JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - For lifelong Jakarta residents or Betawi people as well as newcomers to the capital, nasi uduk or savory rice cooked in coconut oil and various spices is a staple food in the capital.
This mix of white rice, coconut milk, salt, as well as ground lemongrass, bay leaves, and kaffir or lime leaves has a way of whetting one's appetite from the first bite. The combination gave nasi uduk a fluffy yet firm texture that does not stick.
Nasi uduk makes a winning pair with side dishes like fried chicken, sliced omelet, beef floss [abon], and tempe orek or tempeh stir fried with sweet soy sauce.
This combination of flavors and textures make nasi uduk a choice meal for breakfast or brunch, as well as lunch or dinner.
Like other iconic foods, nasi uduk have a long history. Its origins can be traced to other parts of Indonesia, and even the rest of Southeast Asia.
A culinary hybrid
Betawi culinary expert and historian, Pudentia, believed that nasi uduk's origins was over 500 years old, even predating Jakarta's official founding in 1527.
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"When [the Sultanate] of Malacca fell to the Portuguese [in 1511], many of its aristocratic Malay ruling elite fled to Batavia," Pudentia explained, as cited in a Kompas.com article in 2017.
"As they fled, these exiles brought their own specialty, namely nasi lemak or rich rice. Over time, they encountered Javanese people who were used to eating savory rice."