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Jakarta, a heaven for food lovers

Street delight: A customer savors tahu gejrot, a traditional food made with fried tofu in spicy sweet-and-sour sauce with shallots and chili, at Warung Ibu Susi in Pasar Baru in Central Jakarta on Sunday. JP/Nurhayati

Publication Date : 24-04-2012

 

With a wide variety of food choices available, many Jakartans are willing to travel across the city to indulge their palate, making the culinary sector the biggest contributor to tax revenue from the city’s tourism.

Take food worshiper Lamtiur Hasibuan, 27, as an example. She spends her weekends strolling around the capital enjoying her favourite restaurants, or sampling the food of new restaurants.

“If I don’t go to one of my favourite restaurants, I just pick a random area and see what kind of food is available there, anything from street vendors to a fancy restaurant,” Tiur said.

If she finds the food delicious, no matter how expensive, it is guaranteed she will return with friends.

“When it comes to culinary, the taste comes first, then the price. Hunting food in Jakarta is fun, you don’t know what kind of food you can find in the different areas of the city,” the pork meatball enthusiast said, adding that her favourite locations for food hunting are Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta and Kota in West Jakarta.

Tiur also said that because there were many options now available in Jakarta, she no longer had to travel abroad to satisfy her culinary interests.

Private employee Dwi Gunarwati, who also shares similar opinions with Tiur, said Jakarta was a great city for food lovers from all income brackets seeking to satisfy their hungry tummies.

Besides the many foreign franchise restaurants available, the emergence of local restaurant chains and ubiquitous food centres offering affordable hard-to-resist dishes has pleased food lovers, Dwi said.

“I can see there has been a massive development in the city’s culinary sector in the past few years. Well, that’s good. Food lovers can choose all kinds of meals depending on their taste, while at the same time giving a chance for local businesses to boom,” said Dwi, who loves sushi.

Jakarta Tourism Agency head Arie Budhiman said the rapid growth experienced by the food and beverage sector in the capital had made it one of the most promising sectors in tourism.

“The culinary sector has a lot of potential in Jakarta. It’s no longer about fulfilling the food needs of the people, but has also become a lifestyle for some,” he said.

Arie said the habit of many Jakartans to gather and hang out while enjoying the food offered at cafes’, restaurants or even at street-side food centres had in some way helped boost the city’s tax revenue.

Such habits have also driven the rapid growth of 24-hour convenience stores that provide food and beverages, such as 7-Eleven and Lawson.

According to Jakarta Tourism Agency, in 2011, there were a total of 3,497 food and beverage businesses in Jakarta; 2,738 of which were restaurants, 704 were bars and 55 food courts. The total number was an increase from 3,181 recorded in 2010.

The culinary sector contributed to half of the city’s tax revenue from tourism in 2011, totaling 1.01 trillion rupiah (US$109 million), up from 835 billion rupiah in 2010. The total tax revenue from tourism in 2011 was 2.17 trillion rupiah, according to the Jakarta Tax Office Agency.

However, Arie said, the culinary sector in Jakarta could develop further if some of the policies regarding food imports were loosened.

“Restaurants are real economic hives that can generate a huge amount of tax revenue. I don’t think it’s supposed to be burdened by tight taxation systems,” he said.

 

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