While it proved to be elusive, at least for me, I successfully traced the whereabouts of this legendary seafood hawker after it moved out from its original neighborhood. The result for the hardship was a dining experience worth its weight in gold!
It feels like ages, but actually, it hasn’t been that long. In a previous life, I was part of one of those banking enterprises around the Jalan Sudirman. My officemates and I used to have dinner at street food stalls around the office or head north for the shopping malls.
One of the options they asked me back then was to have a dinner at Santiga Seafood in Benhil, a portmanteau for Jalan Bendungan Hilir. It was a nay that time for me as I was rushing for a prior engagement somewhere else and the chance never came again until quite recently after all those years.
Much to my dismay, my personal tour around the street made me realize that Santiga was no longer there to be found, aside from another hawker of slightly the same name took over the old place where Santiga used to be.
Finally, I discovered that they moved permanently out of the neighborhood two years ago further south to Jalan Fatmawati. It’s a strange move considering they had hardcore fans around the area but I assume that if the food was that good, then people will follow them wherever they go.
So there I was on Jalan Fatmawati, in front of a closed ceramic store where Santiga had relocated. They set up a huge tent and were open for Jakarta’s seafood fans all night long. Business was good that night as patrons filled most of the seats even if it was already past 10pm on a weekday. The cooks were busy in front of their hot woks, the large flames bursting underneath, the fish griller in front of the shack commanded the wafting smokes that surely signaled for everybody to come. Street musicians were playing on the side, accompanying those who were waiting in anticipation of the great food coming their way.
Usually, seafood hawkers cook their meals Chinese-style, with basic dishes such as fried rice, fried noodle and stir-fry vegetables present on the menu too. The cooks were ready to serve the rich catch from the sea in various types of cooking, as varied as the seafood available. From gourami to snapper are available to be fried or grilled. But before that, be sure to try the boiled cockles, or known locally as kerang rebus, as the opener served with appetizing pineapple sambal.
That night, I enjoyed the prawns - stir-fried in oyster sauce, and the crispy calamari. I found it rather inconsistent for some restaurants and side-street hawkers to be able to bread the cuttlefish well and fried it evenly, but Santiga clearly achieved it successfully.
While enjoying all these goodness, I spied a bit on other tables only to find the customers are all happy and enjoying their loot as well. The highlight that night was a guy eating so many steamed prawns all by his own and a family of three sharing a really good looking black pepper crab. That view alone made me want to visit the place again!
When are you going?
SANTIGA SEAFOOD BENHIL
Halal-friendly (ask for the use of angciu)
Unsuitable for vegetarians
Jalan R.S. Fatmawati no. 42, Jakarta - Indonesia
Everyday, 6pm – 2am
Spend: IDR 50,000 – IDR 100,000 / person
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE May 2014 edition
Download it for free here via SCOOP!
Photos by: Dennie Benedict