Even on the most run-down corners of Jakarta you can be sure of finding some yummy Indonesian street food. On this latest occasion, I discovered Bakpao – steamed buns that are of Chinese origin yet have been integrated into local culture here with a vengeance.
It was in Jakarta where I ate most of the bakpaos. I saw them for sale in other Indonesian cities, especially Surabaya, but for some reason it was during my time in Jakarta where I got a belly-full! Steamed buns are a favourite snack of mine, from Turkish manti to Indian momo to Korean mandu to Chinese baozi. The Indonesian version of the steamed bun is arguably the tastiest of the lot. But what makes them different from the others?
The blasé street food culture of Indonesia certainly has something to do with why bakpao taste so nice and unique. Walking around a market near the port of Sunda Kelapa in Jakarta, I observed these unique street food traditions for myself. Javanese street food has always been pretty good to me, especially in Jakarta with the amazing kerak telor crepe, plus many snacks in the Yogyakarta region such as Gudeg. Much like when in Singapore or Hong Kong and purchasing egg tarts or Japanese cheese cakes, I like to purchase a half dozen (or more!) rather than just one, and the vendors by the roadside seem to like my generosity…
So what makes bakpao special among the many other kinds of steamed buns? Well, I love the fact that almost all of the bakpao I have tried have had chocolatey fillings (in addition to meat), which buns like baozi don’t have. Bakpao are so fluffy on the outside (neither soft, nor hard) yet the gooey insides that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy have left me coming back-pao for more and more!
Indonesians are really lucky to have such amazing street food right on their doorstep, as if munching on bakpaos weren’t enough, they can also grab a quick kerak telor or pisang goreng. It’s enough to make anyone jealous!