It is not only South Korea’s K-pop bands and TV dramas that get a lot of attention from Indonesians these days — the country’s cuisine is also increasingly in the spotlight. Foods such as kimchi, bulgogi and shabu-shabu are well-known dishes among Jakarta’s Korean food lovers.
For the uninitiated, Kebayoran Baru in South Jakarta is the perfect area to explore Korean cuisine. But one restaurant, Okane, stands out for its unique version of Korean shabu-shabu hot pot.
“Our shabu-shabu is different than other Korean shabu-shabu,” said Gunawan Wijoyo, co-owner of Okane. “We follow a different recipe.”
Gunawan said Okane’s shabu-shabu originates from a family restaurant in the famed Gangnam district of Seoul.
“There [in Gangnam district] is Mr. Choi, who continued his family culinary business. The name of the restaurant is Choi Ghanae, which has a special family recipe for shabu-shabu,” Gunawan said.
On one visit to the South Korean capital, Gunawan and his friends fell in love with Choi’s shabu-shabu, which eventually inspired them to open a Choi Ghanae franchise in Jakarta.
But bringing the beloved shabu-shabu flavor back home was easier said than done. The founders of Choi Ghanae rejected Gunawan’s offer, saying they did not want to share the family recipe. But Gunawan and his friends refused to take “no” for an answer, and kept returning to the restaurant in attempts to convince the family. After two years of negotiations and discussions, the Choi family agreed to share the family recipe and offer Gunawan and his partners a franchise.
“We are four close friends who had a dream to open our own place,” Gunawan said. “We like to hang out and have a chitchat every weekend and we also like to hunt for healthy food. And honestly, it’s really hard to find a restaurant that can provide healthy food in Jakarta.
“I am really concerned about healthy food,” he added. “That is why we only serve healthy food without MSG and other unhealthy ingredients.”
He praised the healthiness of Korean food, saying most dishes were prepared by boiling or grilling the ingredients, rather than by frying in oil.
Okane is located on Jalan Prof. Joko Sutono and features a simple, elegant wood dining room that faces away from the street, imparting a welcome sense of calm and quiet. The word “okane” has two meanings. In Korean, it means tasty, but in Japanese it means money. Gunawan said he thought that both meanings were appropriate for his restaurant.
But tasty shabu-shabu and a successful business boil down to one element: Okane’s broth. Gunawan said it is the shabu-shabu broth that puts Okane head and shoulders above other Korean restaurants in Jakarta.
“Our shabu-shabu doesn’t have a clear broth,” he explained. “It’s brown because we add some nuts and dried chili. But we don’t use MSG and salt. So, it will be less spicy for Indonesian customers.”
The decision on the spiciness of the broth came from Choi, who came to Jakarta to sample the Korean fare on offer and found that the local restaurants had often altered the taste of his native cuisine.
“Mr. Choi said that Indonesian food is too spicy. Many Korean restaurants try to adjust to the taste of Indonesian people. But he asked us to keep the recipe, and he also asked us to introduce the ritual of enjoying shabu-shabu to Indonesian people,” Gunawan said.
Okane’s shabu-shabu consists of most of the basic ingredients found in the dish traditionally: thinly sliced beef (Okane uses Australian wagyu), dory fish, assorted mushrooms, mixed fish balls, mini dumplings, vegetables, bean curd skin and homemade green guksu noodles.
Shabu-shabu is prepared at the table, with the ingredients being placed in the hot pot, starting with the vegetables first. The meat and fish are cooked in the broth quickly, and then the guksu noodles are added to the broth.
As well as shabu-shabu, Okane offers a number of traditional Korean dishes for diners to explore. One popular favorite, Gunawan said, was the traditional Korean fried rice. The dish differs from the Indonesian nasi goreng, and includes minari leaves, bombay onions and quail egg.
“Korean people usually eat the carbohydrate at the end of the meals,” Gunawan explained.
Okane also serves balsak bulgogi (house special Korean-style hot plate beef) and bimbim guksu (cold white noodles served with vegetables and spicy cold dressing).
The waitresses at Okane are also well-trained in instructing diners in the ritual of preparing and eating shabu-shabu, making it a great place to both sample an authentic Korean classic while learning about the culture behind the cuisine.
Jl. Prof. Joko Sutono No. 11 Kebayoran Baru, South JakartaTel. 021 726 0999