Amid the sky-high buildings, crowded streets, and sparkling lights, I often find myself actually longing for the simplicity and comfort of home. Being in a big city like Jakarta, of course, every corner of this city offers a vast spectrum of choices, each with its own unique markings. Say the crowded Chinatown of Glodok, the young and hip Senopati area, or the classic and old-school Cikini. For the SCBD (Sudirman Central Business District) area, though, the trademarks are tall buildings, luxury apartments, premium malls, and fine dining restaurants.
One of the favorites for youngsters, including myself, is the Fairgrounds. The compound place practically has everything: a coffee shop in the basement, authentic Japanese and Italian places spread at the storefront, and bars and nightclubs sit atop the building. What I didn’t realize until recently is that right in the corner of the area, near the exit gate, tucked a humble eatery area that promises a taste of home.
Going down the few steps into the restaurant seemed like entering a portal to an entirely different world, one that is refreshingly humble with the stripped-down concept. The area is entirely open, dotted with tarp-covered tables, plastic stools, and a food stall in the corner. Surrounding it are terraced stone seats resembling a circling amphitheater, where visitors, mostly office workers, can sit and relax, enjoying the fresh air and lush views around.
After choosing a table that sits right under a big shady tree, I headed to the stall to make an order. It’s done in a ‘warteg’ style, where you simply point to the many dishes sitting behind a clean display, and a server will then swiftly scoop and put them around a plate of white rice. Though the star of the show is undoubtedly the Ikan Peda which is spicy shredded mackerel (hence the restaurant’s name), they also have several tasty options like Cumi Item (squid with black ink sauce), tuna satay, and one of my favorites, Balinese-style shredded chicken (shredded chicken with sambal).
The food’s simplicity here actually is its best appeal. The plate consists of fluffy rice with a natural hint of sweetness, shredded chicken with extra sambal, and thinly sliced sweet potato chips; the first bite I took frankly tasted like a hug. For a second, I forgot I was in the center of the bustling business sector, surrounded by cars and people passing by.
Aside from providing an escape for office workers who crave home-cooked food, the thought that goes into Nasi Peda Pelangi food extends beyond what is served on the plate. As the staple food for Indonesians, the owner of Nasi Peda Pelangi, Nadya Pratiwi, and her husband, are concerned about the quality of rice we consume daily. Carrying a strong mission to empower local farmers and educate customers about rice and its relevance to our health, they build the #BerasBaik Movement. With it, their patrons are indirectly yet thoughtfully invited to contribute to meaningful change just by buying a plate of rice from Nasi Peda Pelangi.
At one point during the lunch, I looked up. Above the green trees peered the towering buildings and clear blue sky. It made me think about how I am, a human sitting alone, spooning delicious rice into her mouth, so very small and only a speck of a much larger configuration, yet big or small, I impact, for better or worse.
I believe this feeling reflects what Nasi Peda Pelangi is about. It reminded me how there is actually a much deeper story and process–what each grain of rice was put through–to get it on my plate; a realization that made me appreciate every bite of the food I eat.
Through a remarkably simple plate of rice, Nasi Peda Pelangi reminds us that everyone, including me, can contribute an impact that will eventually create significant changes.
Nasi Peda Pelangi
Fairgrounds 5, Senayan, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta