Jakarta's Chinatown is bursting with red and gold ornaments. (Photo: CGTN)
Willy Julus pours thick condensed milk into the bottom of a cup before topping it with freshly brewed coffee. A house specialty in his shop tucked in a corner of Jakarta's Chinatown.
"This is why we are special. We still make coffee the old-fashioned way. Very vintage and no machine at all," said Willy.
His great-grandfather founded Kopi Es Tak Kie in 1927 in an area called Glodok in Jakarta. It started off humbly as a makeshift tent offering iced coffee and several traditional Chinese snacks.
Today, Willy is continuing his family's legacy by running their famous coffee shop.
"I am trying to evolve with the times. We are engaging with audiences on social media. We have opened several stores in business districts and we try to join bazaars whenever we can to get our brand out there. Nowadays, there's a lot of competition but we believe our history and story will always attract customers," Willy said.
Kopi Es Tak Kie is not the only establishment steeped in history and stories in Jakarta's Chinatown. For years, visitors flock to the area to get a taste of real Chinese cuisine mixed with Indonesia's local charm.
Kevindra Soemantri, a food expert, has always been intrigued by the stories that radiate from the streets.
"The unique thing about Chinatown in Jakarta is the vendors here are Chinese Indonesians from all over the country so the spices, flavors, ingredients that they use are diverse. Even the language they speak, you can hear the different dialects here," Kevindra said.
Gang Gloria, which translates to Gloria Alley, is one of the most famous streets for Chinese cuisine. Everything from savory curry noodles to sweet pastries fill the narrow alley.
"The food here represents the melting pot of the Chinatown of Jakarta because you will see lots of noodles, and unlike the Chinatown all over the world where the noodles are mainly from the Hokkien area or the Hong Kong area but here in Chinatown in Jakarta, you will find lots of noodles from Chinese areas in Indonesia such as Bangka which is in Sumatra, Pematang Siantal. It's so unique, the food is so diverse," Kevindra said.
Laksa Lao Hoe, with its colorful exterior, cannot be missed. This humble restaurant serves Peranakan cuisine, originating from Belitung, Indonesia. Hot, steaming bowls of thick noodles doused in fragrant shrimp and peanut sauce remains its bestseller.
Outside the restaurant, visitors can also see sweet jackfruit dipped in flour batter and fried to perfection, locally known as cempedak goreng. Many of the dishes served at this restaurant is heavily influenced by Chinese flavors.
A stone's throw away, Glodok market offers plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and snacks. One of its most popular item is the sea cucumber, which has been harvested and consumed in China for centuries. During the Chinese New Year, the smell of fresh sweet oranges fills the air.
Jakarta's Chinatown has captivated the attention of visitors from all over the world for its diversity in both culture and food, proving that China has played an important role in Indonesia's development for years.