sweets would be cakes, desserts, sugar cane juice, soymilk and other smile-generating tasty treats. There are also different types of carbs, as if rice wasn’t enough (of course, it’s not!). We have ‘ketupat’ or cube-like sticky rice wrapped in palm leaves and also known as ‘puso’ in the Philippines, ‘buras’ or rice wrapped in banana leaves, and ‘lemang’ or sticky rice cooked in bamboo.
“Can I take a picture of these?” I asked the Betawi ‘dodol’ seller.
“Sure. If it makes it on TV, it will sell better,” he says. I said that I wasn’t from a TV station and he just laughed, showing he didn’t mean it and still let me take a picture of his goods and himself.
Photo bomb alert!
Benhil Market is super crazy during the weekends. The vendors can be really loud, yet friendly at the same time. People are elbow-to-elbow, butt cheek-to-butt cheek in search of the food they want or what they think they want. It was a struggle just to move from one table to the other, by the end I was dripping in sweat as if I just came out of a tight non-AC bus. Also, it’s pretty hard (or too easy!) to choose food when you’re hungry. You become fierce and greedy, like the person next to you. It’s a test for those fasting. I failed a few times having to bring home a little too much food.
Note: it’s better to visit on a weekday for a pleasant see through. Weekends are for those that want to see the real commotion.
For a local like me, and I’ve confirmed this also with Vira, most of the food taste so-so. I think Benhil Market’s famous reputation have led most of the vendors chasing after profit more than maintaining the taste of their food. However, there were still a few good chows amongst my shopping that day and it didn’t let me lose hope. The festivity of a market will also have me coming back for more. Benhil Market is alive at around 3 p.m and is located in front of the Benhil daily market.
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