Many visitors buy Bandeng (milkfish) – locals call it Bandeng presto (pressure-cooked milkfish) or Bandeng duri lunak (soft-boned milkfish) – whatever the name, it has been pressure-cooked. Other famous food souvenirs include lumpia Semarang (a kind of fried spring roll with bamboo-shoot filling), wingko babat (small patties of glutinous rice and shredded coconut in a variety of flavours) and pia Kemuning (various kind of filling, but the traditional ones are filled with palm sugar). You can purchase any of these at food stores called toko oleh-oleh (a lot of them are located in “Jalan Pandanaran”) or from street vendors and open stalls. If buying from street vendors or open stalls, you might look for those where locals go, as it is an indication of which ones are popular. Pressure-cooked milkfish can also be found in Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya supermarkets, but not in such variety, particularly the large number of hot sauces available locally. Wingko Babat is already known before World War II and can be stored in room tempearature at least for one week. It is from Babat village and the legendary is Tjap Kereta Api d/h Loe Soe Siang which then other many Wingko Babat makers imitate it, but usually smaller and not so delicious for cheaper price, although sometimes is sold expensive by many hawkers. There is also the money-minded eater’s snack – nasi kucing (literally, cat rice, which is a very small portion of rice served with a modest amount of meat and vegetables), which can be had for about Rp 5,000.
There are hawker-style food stalls and tents all across Semarang. They are very popular and offer good food at unbelievably cheap prices. Please note that, as they are not permanent establishments, they do not have phone numbers and exact addresses. However, they usually open in the same spots and at a regular time every day. Also, as in any hawker-style establishments, hygiene is not a top priority here. If you have a sensitive stomach, you should always consider cook’s access to the fresh water and toilets, as well as whether the food is cooked fresh or set out in serving dishes. Anything served with ice should be questioned so as to avoid the trots.
- Simpang Lima. In the heart of Semarang, has plenty of food stalls offering a variety of Indonesian and Javanese food. The prices are cheap, sometimes very cheap: one piece of fried chicken, a thigh or a leg, plus 1 plate of steamed rice for as little as Rp 15,000. You can also get into other tents to try other meals. Some of them offer lesehan (sit on a ticker) while eating your meal, and may or may not include short tables. The beef or chicken satay (grilled skewers of meat, which usually includes fat and internal organs if you don’t request pure meat) is mouth-watering, with peanut sauce and hot chillis, served with nasi goreng babat (fried rice with intestines) and is situated by the air mancur (water fountain), southward of Simpang Lima in front of the Diponegoro University campus. The Simpang Lima district has food on offer from early morning until late at night and one local favorite is nasi liwet, which is rice served with a variety of add-ons and a coconut milk soup served together in a banana leaf. Be sure to get there early, around 11 pm – the best stalls are always busy and sell out quickly.
- Jalan Pahlawan, south of Simpang Lima, you will also find many food stalls under tents (tenda), selling a variety of foods from Gudeg (Jogjakartan pressure-cooked sweet jackfruit meal, usually served dry or wet with coconut milk soup, and you can add in fried chicken, eggs, and other items), bubur ayam (chicken porridge, a real treat), jagung bakar (grilled corn) and many others. Pamper yourself with plenty of good food, yet very cheaply. If you’d like something local, try Pak Edi’s (Mr. Edi is the proprietor of the kaki lima) tahu gimbal, which is shrimp fried in a patty, raw cabbage, lontong, krupuk and bean sprouts in peanut sauce. If you want dessert, across the street from where the grilled corn vendors are is the famous es putar Conglik, where they serve traditional coconut milk ice cream in a variety of tantalizing flavors, such as coconut, durian, chocolate, and blewah (Cucumis melo, a type of squash).
- Semawis, Gang Warung in the China Town. Hawker-style food. Located on. It opens only weekend nights (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and has a variety of food stalls offering authentic Semarang cuisine and delicacies. On Jl. Jagalan, you can order the best kue bandung (a type of giant pancake with yeast and served slathered with margarine or butter and a variety of toppings) in Semarang.
- Jalan Pandanaran, has numerous stores selling locally made “Semarang-ish” products worth buying as presents. Although parking is a bit of a hassle, it may only take you a minute or two to walk from where you are parked to visit these shops.
Food Stalls (Note: Unless stated otherwise, these food stalls are only open after sunset every day)
- Ayam Goreng Salim, Pringgading (corner of Mataram and Pringgading). Tasty fried chicken
- Kalasan Fried Chicken, in Simpang Lima offers good food at cheap prices.
- Koee Lekker Paimo, Jl. Karanganyar, (in front of Loyola High School, a famous school in Semarang). Indonesian interpretation of Dutch pancakes. Daytime, weekdays only (Mon-Sat).
- Lumpia Gang Lombok, Lombok St, in Chinatown (but nowadays many Chinese traditional houses have been renovated to modern current styles), next to Tay Kak Sie Temple. It is the pioneer of many lumpia stalls now and firstly opened before WWII. Some of the owner of other stalls ever worked at Lumpia Gang Lombok. Use dried shrimp (ebi) and also fresh shrimp. Open from morning.
- Prasodjo. Hot and fried tofu (soybean curd) and tempe (soybean cake), eat them while they’re hot with a green chilli named “cabe rawit” if you love it spicy hot!
- Mbok Berek, Jl Jendral Sudirman 58A. ayam penyet (traditional Javanese fried chicken that is smashed in a mortar and pestle so you can enjoy the sumsum – marrow), served with coconut milk and lalapan (raw vegetables).
- Nasi Ayam Bu Wido, Kemuning. Nasi Ayam or Javanese Chicken Curry (open for dinner only).
- Satay Pak Kempleng, Ungaran area – is delicious and known for years for its big cut satay portion (open for lunch).
- Soto Bangkong, (Bangkong Chicken Soup). Soto is delicious soup with a chicken/beef and turmeric based broth.