Wrapped in mystery and myth, with narratives at times too long to tell in full, the many destinations of the Tugu Hotels and Restaurants offer a whimsical journey into Indonesia’s magical past. Jakarta is not yet blessed with a ‘Hotel Tugu’ as yet, but their restaurants in the city are renowned venues. Perhaps least known of them, however, is Dapur Babah Elite and Tao Bar.

Dedicated to the Babah culture on the island of Java during the Dutch colonial period, the term “Babah” in Java is commonly used to address the mixed-race culture that resulted from marriages between the Chinese settlers and the native Javanese women. This term gradually obtained a broader essence and was used as well for the “pure” Chinese blood, whose lifestyle had been influenced by local Javanese culture and the Dutch colonial culture in Java. In daily life, the Babah culture in Java is simply a culture that developed from the gradual fusion of three cultures living side by side: the Chinese, the local Javanese and the Dutch. This course influenced cuisine, whereby the three cultures would be fused into dishes to be known as Babah cuisine.

This exquisite museum-like venue presents its Djawa & Babah Heritage Cuisine in a stunning location. It is set in a pair of refurbished 1940’s shophouses located just off Jakarta’s central Merdeka Square on Jalan Veteran 1 — once one of old Batavia’s most fashionable streets. The front part of Dapur Babah is a tea and coffee bar, possibly where the housemasters used to live and entertain their family friends and guests. Here, the unique Babah tradition of tea and coffee are presented, with blends once served to old Babah families prepared to keep traditions alive. Even the utensils used are antiques that originated from Babah families in Java. The back part of Babah is a semi open terrace that is inspired by the humble kitchen of the Babah Oei family, with a kitchen Goddess protector, protecting the Babah cooks there.

When it comes to the food menu expect all three cuisines to be on show. The ultimate experience is of course the Indiesche-Babah De Rijsttafel Van Tugu, a lavish spread of 12 dishes laid out for a group — the ultimate family-style experience. Even from the starters, the three cultures are present, with the likes of Loempia Goreng Semarang (fried spring rolls, Semarang-style), Bitterballetjes (Dutch croquettes) and Tahoe Goreng Petis (fried tofu with sweet shrimp paste) all representing their respective cuisines.

You’ll find classic soups like the Sup Brenebon (Bruine Bonensoep); Javanese delicacies like Nasi Rawon Boentot (Malang-style beef oxtail soup) and Nasik Kare Kepiting (crab claws cooked in Babah style curry sauce); to Chinese-style roasted duck and Tjwiemie Malang homemade noodles; and even Babah-twisted Dutch dishes like Biefstuk Compleet (pan-fried beef tenderloin, served with a spiced sauce). Classics continue into the desserts menu, with Es Tjampoer Babah Paling Seger (shaved ice speciality) to the warm, comforting Wedang Ronde sweet ginger drink-dessert.

There is more to this fascinating venue, but the stories are best discovered directly at Dapur Babah, where you can soak in the venue, taste the food, and allow your senses to absorb the sights, sounds, smells and taste of Java’s old history.

Dapur Babah Elite and Tao Bar
Jl. Veteran 1, No.18-19, Jakarta Pusat
+62 21 3855653| dapurbabah@tuguhotels.com

NOW! Jakarta

NOW! Jakarta

The article is produced by editorial team of NOW!Jakarta