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‘Laksa’ Tangerang’s original cultural heritage cuisine

Laksa' Tangerang's
Laksa' Tangerang's

Mufid Elban | The Banten Journal| Tangerang Municipality | Wed, June 3, 2013

Every Indonesian must have his or her own favorite traditional dishes and Laksa, curry soup served with rice noodles is one out of 30 dishes the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry has set  as iconic dishes that are considered to best represent Indonesia’s culinary assets.

Since it was not well-informed that Laksa is a Tangerang’s original cultural heritage cuisine, several regions across the country have even claimed it as their original cuisine.

Once a month, a businessman Mulya Syarif, 65, a resident of Serang, Banten, drives 60 kilometers from his home in Serang to Tangerang just to savor laksa along with his family on Jl. M. Yamin, just meters from the Tangerang Woman Penitentiary.

Mulya Syarif said he could hardly find laksa in any other places around Serang.

Recently, he and his family have a new place to dine in at newly constructed Kawasan Kuliner Laksa Tangerang (the food center for Tangerang’s laksa), which is located around 100 meters away from the Tangcity Mall on Jl. Sudirman.

“Perhaps, paying the toll road is more troublesome for me than driving the car from Serang to Tangerang municipality to eat laksa,” he told The Banten Journal.

Similarly, Dewi Agustina, a housewife who lives in Pulogebang, East Jakarta, said she also intentionally traveled to Tangerang just to eat laksa.

“There are many kinds of laksa sold by street vendors in Jakarta but the taste is somehow different from that in Tangerang. Although I have tasted different tastes of laksa but I heard that the original one is from Tangerang,” she said.

A culinary observer and expert on Chinese-Indonesian culture Myra Sidharta, 83, said laksa had long been known as a home dish among Chinese-Indonesian community cuisines in Indonesia.

Laksa also contains a blend of Malay and Javanese culinary traditions with some influence from Chinese and Dutch cuisines, Myra said.

She observed that the dish can be found in other regions, such as Bangka, as well as in other countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore and China.

Laksa has been developed into multifarious kinds using different ingredients so that every region and country has a laksa with a different taste, she added.

Recently, the Tangerang municipality administration gathered eight laksa vendors who run their business in different places in the municipality and relocated them into the food center.

Awing, 23, one of the laksa vendors in the center said that he learned to sell laksa from his father, who is better known as Bang Kumis (Mr. Moustache).

Awing said that his family residing in Buaran, Tangerang had been selling laksa for generations.

“After 22 years of selling laksa, my father fell ill and I took over the business seven years ago,” said the vendor now running a 3 meter by 5 meter stall in the center.

Every day, he can sell up to 100 bowls of laksa of which he earns a net profit of 10 percent for each bowl.

Each bowl of laksa plus egg is priced at Rp 8,000 (80 US cents), while if customers want to add a piece of chicken meat, they pay Rp 13,000. His stall is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Another laksa vendor Beni, 28, lamented that the laksa business is not that big despite the relocation of the laksa vendors to the food center.

“We used to sell laksa in the front yard of the women’s penitentiary. We could collect up to Rp 800,000 every day. But after moving here, we can only make between Rp 500,000 and Rp 600,000 a day,” said Beni, who has been selling laksa for 13 years along with his wife, Sodiah, 35.

Beni said that his stall was frequented by many laksa lovers on weekends.

“During weekdays, customers usually come only for breakfast and lunch,” he said.

Early in 2010, the Tangerang municipal administration cleared illegal stalls along the sidewalks on Jl. M. Yamin as part of its attempt to win national contest for city’s cleanliness, Adipura award. The laksa vendors were among the evictees.

After the sidewalk road side was cleared, the administration built a park with a jogging track including the food center.

Tangerang Mayor Wahidin Halim claimed laksa as Tangerang’s specialty and, therefore, it should be preserved.

“We have to preserve laksa as Tangerang’s specialty dish. Now, visitors from outside Tangerang municipality can easily find them at the food center,” he said.

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