Taste Central

Semarang is a steamy coastal city that is usually given a miss by tourist more interested in Yogyakarta's draws. When it comes to food, however, the capital of Central Java has something for everyone,
Toko Oen
Jalan Pemuda 52 - Semarang
I visited the restaurant for the first time as a boy in 1981 with my grandfather. Its was a memorable experience. I remember very well the delicious croquette he ordered as starter; warm an fat, with crunchy fried breadcrumbs giving up tender mashed potatoes with chunks of chicken.
Heavenly! A full 30 years later, it seemed nothing had changed in this Dutch-style restaurant. There were the same low wovwn chairs, old piano, yellowing photos and white-outfitted waiters in peci (traditional caps), Oen's icons. I sat down by the old piano close to the bakery counter and ordered Oen's Symphony (a bowl of assorted homemade ice cream). Then I Commenced to enjoy not only the ice cream but the relaxing ambience.
Toko Oen Semarang was wstablished in the 1930s in Bodjong street (now Jalan Pemuda, in front of Sri Ratu Supermarked) after the old Toko Oen founded in Yogya in 1922 (the Toko Oens of Yogya and Jakarta are long closed, although the Malang Oen, no longer affiliated with the Semarang eatery, is still open). Toko Oen Semarang's main claim to fame is the appetizing Dutch menu and Indonesia cuisine, as well as the nostalgic atmosphere. Its homemade cakes (my favorite is oentbijkoek, a spicy cake heady with cinnamon and nutmeg), breads, cookies and ice cream are standounts. For me, Toko Oen is a place where I can sit back and think back to the goog old days.
Istana Wedang
Jalan Pemuda 121

In kampong my uncle, wedang (say whey-dunk), means beverage, usually hot ones, such as tea, coffee, wedang jahe (a ginger drink) and wedang ronde (a fiery ginger drink served in a bowl with glutinous balls filled with palm sugar and sprinkled with peanuts). Usually hot tea or hot coffee are served in a tall glass or a cup. Wedangan is the term for when friends hang out over hot drinks, the traditional forerunner of today's urban coffee culture. Wedang are easy to find in warung (food stalls) and local restaurants in Semarang. But Istana Wedang venue in Semarang. It also serves delicious traditional snacks and Chinese food. Price range Rp. 3,000 - Rp. 30,000.
Tahu Pong
Jalan Gajah Mada 63B
Pong or kopong or kosong means empty. The tahu (tofu) is cut into dice shapes and then deep fried. A bite into the crispy tofu reveals the empty center, and it has became one of Semarang's local specialties. My favorite is Tahu Pong at Jalan Gajah Mada, located near Gumaya Hotel, right in front of Bethany Church. The Stall's stamp of authenticity is that it has no brancher and has been in business since the 1970s.
Tahu pong is served with bumbu kecap ( soy sauce mixed with fried chopped shallots and garlic), and acar timun (pickled cucumbers). special is served with egg and gimbal udang (shrimp fritter). Price range Rp. 3,000 - Rp. 15,000.

Lumpia Mbak Lien
Jalan Pemuda Gang Grajen

As with many foodies traveling to Semarang, lumpia (spring roll) is always top of my list, with Mbak Lien's my all-time, must-have favorite. The spring rolls filled jullienned rebung (bamboo shoots), chopped shrimp, chiken meat, egg, garlic and pihie (a dried fish touted for enhancing virility). When other lumpia stalls abd shops sell their wares in a Rp. 3,000-Rp. 7,500 price range, Mbak Lien's are Rp. 8,000, and the thick, fat and so luscious rolls are worth every penny. Many love the fried version, with the flavorsome filling encased in the crunch pastry, but I am devoted to the unfried ones (lumpia basah) because I focus on the succulent stuffing. Enjoy either version with spring onions, acar timun (pickled cucumbers) and saus kelwa (a jelly-like sauce) for truly authentic Semarang spring rolls.
Semarang's spring-roll history reportedly began at the end of the 19th century when Tjoa Thay Yoe moved to the Java town from China. He sold authentic versions of the rolls of his homeland. Mbak Lien's is a third generation seller.

Semawis, the Semarang Chinatown

Semarang, like almost every large city in Indonesia, has pecinan (Chinatown). In all my years livingin the city I had never visited this section of town, which is known for the ethnic Chinese community's efforts to preserve and revitalize their culture. After the repression of Chinese-Indonesians during the New Order regime through draconian regulations, in 2003 the Chinese community set up the Komunitas Pecinan Semarang untuk Parawisata (Semarang Chinese Community for Tourism) populary known as Semawis. In the beginning it was proclaimed as a Chinese New Year Marked where people could purchase food and worship items such as candles, flowers and fragrance. Klentang (Chinese temples) are in every corner and deliver magical ambience through their bright red and gold decorations. The area has since emerged as a place to visit during a trip to Semarang.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, Pasar Semawis becames a lively, exciting nightspot. red lanterns, karouke joints playing Mandarin songs, fortune tellers and stalls offering jade accesories stalls are part of the Sun. Some of the Chinese dishes include sate babi (pork satay) and swikee (frog soup) are at every corner, and Muslims like me seeking halal food (prepared according to islamic dietary rules) also will not go hungry because there is a whole smorgasbord of delicious food to be found. My favorites include nasi ayam, rice with chicken meat and egg in coconut milk soup ( Rp. 7,000) and Es Cong Lik; ice cream-like, served with jelly, shredded coconut and ripe durian (Rp. 7.500). Mouth-watering! The food price range in the area is abaut Rp. 2,000-Rp. 25,000, which is a steal for the taste.
How to get there: Semawis is located at Gang Pinggir, abaut 10-15 minutes by becak (Rp. 10,000) from Simpang Lima or Jalan Pemuda.

Kedai Mama
Jalan Gajah Mada 125

Its tag line-the heritage cuisine-on the sign outside the restaurant drew me in. Mr. jongkie Tio, the owner, told me the story of how he and his wife, Puspawati set up the small restaurant in 1991. In the beginning they offered European and Indonesian dishes but then chose on Indonesian heritage cuisine. jongkie Tio knows very well abaut local cuisine. In his book, Kota Semarang-Dalam Kenangan (Semarang City in Memories), he describes the interraction between Chinese and Javanese in Semarang, culminating in its unique cuisine.
My favorite beverage in Kedai Mama is bir Jawa (literally Javanese beer but actually a non alcoholic refreshing spicy beverage). And the Lontong Cap Go Meh reminds me of my grandmothers's lontong opor (ricecake served with chicken and egg in coconut milk) Price range from Rp. 5,000-Rp. 35,000

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