TanSu Kemayoran

23rd June 2023
Overlooking the intersection of Kemayoran Gempol street, the 65-year-old TanSu Kemayoran whips up a sweet sticky rice dish in their humble stall at any hour of the day.

The intersection of Kemayoran Gempol Street, Garuda Street and Angkasa Street in Central Jakarta buzzes with motorcycles, trucks and passersby going about their day. Overlooking this busy scene is the 65-year-old TanSu Kemayoran, lodged almost unnoticeably into a corner. 

Set up like a typical warung kopi (streetside coffee stall) the action here is centred around the L-shaped counter. Mounds of fried delicacies like tempeh, sweet potato and banana fritters deck its tiled surface, behind which the staff whips up the eponymous TanSu or Ketan Susu, a small dish of sticky rice with grated coconut and condensed milk. 

Back in 1958, Tegal-hailed Haji Syukrad started the business as a travelling food cart before establishing his own place in the current location. Now, the place is managed by his grandson, Abdullah. “Initially, we served Ketan Kobok—a plate of sticky rice usually eaten with tempeh, with an additional bowl of water (kobokan) to clean one’s hand before using it to eat the meal. Around the 2000s, a customer suggested we add condensed milk into the sticky rice and it’s been our default menu since,” explained the 50-year-old man.

It was a spot-on suggestion, as the sweet layer of milk melts into the glutinous rice seamlessly without overpowering its texture, while the sweetness is balanced with a savoury tinge from the grated coconut. A bite of the crisp fried tempeh adds an earthy tang to the sweet dish, best accompanied by the richly-brewed Javanese tea served in a warm clay teapot. 

The place’s intimate yet uncramped setting invites its diners to linger on the benches, converse with a stranger, or simply observe the goings-on around the intersection as if they were scenes from a movie. A glance at the faded stickers that crowd the walls and pillars reveals the range of communities coming by the place throughout the times; from hikers, bikers, and football fans to high school cliques. Never running out of customers throughout its 24-hour run, the place becomes a pit stop amidst the busy Kemayoran, where laid-back interactions happen and time moves slowly.