A FOOD-LOVER’S TOUR OF JAKARTA’S ELITE MARKETS
PART 3 – AL FRES OR ALL FRESH? ALL RIGHT ANYWAY them Indonesia
Fruit is for sale at roadside stands all around Jakarta. The observant reader will note that I did not write ‘fresh fruit’. It may look fresh and tasty, and the price is certainly lower than that sold in supermarkets, but if you see it sitting out in the sun all day, soaking up carbon monoxide and diesel exhaust particulates, you’ll have to admit that it’s not in exactly the most pristine environment. Pretty awful actually (I buy it for my monkeys and they do not know how to complain).
Take the grapes. They may look fresh and appealing but they are either squishy (which means they are old) or they are plump and firm… but tasteless. There is a definite correlation between price and taste when it comes to this finest fruit of all: the really delicious grapes are painfully expensive (considering that Indonesian Customs loads them up with a pretty heavy duty, and the distributors do the rest).
While Indonesians traditionally did not consider shopping at high-end markets worth the extra expense (you could visit an OKB* ‘kampung mansion’ in Pondok Indah and be shocked at the crummy quality of the food they eat – and then look at local worthies blooming out to 90kg before they are 30 years old as a result), a younger generation raised with ‘education from the internet’ appreciates healthy, tasty fare. Junk food is still going strong in Indonesia (looking at you McDonalds & Bugger King) but so is healthy, fresh and tasty fare.
* “OKB” = “Orang Kaya Baru” or the “nouveau riche”, such as the corrupt “royal children”, cronies and crooks who live in Pondok Indah but still act like they were back in the kampung – the “Reform Era” did not see the last of these, alas.
‘Al Fres’ or ‘All Fresh’ (the former is a sort of mock-Arabic name apparently meant to appeal to the faithful) first opened in the early 2000s on Jl. Gatot Subroto, near Bidakara Building in Pancoran. Now they have 10 branches spread across the region.
Here’s how they describe themselves: “All Fresh Fruit Store Indonesia has the vision of providing fruits to all customer needs with Complete Customer Satisfaction. For more than a decade All Fresh Fruit Store Indonesia has successfully evolved to meet the dynamic market scenario and continously captured the universal bussiness opportunities.
Our mission : We’re seriously serious about quality around here. We carry natural and organic products because we believe that food/fruits in its purest state — unadulterated by artificial flavors, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives — is the best tasting and most nutritious food available.”
Their English may be a bit cracked (no native-squeaker copywriter obviously) but you get the picture. They have an immense selection of fresh and packaged goods available, but at rather steep prices. Hey, you get what you pay for, Daddy.
All Fresh sports one of the most appealing services in the city: a fresh-salad bar with delicacies like imported Australian alfalfa sprouts, fresh beets and fruit salad. It’s a great way to have a healthy lunch if you happen to be working nearby (or have access). The branch on Jl. Gatot Subroto also has tables where you can sit and feast on your salad but the Jl. Simatupang branch has done away with that, alas. It’s takeaway only.
As a convenience for shoppers All Fresh offers a scanner so you can check the price of an unmarked item by just waving a barcode at it.
Down below is the <ahem> “forbidden flesh” of the piggy. But if you want really delicious “forbidden pork” be sure to drop by YaUdah Bistro, where a roasted pork knuckle will keep you gnawing like a champion.
It is interesting to note that each of these high-end supermarkets may offer fresh or packaged goods that others do not have – apparently they rely on different distributors. That’s why it’s fun to just stroll around and check out the exotica.
There is also a “fresh-durian surgery” where employees cut open and package local and imported durian and please dear expatriate reader do not start whining about “toilet-fruit” or some such. For every ethnocentric expat who can’t stand this food or is scared to death of that drink I heartily recommend to GO BACK TO YOUR MODERN PARADISE-COUNTRY BOZO. Ya ain’t in Kansas NO MO.
An American fatty starts off moaning “My husband and I were having a dinner at this outdoor restaurant and the people next to us opened up these awful durian… I thought I was going to be sick at the smell…” (Is this the same cumb dunt who wrote a letter to Indonesia Expat asking “Do I have to wash my baby in Aqua?”)
“Lady” I growl at her, through the print medium, “Here’s what you do. Gather your belongings together and we’ll help arrange a motorcade to Soekarno-Hatta Airport. We can even hire a police escort if you don’t feel safe.
“You can take your sterilized baby and your blimpish stuck-up alcoholic husband and head right back to BANG-BANG land, Homer the Free and Lana the Brave. You’ll be comfy there and can gobble all the fried butter and Mystery Meat as you please, real swell.
“But as of this moment you are living in Indonesia and thus my profound advice is to LIKE IT OR LUMP IT.”
Still one must admit that these elite high-end supermarkets make living here considerably more pleasant. Although Jakarta still has far to go to match Bali, where you can get incredible freshly-baked croissants and other ethnic Euro-breads, fresh humus and a plethora of other global delights.
What Jakarta does have, however, is a Menteng jewel renowned in Lonely Planet and all sorts of other tour guides, the finest Euro-Chinese-Indonesian fresh-air restaurant in the city. Yes yes yes I am referring to Ya Udah Bistro, and in fact you are losing time reading this nonsense as others have piled in, joined the parade, and are gnawing on Bistro sausage & murphys, they are roaring with laughter and scarfing down Euro-beers and cheap plonk, cutting up the snappy snapper, ringing in the onion rings and digging into salads. New snazzy branch in Serpong as well.
You go and join them now, you hear? Best prices for hygienic, tasty, freshly-prepared dishes.
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