Jakarta: Chinatown Food and Flavor

 

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Pork wontons in broth at Mie Ahin.

UPDATE: Mie Ahin, aka Bakmi A-Hin, now shows up on Google Maps in the correct place (here), so you can get there and not have the crazy getting lost adventure we had below!

Today’s destination is Jakarta’s Chinatown, which Stoytcho has heard houses an amazing noodle and wonton place by the name of Mie Ahin. Chinatown is actually conveniently located next to Glodok and we can walk from our hostel (TPL), so we do a search on Google Maps for Mie Ahin. Against all expectations, we get a hit, and in minutes we’re following directions through Glodok’s narrow streets. In ten minutes, we’re in Chinatown.

 

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A shrine at one corner of Jakarta’s Chinatown.

A faded red pagoda marks Chinatown’s main square and a few small shrines guard the streets around it, burnt-out incense sticks still standing in the offering urns. These are the only indications that this is Chinatown. The rest of the area is a maze of narrow alleys, impromptu markets, and mixed-material buildings that have been patched and repatched. Plastic pipes feed the open sewers beside the streets, and concrete slabs form bridges to the doorways of houses and shops. The Chinese minority are rumored to control 70% of Indonesia’s wealth, but if true that money hasn’t found its way here.

 

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Small fish live and feed in the open sewers beside the streets in Chinatown, Jakarta.

We reach what Google claims is the site of Mie Ahin to find no restaurants and continue down the alley, hoping it’s just a bit further. The alley dead-ends in a dirt path by the river, which we follow right leads a person’s front door. We ask for Mie Ahin and they cheerfully point us down another alley, back in the direction we came. Dimmed by the tall apartment blocks around it and makeshift tarps to keep out the rain, this alley seems to go on forever. We stop and ask a few other people for Mie Ahin, and they continue to point us in the same direction. Finally, we emerge back on the main street where we first noticed the Chinatown shrines. We’ve gone in a circle.

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We pass the purported location of Mie Ahin and end up here, on a dirt path by the river.
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We walk back through makeshift markets and narrow streets, looking for Mie Ahin.

I ask a passing guy for “Mie Ahin” and he points us up along the street. We walk a few meters, then ask again at a shop. The shopkeep points us back in the direction we came. We ping-pong between the two locations for a few minutes, convinced that we’re asking for the wrong thing, somebody thinks we want the wrong thing, or we’re just blind because we can’t seem to find this place when we notice a sign posted on a wall. “MIE” it reads, in bold red lettering. We approach the man at the stall next to it and ask “Mie Ahin?” “Ya,” he replies with a smile.

 

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Mie Ahin, at last!

 

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Our chef and Mie Ahin’s owner.

Compared to finding Mie Ahin, ordering was simple. Our chef speaks some English and between this, Google Translate, and pointing, we got one noodle dish and one wonton soup. They came out piping hot, delivered only a few steps from the stall to our plastic-covered table. Both are rich and heavy, flavored with pork and fat and seasoned with mushrooms and vegetables. The wonton skins are thin and just chewy enough. We finish them and order two more. Amused, the guy churns them out with haste. “You like it?” he asks. “YA!” I reply. He beckons on old man from the inside courtyard to come out to meet us. “This is my father. He started this place and it is named for him,” he tells us, beaming.

 

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Mie with chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables + wontons with broth and veggies. THEY WERE DELICIOUS, GET YOURSELF SOME.

 

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We pose with the owner’s father, founder of Mie Ahin. I appreciate his patience with us since we worked through translations via his son and Google Translate.

Mie Ahin is so good that we come back again a few days later in the late afternoon. The Mie Ahin stall is empty—it’s is only open for lunch! The rest of the time this courtyard-turned-restaurant transforms back into a courtyard, with the nearby building’s residents sitting around for a chat. We wander around looking for a meal and drift toward the smell of steamed bread to find Chinese buns down the street at Ming Yen Restaurant. We pull up plastic chairs inside and a guy comes out with a menu. It’s all in Indonesian, but the guy walks us through the types in English: pork, chicken, Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and red bean. We get one of each and chow down—they’re a bit bready, but the fillings are delicious.

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Steamed buns, a substitute and comfort after finding Mie Ahin closed.

Meanwhile, the guy running the restaurant wants to know more about us and what we’re doing here. We tell him about the world trip and he’s thrilled. “I want to travel like that! I moved here to help my family run this restaurant, but I am also in school now,” he grins. “Your English is great,” I tell him, “that’ll help you a lot in traveling, so keep studying!” I don’t know if it’ll take him around the world, but hopefully it’ll take him somewhere. The kind people around here deserve as much.

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