WanderlustSavorDapur Babah: A Celebration of Mixed Culture

Dapur Babah: A Celebration of Mixed Culture

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Restaurants by the Tugu Hotels Group are notable foodie and traveler’s destinations in Indonesia. These establishments are famous for their distinctive and strong Indonesian history-based concept.

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Just like other restaurants by the Tugu Hotels Group that have enjoyed prominent position within Jakarta’s dynamic dining scene, Dapur Babah stands out for everything that it has to offer. Being a treasure chest for history and antique lovers, Dapur Babah has been established based on a concept that follows the history of people of Chinese descent who have assimilated with both native Javanese and Dutch colonists during the colonial era. This community was known as “Babah”, unique members of the society at that time with their own lifestyle, resulted from the fusion of three cultures. Babah was soon became a thriving new culture and its tradition would be passed down through generations. Today, DapurBabah restaurant, with its winning location in one of Jakarta’s oldest historic streets, also with the abundance of antique furniture and decoration elements obtained from Babah families in the colonial era, as well as with typical food that can be found in Babah families, becomes the gate to the past where modern people can experience the colorful aspects of the life of Babah people in the past. 

Babah Culture in Java
In Singapore and Malaysia, there are restaurants similar to DapurBabah, categorized as Baba-Nyonya restaurants, offering Peranakan style cuisine. These typical restaurants have long been an integral part of the local dining scene. “Peranakan” itself is a Malay and Bahasa word that means “local born” and has largely been used to refer to the mixed-breed Chinese-Malay ethnic. 

In DapurBabah restaurant, however, the Peranakan style cuisine is different since it’s adopted from the Babah families who resided in Java during the colonial era. The Javanese itself has rich tradition and deep-rooted culture that has made the assimilation between people of Chinese descent, local Javanese and the Dutch that was formed through marriages and social encounters, to result in a uniquely distinctive Peranakan food. 

The Peranakan food in Javanese Babah families represents a fine example of successful creation of fusion cuisine in Indonesia centuries ago. DapurBabah restaurant embraces popular old recipes of Babah style fusion cuisine which was created by mothers, grandmothers, house-cooks or maids in Babah families. Babah wives known as Nyonya, together with her house-cooks and maids who knew how to make traditional Javanese European and Chinese food, mixed them up into new dishes that suited the palate of the mixed-culture family members. These creations last until today. 

Babah cuisine has been loved by generations of Indonesian and Babah families in particular and has stood the test of time. Its origin makes a humbling reminder for today people that the best food most often comes from home. 

Babah Favorites
DapurBabah features extensive variety of Babah dishes in its menu, from appetizer to dessert. For starter, soups are recommended with the favorites being Sop DjagoengBabah, peranakan style corn coup and BruineBonensoup, which is red bean soup with beef rib. If ones were not into soup, the options of the hors d’oeuvres can definitely whet the appetite including the Pastel Toetoep, home-made Dutch influenced slow cooked potato pie; and Croquetten Van Kip En Garnalen, warm croquettes filled chicken and shrimps served with yellow carrot and cucumber pickles. 

For the main course, one can opt for either the Chinese style Babah or the HollandscheBabah. The Chinese style favorites including Ayam Hong, red braised chicken which follows similar recipe to the famous Hong Shao Rou pork dish; and Nasik GorengKepiting, seafood fried rice with crab meat, fish, shrimp and green peas. Meanwhile, the Dutch style Babah features GestoomdeVisch, steamed Patin fish with broccoli, carrot and baked potato; and BiefstukLidah, pan-fried ox tongue, among others. 

The best thing about having dessert in a restaurant that embraces heritage cuisine such as DapurBabah is the humbling experience; knowing that simple food that can taste really good, from the home-made ice cream, the puddings to the WedangRonde, grilled-nuts-filled glutinous rice balls in ginger syrup. 

Javanese Ceremonial Dining
Grand SelamatanTafel or Groote SelamatanTafel is a unique ceremonial dining adopted from the past and can be experienced at DapurBabah where the food is served in parade-like fashion by a line of servers. In Grand SelamatanTafel, restaurant staffs carry two cones of Javanese traditional NasiTumpeng rice carried on stretchers, followed by other staffs carrying side dishes. This procession is led by a Javanese dancer. Both Tumpeng rice cones here symbolize two prominent Dutch figures: the Governor General of the Dutch East Indies and Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. 

Imperial Tea Ceremony
Ladies would love having an afternoon tea at DapurBabah. Named the Imperial Tea Ceremony, the tea serving here takes inspiration from the tea-drinking ritual of the Chinese emperor, empress and concubine. And as with every antique, every room and every item in the menu of DapurBabah, there’s a moving story behind the Imperial Tea Ceremony, unveiling the romance and tragic life of a beautiful woman named Chen Yuan Yuan. The story will sweep away the tea party attendees, taking them back to the Ming Dynasty following Chen journey, all while sinking in the depth of the warmth of the tea.  


photos by
Kiky Y. Basuki