The Iconic: Cahaya Kota

The light still shines on bright and beautiful for Jakarta’s premiere classic Chinese restaurant, Cahaya Kota. Soaking rich with its history of good food and its contribution for the country, here is the story.

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There is something in common shared among several subjects of this rubric since the beginning of The Foodie Magazine. All this time, we have covered a lot of grounds – from classic pastry and coffee shops, ice cream parlor, restaurants, and down to the street food.

The similarity, which we somehow discovered, is that many of them were founded traditionally or continued from previous European owners by these Chinese descendants. These businesses thrive for generations until now and they retain the authenticity unseen in other places.

Speaking about Chinese restaurants, it will not be fair to say that Jakarta can only be represented by one iconic place only. As we all know, big cities all over Indonesia has their share of old Chinese restaurants and here, it is quite ubiquitous.

Cahaya Kota as the star of this issue is an important example of how a restaurant can bland its long standing existence with tales behind the independence of Indonesia as well as contributing to Jakarta’s diverse culinary scene and great food in-between.

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This is partly because Cahaya Kota’s history is among the best documented in Jakarta. Usually it is up to the elderly owner or someone who is well-versed about the history and that they would verbally pass the knowledge. On the contrary, Cahaya Kota preserves its history by documenting references from old newspapers clippings, letters, photographs, and remarkably – through published diaries of notable people in the past.

The story starts in the year 1943. Cahaya Kota was known as Toeng-Kong back then and its original location was still on Jalan Menteng Raya. During this era, the late Indonesian historian Des Alwi recounted the moment when he was tasked to buy some food from Toeng-Kong by Sutan Sjahrir – Indonesian first prime minister later in 1945.

Cahaya Kota 1

“It was 12 o’clock in the afternoon and I remember clearly that I paid for the fried rice and ifumie each for 25 cents”, he said. It was not known to him yet that the food was for the lunch of Indonesia’s important figures such as Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, Ali Budiardjo, and Amir Hamzah who will attend this secret meeting. They were discussing the issues of politics and the future independence of Indonesia.

The experience was vividly written by Des Alwi in a letter designated for the restaurant, giving credit for its indirect role. Through the letter, he urged the readers to not only respect the history but also to help preserve the legacy that Cahaya Kota safeguards until this day.

Cahaya Kota 5

Not more than two decades later, Toeng-Kong had to move out of its original location because of the Monumen Nasional’s construction. But there’s a certain perk that Toeng-Kong has to make it easier. The restaurant was previously appointed as the caterer for police and military forces in Jakarta and that means Toeng-Kong had that special privilege to be assisted by the local municipality for the relocation.

When the relocation was completed, Tjahaja Kota was chosen as the new name to replace Toeng-Kong. The use of old Bahasa spelling was used at least for the next ten years before a fire incident happens and the rebuilding process finally completed.

The seventies and the eighties were the golden years as Cahaya Kota won competitions and awards from the government. Until today, the restaurant has always been the darling of Indonesia’s notables. Memoirs written by closest confidantes showed that both Soekarno and Soeharto were huge fans of the restaurant. Almost every year now the restaurant has been participating to cater the banquets on Indonesia’s Independence Day celebrations at Istana Negara.

Specializing in Cantonese cuisine and as expected from a high caliber restaurant, the menu is rich with adventure. From the classic rice and noodles, crabs, fish, prawns, beef, chicken or steamboat dishes; Cahaya Kota boasts the lineup for exquisite ingredients such as sea cucumber, shark fins, and abalones. With a total of hundreds of recipe variations among these ingredients, each visit will constitute as a moment of discovery, even for the most avid foodies.

Other than that, its attentive service makes it a memorable experience for many, its sheer capacity and the Lazy Susans are what that makes it beautifully orthodox. The old vibe lingers still, although the atmosphere is increasingly modern.

Now on its seventh decade and moving forward; Cahaya Kota remains as a classic choice for families and officials, for lunches and celebrations, for elders and their grandchildren. Not without crediting its famous offerings from kitchen, the restaurant also serves as a remembrance of its contribution in Indonesia’s culinary and political history.


Not halal-certified
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

Jalan KH Wahid Hasyim no. 9, Jakarta – Indonesia

T: +62.21.319.4885




Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Nov 2015 edition

Download it for free here via SCOOP!

Dish That I Crave: Swensen’s Ice Cream! – Singapore

Like martabak manis and telur, Indonesian KFC used to have this intimate relationship with Swensen’s. Many of their outlets back then in 90s had a Swensen’s ice cream dipping cabinet.

Early KFC fans would never miss the chance for that one tasty scoop of its mighty ice cream. It might be quite expensive for a school kid like me back then, but once-in-a-while treat of Swensen’s is a must.

At one juncture that I cannot remember, sadly, Swensen’s simply disappeared and its ice cream culture was replaced by traveling vendors or ice cream cups from nearby convenient shops.

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After so many years now, finally I took my chance to pay homage for that sweet childhood before my flight back home from Changi, Singapore. Well, Swensen’s is ubiquitous in Singapore, but that alone never gave me the opportunity to stop by and enjoy what they have to offer.

Earlier, we wanted to just share our ice cream but since the staff told us that we can get buy-one-get-one deal for a price of one serving, we decided to go for the rampage!

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Two servings of combination flavors came and it was purely nostalgic. Swensen’s ice cream has the no fuss, classic taste – unlike nowadays’ ice cream with its sophisticated flavors and thicker consistency. This is the very taste that should be familiar with Indonesians but again sadly, they might not be coming back here.

Even so, now I know where to go for my sweet tooth treats once in a while during my travels abroad. Swensen’s does not only serve ice cream but also international cuisines as well. Price is quite affordable even for Singapore and there will be more for me to try for my upcoming visits someday soon, hopefully.


Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

Addresses & opening hours:

Hal-hal Kurang Enak Ini Bakal Kamu Temui Saat Jadi Food Blogger (via Mozaic Magazine)

Di balik foto-foto dan review enak para food blogger, ternyata tersimpan beberapa hal yang kurang enak yang mungkin belum kamu ketahui. Apa saja ya?

Jadi food blogger kayak Rian Farisa memang nggak jauh-jauh dari datang ke restoran, motret makanan, nyobain menu-menu andalan, terus ngobrol-ngobrol sama pemilik atau chefnya. Pulang dari sana, kamu bikin ulasannya lalu kemudian diposting di blog atau akun social mediamu. Sekilas pekerjaan itu memang tampak menyenangkan dan seru karena kamu selalu berkesempatan nyobain makanan-makanan baru. Padahal, di balik pekerjaan itu, ada beberapa hal yang kurang enak yang mungkin belom pernah kamu bayangkan sebelumnya.

Makanannya Dingin

“Saat food-testing, motret utama biasanya hal yang paling utama. Nah, bayangkan kalau undangan food-testing ada 15 orang, dan makanan-makanan itu difoto secara bergantian. Sementara satu orang saja bisa motret lebih dari 5 menit. Hasilnya, kita selalu nyobain makanan dalam keadaan sudah dingin dan berubah tekstur.”
— Yenny,, @yennymichael

Timbangan Melonjak

“Meski memang hobi makan dan mendatangi tempat-tempat baru, tapi kalau dalam sehari harus makan lebih dari porsinya dan nggak cuma di satu tempat, kamu bayangin saja betapa kenyangnya perut dan berat badan bisa melonjak drastis dalam sekejap!”
— Felicia,, @foodaffair

Pasrah Ruangan Gelap

“Kalau dapat undangan siang dan di lokasi ada tempat outdoor-nya, gampang banget buat foto makanan karena terbantu oleh cahaya. Tapi, kalau undangannya malam hari dan di lokasi yang nggak ada jendela alias suasananya redup? Wah, bikin pusing kepala karena hasil fotonya pasti nggak memuaskan! Kita pun harus usaha motret puluhan kali. Akhirnya terpaksa foto masuk tahap edit.Kalaupun sudah diedit sana-sini tetap nggak bagus, kita bahkan bisa sukarela datang lagi untuk memotret di siang hari.”
— Yenny,, @yennymichael

Siap Lembur

“Untuk menghasilkan hasil review yang menarik, food blogger butuh waktu yang nggak sebentar buat melakukan review yang berkualitas. Saya sendiri bisa lebih dari 4 jam sekali ‘bertamu’ ke resto. Jadi layaknya pekerja kantoran, kamu siap-siap juga menghabiskan 8-10 jam sehari untuk pekerjaan ini ya!”
— Bayu,, @epicurina

“Di negara kita, profesi seorang food blogger masih kurang diapresiasi dan dianggap sebagai pencari makanan gratis. Bahkan banyak juga lho beberapa resto dan kafe yang masih menganggap rendah hobi sekaligus pekerjaan ini.”
— Andhika,, @mrfoodjournal

Butuh Tenaga & Investasi Lebih

“Menghasilkan tulisan ataupun foto yang menarik tentu bukan pekerjaan mudah. Jadi food blogger wajib untuk mengasah kemampuan nulis, serta membangun network supaya banyak dikenal dan memiliki follower yang banyak. Selain itu, kamu perlu investasi juga dalam hal alat motret yang canggih, baik kamera ataupun gadget.”
— Bayu,, @epicurina

Bagaimana, tertarik untuk jadi food blogger? Tapi jangan khawatir, kalau kamu memang tekun dan konsisten, hal-hal di atas pasti bakal kamu lalui dengan senang hati. Happy blogging!


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Chef Eats: Ahmad Jamil

The young chef Ahmad Jamil shares us the beloved dish that reminds him of home and a must try for any avid Middle Eastern cuisine lovers.

Chef Ahmad Jamil 1

On his tenth month spell at Al Nafoura of Le Meridien Jakarta, Chef Ahmad Jamil is more than keen to promote the cuisine of his home country – Jordan. His homeland; which lies on the crossroad between Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine; benefits from the cultural exchanges with these countries over the years and even way before.

There’s a degree of similarity between the names of cuisines in Middle East countries but usually, the difference lies in the process and composition of the dishes. Above all, there are several particular fares deemed as the most traditional in the country. One of which is maqluba, dear to all Jordanians and Chef Ahmad in particular.

“Usually we are having this after the Friday prayer for lunch. Friday is the start of weekend in many Middle Eastern countries and maqluba is always available in every Jordanian household that day”, explains the chef.

Maqluba has all the richness you would seek from a combination of chicken, rice, vegetables, and authentic Middle Eastern spices. The rice owes its flavor from the stock and then later combined with the chicken itself. Vegetables included in the rice are such as potatoes, cauliflowers, and eggplants. The one unique thing is that this casserole is served upside down after the cooking process. Hence the word ‘maqluba’.

Chef Ahmad’s cookery skills do not entirely owing to his academic and professional backgrounds, it came actually straight from home.

“I usually become our family’s second cook if my mother’s busy with work”, confesses the young chef.

After spending some time abroad in Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Russia, and Malaysia for his professional career, his first time in Indonesia and living in Jakarta is actually a surprising experience for the chef. As we all know, our beloved city is downright busy and crowded – unlike the countries he’s been at.

Judging from his wonderfully made Jordanian dishes, which we also enjoyed that day, we suppose he will have no quarrel with all Jakarta’s hustle and bustle.


Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Nov 2015 edition

Download it for free here via SCOOP!

Foodie Quotes #66

“I really liked the food in Japan. There is something so organized, neat, and methodical about it. They put a lot of care and quality into their cooking. I also love Mediterranean, New American, and Italian food, because the cuisines borrow influences from all over the world.”
– Sasha Cohen