Vigorous and forever young, Ibu Tinah hides behind her spirited façade an experience of selling gudeg for almost fifty years on the streets of Gondangdia. The Foodie Magazine travels there to seek out the story behind the making of this delicious dish.
Gondangdia is no short of historic places to eat. From street food to restaurants, these notable eateries share their part in Jakarta’s food history dated since as far as the early days of this country.
From the street food, Gondangdia used to have Soto Betawi H. Ma’ruf here back before they relocated to Taman Ismail Marzuki in Cikini. From the restaurants, we have for example Cahaya Kota and its classical Chinese food which was a favorite of this Indonesia’s first president.
One of the untold stories that we pursue this time is Gudeg Bu Tinah, which was unofficially started circa 1968.
Inconspicuously located among the hawkers on the small street just beside the train station, the five-seater semi-permanent hawker sees no stopping of customers since early morning until late lunch time.
The usual repertoire from Ibu Tinah’s traditional gudeg involves krecek, hard boiled eggs, and chicken; but feel free to ask for a complete offering with the addition of tahu tempe bacem and also the exquisite chicken feet. Make no mistake, the hardcore fans of Gudeg Bu Tinah would specifically bypass the rest and only choose chicken feet with rice for lunch. Well, it is that special!
Ibu Tinah’s experience with gudeg started when she was still 9 years old. Moving out to Jakarta may still be a scary experience for some until this modern age, but for Ibu Tinah, it was a must so she can support the livelihood of her family back in Yogyakarta.
“I dropped out of school on my second grade and had since been helping my late aunt’s gudeg business on the nearby market here”, says Ibu Tinah starting her story.
For almost two decades, the young Ibu Tinah gave her all to her aunt’s business from lifting the heavy rice pot, helping out with all the grinding and cooking, slaughtering the chicken, and also boiling hundreds of eggs every single day. She did that wholeheartedly and unwaveringly so that she can learn everything about the business.
“After I got married, I told my aunt that I wanted to open my own gudeg business nearby. No matter how modest it would be or how hard the challenge is, it was a decision that I am ready to face”, she says.
Instead of letting her go, her aunt decided to let Ibu Tinah inherit her business. While staunch opposition arose from the direct family, her aunt was already determined to let Ibu Tinah instead to continue the legacy. Perhaps it was because of her hardship for all these years – the very fact that Ibu Tinah wishes to conceal out of modesty.
“It was never easy in the beginning. We had to move around quite a bit but luckily we’re still in Gondangdia. To make things harder, some of my aunt’s family members started to extort some money from the business from time to time”, reminisces Ibu Tinah.
“After some time, we decided to make our stance and defend our dignity. For the sake of family relationship, it was water under the bridge for me but I don’t know for them though. Some things were already beyond repair”, says Ibu Tinah lamenting the situation.
Nevertheless, she and her family has since continued to stride on with the gudeg business but only to receive another bump on the road. This time, it was tougher.
“When my husband passed away, I closed down the business for quite some time”, she says. Never before Ibu Tinah experienced a shocking blow like that. “It feels as if my many years of fighting were put to stop. Just like that. And I had no desire to move on from my grief.”
After some months, her family started to encourage her to restart the business again. Gradually she saw this as a chance for her to move on and to restore again the glory she once had.
“I assembled every member of my family, from my brothers and my daughters. They’re ready to assist in any way they can and were willing to move forward together”, remembers Ibu Tinah.
Since then, they were unstoppable. Despite the modesty found from behind the warung, Ibu Tinah operates two outlets and cooks a huge batch of chicken and egg, all fresh every day. In addition to her daily business, she also undertakes orders for lunchboxes for events and companies.
“My only regret was when I still got a chance, I could have bought a permanent small place for my business. With this condition now, me and fellow hawkers here will be in trouble once the government decided to purge the street clean. My best hope is to relocate to my other outlet so far”, admits Ibu Tinah.
At the very least, her legacy is being safeguarded by her family well. Worse comes to worst, she would be left only with one outlet to do business. Nevertheless, we can trust Ibu Tinah’s fighting spirit. As long as she can handle it, we won’t be running out of classic good old street gudeg from the streets of Jakarta.
GUDEG BU TINAH
Suitable for vegetarians
Jalan Srikaya II (on the side of Gondangdia Station), Jakarta – Indonesia
Daily, 6am – 2pm
Spend: IDR 20,000 – IDR 25,000 / portion
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Jul 2015 edition
Download it for free here via SCOOP!
Photography by Dennie Ramon