Glodok with its storied past is famed for its reputation as the hotspot of authentic Chinese food in Jakarta. Tread your way past its back alleys, there’s a high chance you will encounter a few culinary gems along the way. One of them is Wong Fu Kie, a restaurant specialising in Hakka cuisine that was established in 1925.
It takes an extra effort to get to this restaurant if you’re just relying on your GPS from your smartphone, but you are safe once you get a handful of pointers from street pedlars around the neighbourhood. Keep in mind to search for house number ’22’, where an aromatic smell of food comes wafting out from its entry.
It’s normal to be quite hesitant at first, given that the unusual entrance takes you to the restaurant’s busy kitchen and not a seating area. But make your way further, and you’ll discover a compact room with no more than a dozen dining tables, decked with time-worn ornaments and posters in Chinese characters hung on its shabby walls.
Wong Fu Kie is proud of its Hakka heritage, a cuisine originating in the southern region of China that is characterised by its mild flavours and dominant use of garlic. And just like in most Chinese restaurants, the choices may strike as overwhelming with choices of vegetables, protein – from chicken, pork, seafood to frog – and the way they are cooked. Thankfully, the amount of portion is flexible and may be adjusted according to how big your group is.
If you happen to meet the owner, a tall man with a foreboding look of a gangster (first impression can be misleading, however), he will gladly recommend their bestselling menu; such as Lindung Cah Fumak (stir-fried breaded eel with green vegetables that is cooked with tape uli, fermented black sticky rice), Seafood Mun Kiaw Mien (Hakka-style seafood noodle) and Pork Kuluyuk (stir-fried pork doused in sweet and sour sauce). But before you start with the mains, there’s nothing like a warm dumpling soup, served with a dash of soy sauce and fresh ginger.
Although it has run for more than 90 years, Wong Fu Kie has been able to maintain its tables full. Thanks to the routine flow of loyal customers who are mostly coming from surrounding neighbourhoods and have been friends with the owner (don’t be surprised to find yourself sitting shoulder to shoulder with the famous Ko Tang barber). It eventually adds up to the whole dining experience at this restaurant. All in all, you’ll bound to enjoy the distinct laid-back atmosphere that stands in contrast with the confused din of the nearby main streets.