Jakarta is a city packed with delicious food.
And one of the best things about visiting Jakarta is that there’s a mix of street food and restaurants that serve food from all the diverse and spread out islands that make up the country.
However, there’s a dish, known as Soto Betawi, which originates right in Jakarta, and it’s one of the must eat Indonesian dishes when you’re in the city.
When I was in Jakarta I went to a restaurant called Soto Betawi Haji Husein, and in this post I’ll share with you one of the top food experiences I had in Jakarta.
What is Soto Betawi?
Soto Betawi is a type of soup that originates from the Jakarta area of Indonesia.
In Indonesian food, soto is a term used for many different types of soup originating from across the country – and just about every region has their own version of soto.
Betawis are the original people from the region of the island of Java, which is now the same region that makes up greater Jakarta.
So to recap, Soto Betawi is a native Jakarta dish, and sometimes it’s simply known in English as Jakarta beef soup.
Although there are many different recipes for this type of soto, the main typical ingredients include beef in a soup that’s made from both coconut milk and fresh milk, simmered with aromatic herbs and spices like galangal, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, and candlenut.
The soup is typically eaten along with rice and can be garnished with a number of side sambal chili sauces or acar pickles.
Soto Betawi Haji Husein
Sometimes when you walk into a restaurant for the first time, you actually get this sensation of how incredible the food is going to be – before you even eat it.
That can be due to the aroma of the cooking, the buzz of the restaurant, or just the energy of the place.
Soto Betawi Haji Husein (also spelled Haji Husen, or H. Husen) was one of those places.
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As soon as I stepped inside the Jakarta shophouse style restaurant, the busy and slight chaotic morning rush, big communal tables, and the hot humid air filled with the aroma of beef and herbs, I could hardly contain my excitement.
There are a number of legendary Soto Betawi restaurants in Jakarta, including Haji Mamat, but due to location and where I was, and being recommended by Hey Theresia (thank you Tere), I ate at Soto Betawi Haji Husein.
I was going to attempt to get a seat up at the front of the restaurant, where they had some bar counter seating (I always enjoy watching my food assembles as I’m eating), but it was so packed at the front entrance, that I couldn’t get a seat.
But at the front of the restaurant is where the action of the Soto Betawi went down.
You’ll see a cabinet full of beef and a few organs as well, which are cut up into bite sized pieces, transferred to a bowl, and combined with the soup broth before being served.
The first thing you’ll be served when you sit down at Soto Betawi Haji Husein is a plate of rice, before your soto arrives.
The rice was topped with a nice sprinkle of deep fried shallots, giving the entire plate a wonderful extra caramelized onion taste.
Also, despite the stifling heat and humidity within the restaurant (everyone was sweating), they served me a cup of hot black tea. The tea was actually quite good and had a jasmine taste to it.
My bowl of Soto Betawi arrived and I could smell the galangal and again it was sprinkled with some crispy shallots – something I will never complain about! Also on top was a handful of emping, melinjo chips, which had already absorbed and soaked up all the soup.
For my very first bite I just tried the broth, and I immediately thought of tom kha gai, a Thai coconut milk soup with galagal and lemongrass.
However, this Soto Betawi was but not overly rich – I’m not sure of their broth combination – but it was definitely not thick and rich like pure coconut milk – so it may have been a combination with fresh milk and maybe some stock.
What I loved so much was the mellow, yet noticeable, flavors of galangal and kaffir lime leaves with the soup.
Sitting in the middle of every table at Soto Betawi Haji Husein was a big bucket full of pickles and a main sambal chili sauce.
One of the things I love so much about Indonesian food are the condiments.
I’m always a happy person when sambal is involved in a meal.
The bucket of acar pickles was particularly attractive, a huge quantity of diced up cucumbers, carrots, onions, and whole chilies, all floating and marinating in a sour pickle juice.
I could not help myself from adding on a good amount of pickles onto my rice.
And I also noticed that most other diners would add the pickles to their plate of rice, but then add some of the sambal directly into their soto. So I followed what other experienced eaters were doing.
The sambal chili sauce definitely bumped up the heat index and flavor of the soto.
The beef within the soto Betawi was almost like a cross between beef jerky and normal fresh beef.
I’m not sure exactly how it was cooked, but it had a smoked meat / dried meat kind of texture and taste, while still being very tender and bursting with both the flavor of the beef and the soup it was swimming in.
In order to eat the soto Betawi, I added some of the beef and broth to my rice, combined it with a few chilies and pickles, and ate everything in one bite.
The flavor and the combination of all the different ingredients was mind-blowing.
It was so incredibly good.
It was so good in fact, that both my wife and I finished one bowl of soto with ease, and there was nothing we could do to stop ourselves from ordering a second bowl. So we each had two bowls of this amazing soto!
Watch the full video:
If you have a few minutes, click play to watch the video of this amazing meal below.
(Or if you can’t see the video, watch it on YouTube here)
When you’re in Jakarta you have so many delicious Indonesian foods and meals to choose from. But to really get a taste of an authentic Jakarta original dish, you’ve got to try Soto Betawi.
Made from beef and a milky broth, infused with aromatic herbs and spices, and eaten along with rice and pickles, Soto Betawi is an absolutely incredible dish.
When I was in Jakarta, I ate at Soto Betawi Haji Husein, and it proved to be among my favorite dining experiences in the city.
For amazing Soto Betawi in Jakarta, check out Soto Betawi Haji Husein.
Soto Betawi Haji Husein
Address: Jalan Padang Panjang No. 6C, Kel. Pasar Manggis, Kec. Setiabudi, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, Indonesia (see my Jakarta food map here)
Open hours: 7 am – 2 pm from Saturday – Thursday (closed on Friday)
Total price: 110,000 IDR ($8.34) for 4 bowls of soto and rice