Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Indian food attracts wider market

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Thanks partly to Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and other Bollywood people, all things Indian are gaining popularity here, including its spicy and pungent cuisine.

Until recently, very few could afford Indian cuisine regularly because Indian eateries in Jakarta were mostly upmarket.

Now, for less than Rp 40,000 you can enjoy a complete Indian meal plus soft drink at a number of eateries.

"Indian food has become more popular here," said Gurmeet Singh, the owner of the Indonesian franchise of Singapore-based Komala's.

Singh, who was born in Indonesia, said that before he decided to buy the Indian eatery franchise, he checked out trends over the past five years.

"And we see that Indonesians have become more familiar with Indian culture, thanks in part to Bollywood," Singh said, smiling.

"At weekends, customers have to queue outside the restaurant. My customers are not only Indian or foreigners but also Indonesians," he said.

Singh claimed that Komala's served an average of 250 people on weekdays and more on weekends.

"Half of the customers are Indians and the other half locals," he said.

Foreseeing a prosperous future, he plans to have at least three more Komala's restaurants in Jakarta in the next four years, to add to the existing one in the Sarinah building on Jl. MH Thamrin.

Komala's also provides catering services.

"Mostly for weddings and birthday parties of Indians. But once we served at a party for Indonesians. They ordered vegetarian chicken from us," Singh said, adding that Komala's is 100 percent vegetarian.

Jane Tom, a Gandhi International School teacher who came here with her family 13 years ago from India, expressed pleasure at the wider choice of Indian restaurants nowadays.

"We only had expensive Indian restaurants back then, but recently we have cheaper ones like Komala's, and more recently there's another one in Sunter, Sam's Curry House," she said.

Before Komala's and Sam's Curry House, Akbar Tandoori and Curry catered to the middle-class market with a small joint in Plaza Senayan food court.

Tom, who trained her Javanese maid here to cook Indian food, said, however, that Indian food here did not taste exactly the same as in her hometown Kerala in southern India.

She said she used to bring spices and ingredients from India, but now there are more Indian stores in Sunter, North Jakarta, and Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, and she can have her spices delivered.

Separately, Singh said that Komala's had to adapt Indian flavors to local taste to attract more customers.

"Like McDonald's, for example. They serve rice and fried chicken here. They don't do that in the U.S. Komala's has also adapted recipes to local tastes. We make the food here not too spicy, a moderate taste," he said.

"But locals here love our lassi," he said, referring to an Indian yogurt beverage.

So, food lovers, be adventurous, and taste some spicy masala dosai or curry this weekend!

Indian restaurants in Jakarta

Akbar Palace Wijaya Grand Center Blok H 37-39 Jl. Dharmawangsa Raya 021 720 6818

Akbar Tandoori & Curry Plaza Senayan Food Court For delivery: 7278 7070

Ganesha Ek Sanskriti BRI II Building 9th Floor Jl. Jendral Sudirman Kav. 44-46 021 571 9415, 571 3567 For delivery: 7279 7070

Hazara Jl. Kusuma Atmaja No. 85 021 319 25037

Haveli Graha Irama Building 2nd Floor Jl. Rasuna Said 021 526 1165

Indian Mantra Pasaraya Blok M, Cineplex Level 10 021 7278 0364

Jewel of India Hotel Ambhara Jl. Iskandarsyah Raya No. 1 021 270 0800

Khaban Restaurant and Cafe Sunter Mall Jl. Danau Sunter 021 640 7019

Kinara Jl. Kemang Raya 78-B, South Jakarta 021 719 2677 For delivery: 7278 7070

Komala's Restaurant Sarinah Building Jl. MH Thamrin No. 11, Central Jakarta 021 390 3533 For delivery: 728 00505

Queen's Tandoor Permata Plaza, Ground Floor Jl. MH Thamrin 021 390 3287

Queen's of India Danau Sunter Hotel Jl. Danau Permai Raya Blok C1 021 658 31477

Rasa Sayang Jl. Paradise Barat Raya Tahap II Blok K 31-32 021 640 5070

Sahara Jl. Veteran I No. 23 021 381 0996

Shah Jahan Sahid Jaya Hotel 18th Floor Jl. Jendral Sudirman 021 570 4444

Taj Mahal Jl. H. Samanhudi No. 10A, Pasar Baru 021 381 3754

Tanduri Jl. RS Fatmawati No. 12 For delivery: 7278 7070