Semarang is like the heaven of culinary. There are plenty kinds of snacks, beverages, and foods to make you drool and hungry. Having a culinary tour in Semarang is not difficult as there are several culinary centers amongst the city.
There is Jalan Pandanaran where you can see many stalls and stands lining up at the side of the road, offering various foods, snacks, and beverages. There is also Simpang Lima, a crossroad between five important roads in Semarang (Jalan Pandanaran, Jalan Gadjah Mada, Jalan Ahmad Yani, Jalan Ahmad Dahlan, and Jalan Pahlawan).
If you do not like eating out at the side of the road, you can go to Manggala Food Festival on Jalan Gadjah Mada. For Chinese-adapted culinary, you can go to Warung Semawis inside the Pecinan Area (Chinatown).
For your reference, here are some recommendation of foods and drinks you must try in Semarang:
1. Tahu Petis
Tahu means tofu, a soft cake made out of soybean with salty and savory taste. The tahu mostly are served fried. Fried tofu is easy to be found in anywhere in Java. But a fried tofu filled with petis is a special from Semarang. Petis is a black sweet and salty sauce made out of shrimp. Petis has a strong taste and aroma. Some people will love it and some other will hate it. What about you?
Tahu petis can be found almost in every culinary market and food court in Semarang. You can also find it on the side of the road in almost every main busy road in Semarang. The most recommended place to get this food is to buy it from the stalls in front of Java Mall on Jalan Tentara Pelajar.
2. Wingko Babat
Wingko Babat is a traditional dry cake made out of coconut. Actually the name of the food is just “Wingko”. Babat is a name of a region where most citizens’ incomes are from making and seliing wingko. There are several other regions which produce Wingko. But no region can produce Wingko as much and as delicious as Babat. Thus, most people know Wingko only from Babat. That is how they call it Wingko Babat.
Wingko Babat is available in many flavors such as original, chocolate, durian, and more. They can be served warm after fried, or be served in normal temperature without frying it first. Warm Wingko Babat can be bought directly from the producer’s shop in Babat region. But you can also buy packaged ones from almost every food shops, snack shops, and souvenir shop in Semarang. You can even get them from peddlers on trains. Packaged wingko is usually bought by tourist to give it away as gifts upon returning from travelling to Semarang.
3. Lumpia Semarang
Lumpia is a kind of spring roll originally from China. Lumpia Semarang is adapted by Chinese-ethnicity people in Semarang. Lumpia Semarang has a pre-cooked filling consists of bamboo shoots, dried shrimp or prawn, and chicken. Lumpia Semarang can be served fried or unfried, depends on how you want it. Fried lumpia tastes crispy and more savory while unfried lumpia tastes soft and decadent.
Lumpia Semarang is mostly served with cucumber pickles and raw chili to bite. A fried Lumpia Semarang is best eaten when it is warm. Lumpia Semarang costs you about $0.8 each. You can find this snack at several culinary centers or food stalls throughout Jalan Pandanaran or any other busy road in Semarang.
4. Bandeng Presto
Bandeng is a common kind of fish in Java. Bandeng is very nutritious as it contains high protein and minerals. It also contains omega-3 and omega-6 even higher than salmon fish. The problem with bandeng fish is that it has so many small thorns in its whole body. It is too small and too spread to be picked manually. But it will hurt your throat if you ignore it.
But thanks to Presto Cooking, you would not get this kind of problem anymore. Presto is a cooking technique using steams and high pressure jar. This technique causes the thorns to soften and edible. The taste is delicious because the herbs and spices are absorbed perfectly to the fish.
Bandeng Presto is sold in package and can be bought as a gift, just like Wingko Babat. The package includes sambal presto that matches perfectly with the tasteof Bandeng. This food can be bought in almost any packaged food shops in Semarang, especially on airport or train station. You can also buy them at the producer’s shop.
5. Jagung Bakar (Grilled Corn)
Grilled corn in Semarang is different than common grilled corn as they use unique sauce to marinate it. The sauce is spicy and savory. The sauce can be marinated before or after the grilling. You can also manage how much sauce you want to be put on your corn. The more sauce you got, the spicier the corn will be. If you dislike spicy foods, you can just ask for an unspicy sauce. Jagung Bakar a la Semarang can be found on Jalan Ahmad Dahlan where plenty Jagung Bakar stalls are lining up throughout the road.
6. Tahu Gimbal
Tahu Gimbal is a portion of meal original from Semarang. It consists of tahu (tofu), raw cabbage, lontong (rice cake), bean sprouts, eggs, gimbal (dried prawn fried with flour batter), and peanut sauce. Tahu Gimbal is best served with krupuk. If you like spicy foods, you can ask the cook to add more chili on your sauce. Tahu Gimbal is available in any culinary center and some street stands, especially on Jalan Pahlawan. A plate of delicious Tahu Gimbal costs you only about $0.8.
7. Babat Gongso and Nasi Goreng Babat
Babat is meat taken from animal’s stomach, usually cows. In Semarang, there is a unique food called Babat Gongso. The babat beef is sauted with thick dark sauce. Babat Gongso is sometimes cooked with vegetables and any other innards beef such as heart, liver, spleen, and intestine.
Tourists from other countries might raise their eyebrows when hearing that innards beef being cooked and eaten as it is not something usual on their country. But in Indonesia and some countries in Asia, this kind of food is highly favored.
But you need to remember that these kinds of food contain cholesterols. So you need to be careful especially if you have cholesterol issues. To avoid getting excess cholesterol, ask the seller to not add out any other innards except for babat on your plate. Also ask for extra vegetables and orange drink to neutralize the cholesterol.
Babat Gongso is sold in any culinary centers and some street stands. The most popular stand is Babat Gongso Pak Karmin on Jalan Gadjah Mada. Babat Gongso is better served with a plate of rice, krupuk, and a glass of orange ice.
Almost in every Babat Gongso stands, they also have Nasi Goreng Babat (Fried Rice with Babat) on their menu. This food is also popular and must be tasted. The spices and herbs used in this fried rice are a little bit different than common fried rice. It is more savory and rich in flavors. A serving of Babat Gongso is sold for $2 and a serving of Nasi Goreng Babat is about $1.2.
8. Es Congklik
Es Congkilk is a kind of ice cream made out of coconut milk, sugar, and cow milk. Es Congklik is available on Warung Semawis inside the Pecinan Area (Chinatown). The ice is sweet and refreshing. It comes with many flavors such as chocolate, soursop, lychee, longan, durian, avocado, green beans, cantaloupe, and kopyor. Kopyor is a coconut that is failed to grow properly causing it to have soft texture and is tastier.
Es Congklik is traditionally made without any preservatives or artificial flavorings. Thus, Es Congklik can last only a few hours after cooked. That is why sometimes you have to wait after ordering it before your fresh es congklik is served to you. The ice can be served with extra toppings such as grated coconut, jellies, and Chinese sweet pickles. A portion of es congklik costs you only $0.8.
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