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Delicious Indonesian-Chinese Goes South Jakarta: Méradelima

Published 06 January 2011   

With the arrival of Méradelima, now Indonesian-Chinese cuisine can gain a respectable status in the westernized South Jakarta. VE HANDOJO finds his mother’s home-cooking there.

Good Chinese food is not that difficult to find in Jakarta. That’s if you don’t mind traveling to the north part of the city, going to Anthony Bourdain’s smoking “no reservations” spots, and service quality that may send you to some anger management classes. In the central and southern parts of the city, chances are you’ll find Chinese restaurants with oh-so-cool designs. Yet, the rule of thumb is the taste of the food will be as contemporary as the look of the place. Kiss authenticity goodbye. Yes, by authenticity, I mean pork.

Méradelima introduces the concept of a Peranakan food that leans strongly to the Chinese side. The setting is not temple-like. No heavy ancestorial figures, no memorabilia from the Qing dynasty, or anything even close. The palette of the design is a soft natural tone on walnut parquet flooring. Most of the walls are white-colored, varied with pale hues, and only a few corners of bold colors. Tables are dressed in white, while the cushions are red or green. Adorning the place are antique ceramics and household appliances that create a homey atmosphere throughout the two-storey building, which can host around 200 diners. Aroma of vanilla injects your nerve with a sense of calmness. Hanging on the walls are vintage kebaya encim – or traditional dress for Indonesian Chinese ladies – and many colourful Batiks.

Plenty of rooms – big, medium, and private sizes – give different experience for frequent diners. The tea lounge is very casual and friendly, while bigger dining rooms are warm and appealing. A smaller dining room surrounded by glass walls is perfect for private parties of up to twenty. Upstairs, two patios overlooking the street can serve romantic dinners.

Baso Nyonya Sioe, or Madame Sioe’s meatballs, quickly reminds me of my mother’s own recipe. Chicken mixed with spices and vegetables are made into meatballs, served inside a bowl of clear soup with glass noodles. Another starter is cakwe isi, or deep-fried cakwe (made of flour) stuffed with squid. It is as original as those you can find in Jalan Mangga Besar, or Jakarta’s Chinatown.

The oseng sampek engthai – stir-fried long beans with tiny slices of chicken – tastes a bit raw and plain. It works good, though, if you combine it with gurame lima rasa, or five-flavours gourami. The fish is deboned, made into cutlets, then deep-fried to perfect tenderness, and bathed in spicy sauce. I could name the five flavours as bitter, sweet, sour, chili, and salty, but you might actually find the sixth or seventh.

Located right in the intersection of Jalan Wolter Monginsidi and Jalan Adityawarman, South Jakarta, Méradelima is a strategic place for good Indonesian Chinese culinary heritage. It is close to the business districts, and leafy residential area. Méradelima – derived from “merah” dan “delima” – is the local vernacular for red pomegranate. The auspicious fruit that represents the freshness and authenticity of Peranakan food.

Méradelima
Jl. Wolter Monginsidi No. 1
Jakarta Selatan
Tel: +62 21 756 5112