Farah F Anjanie
If you think making kerak telor is as simple as ABC, you’d better think again. It takes more than a day’s preparation to make this omelet-like dish often called ‘Batavian Pizza.’ Dul, 37, has been selling kerak telor at Pasar Baru for the past 10 years and says he’s quite happy to do his part to keep this local culinary treat alive.
Why did you choose to sell kerak telor?
I once worked in an office but I didn’t like it. Taking orders, having people yell at me, rushing around — that’s just not my thing. So I quit. I learned that selling was in my blood and selling kerak telor is something I inherited in my genes. My dad also sold kerak telor; I got the recipe from him.
Do you have other family members who sell kerak telor?
My cousin does. But it’s like a part-time job for him. He’s also an ojek [motorcycle taxi] driver.
What makes kerak telor special?
I call it “Batavian Pizza.” Everybody loves pizza but this one is special because it is inherited from our ancestors, from our own culture.
What’s the history behind it? Where does it come from?
As far as I can remember, my dad said it was made by Chinese Betawi. It was only scrambled eggs with rice. Then locals added more spices, salt, pepper, dried shrimp and coconut to match their tastes and that’s the recipe we eat today.
Give us some tips for making good kerak telor.
You have to soak the beras ketan [sticky rice] for 24 hours to make it soft. The spices you need are serundeng [grated coconut] and ebi [dried shrimp]. Scramble them together with the rice and egg. Don’t forget to spread fried onion on top as the finishing touch.
As a Jakarta native, what do you think about the city?
Jakarta is fine. It’s undergoing a lot of development in every way, especially in transportation. The only problem I’m concerned with is the flooding. We can’t depend on the government to fix this problem. If we want to make it better, we have to do it together.
It’s sad seeing people litter everywhere, especially in rivers. I feel ashamed when I see selfish people, those who don’t care about the environment. Apart from that, as a Betawi, I love Jakarta with all its problems.
Do you work at Pasar Baru every day?
Yes. I start my day selling kerak telor at 10 a.m. and I’m here until about 8 p.m. I take the public bus from my house. I leave my cart here at Pasar Baru. There is a place for the sellers to put their equipment , so we don’t have to bring it all the way home and back again.
Do you have to pay for storing your cart here?
It’s only Rp 30,000 [$3.25] a month.
Why did you choose Pasar Baru to sell kerak telor?
I’d been around to different malls selling kerak telor but I didn’t find it worth staying. It was getting more expensive to pay the costs and to rent shop space. And it was less crowded, especially on weekdays. So I thought I had to find a new place to sell at. Pasar Baru was a well-known spot, so I decided to move here. I don’t want to move to another place now since I have a lot of customers here.
A lot of people sell kerak telor at the Jakarta Fair, do you?
No. I have my own customer base here.
Do you have to pay to sell your wares here?
Well, yeah. But I don’t want to say how much I pay or to whom. It’s not a big deal. Let’s call it payment for safety, security and cleanliness.
How much does your kerak telor cost?
I charge Rp 9,000. You can choose from either the chicken or duck egg varieties.
Do you have another job?
I don’t, but I do take orders for weddings, birthdays or meetings with a minimum order of 100 pieces.
Have you ever thought about getting a new job?
I intend to someday. I want to have my own warung sembako [small shop that sells groceries], but I have to get enough capital together to strike out on my own.
Do you ever just cook up some kerak telor for yourself?
I’d say every year I eat about two or three servings. It’s not that I don’t like it, but if I just smell it I feel like I’m already full [laughs].