Betawi ethnicity was formed as a result of amalgamation of many cultures, such as Malay, Javanese, Sundanese, Bugis and Balinese. This combination can be seen not only in Betawi’s community, art and culture, but also in its culinary. The influence of other cultures can be found in Betawi foods, which fuses Chinese, Arab, Indian, Portuguese and European influence.
The abundant natural resources, in which Betawi people has relied upon, also influenced Betawi cuisine. People are able to create various unique recipes from natural resources growing around their living environment. For example, they make dishes from durian flowers, melinjo, noni and jengkol which grow on the backyards.
There are also special characteristics in food processing. For example, Betawi seasonings generally has to be sauteed until it smells good. It’s different from Padang (West Sumatra) cuisine which is relatively unfamiliar with stir-fried methods.
These factors make Betawi cuisines to have great potential to grow and develop both in the archipelago and abroad. It can grow as long as the traditional values in cooking can be preserved and inherited from generation to generation with the support of the society.
In addition to light meals, each region has its own unique snacks. Some are native to the area and some are influenced by other cultures. Betawi snacks are largely influenced by Sunda (West Java) cultures, considering that Jakarta is geographically located on the north coast of Java and bordering with West Jave. Since early days, Jakarta had been a port city visited by many foreign merchants. They, thus, inherited an influence in the art of food processing.
For example, lapis legit or legit layer cake actually came from the Netherlands. In its origin country, this cake is called spekkoek because its shape is layered like a spec. This inspired the making of the layered Pepe cake. Meanwhile, cakes, geplak and various sweets are influenced by Middle Eastern cultures. There are many typical Betawi dishes that are influenced by cultures of other ethnicities in Indonesia, as well as other cultures abroad.
Below are some typical Betawi foods and snacks.