Pudentia added that this encounter was particularly marked by the Siege of Batavia in 1628-1629, when the forces of the Javanese kingdom of Mataram under Sultan Agung launched an attack on the VOC.
While Sultan Agung's offensive was unsuccessful, it was not entirely in vain. "[The siege of Batavia] intermingled Malay and Javanese [cultures]," Pudentia said. "This acculturation process of nasi lemak and savory rice ultimately produced nasi uduk."
Origins in hardship
Yet the Indonesian Culinary Academy has a different view of nasi uduk's origins in their 2016 book "Kuliner Betawi Selaksa Rasa & Cerita" [Culinary Betawi Cuisine's Many Flavors and Stories] (2016). "Etymologically, the term 'uduk' means difficult," the book said.
"Nasi uduk was originally cooked by the poor, as it was often eaten by farmers working in rice paddies." Regardless of its origins, nasi uduk has become a major Betawi cultural tradition to the present day that is eaten as everyday fare or as a special menu for festive occasions.
True to Jakarta's diverse nature, each neighborhood in the capital has its own variant of the dish, among them the Rawa Belong area from West Jakarta, as well as the Kebon Kacang subdistrict in Central Jakarta's Tanah Abang district.
But wherever one goes for nasi uduk, they should keep in mind that the dish is more than food for the body and soul; it is also a link to Jakarta's past and Indonesian history.
(Writer: Alma Erin Mentari, Wahyu Adityo Podjo | Editor: Alma Erin Mentari, I Made Ashdiana)
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