There are many seafood restaurants in Jakarta, but Muara Karang offers a truly different experience for true seafood lovers. But first, a warning: don’t expect your seafood to be served in a comfortable, air conditioned place and seated on padded seats here. Instead, you can expect to partake of the freshest seafood around, right on the edge of the fish market, surrounded by muddy streets and the stench of fish around you.
And, unlike other restaurants where you just wait for your dishes to be served, you are also going to have to select and buy your own fish here. But one thing is a sure bet, freshness is guaranteed because you will have chosen and bought freshly caught fish directly from the fish auction market.
Muara Karang is located north of Jakarta and is accessible by driving to Pluit, then proceeding to the market by following the directions. Muara Karang is best visited during the evenings. Sparkling lights along the entrance road to Muara Karang prepare you for the beautiful experience ahead. The lights belong to the fish traders and their colorful umbrellas.
There’s a bounty of marine catch to be enjoyed here, with various kinds of fish, squid, shrimp, clam and crab on display. Jakarta’s seafood fanatics are familiar with this place and some stop by here just to enjoy the ambiance while others come here to buy their fish.
The prices at Muara Karang are relatively cheap too because the fishmongers get their catch directly from the fishermen, so the prices are much lower than in the markets or at supermarkets. Despite the relatively inexpensive prices, visitors can still bargain, and with such freshness and low prices it’s understandable why this place is so crowded at night.
After you arrive at Muara Karang, you select your fish or seafood from one of the stalls and then bring the fish to one of the restaurants orwarung available there, which will in turn cook your seafood. There are many choices for Warungs, all offering different specialties. If you are a foreigner, it’s best to go with a local who will help you choose the right warung, as they all tend to look alike. Warungs in Muara Karang usually serve steamed-rice with chilli mango and belacan chilli sauces. You’ll have to wait your turn before your fish is prepared, requiring some patience on most nights, as it can take about 30 minutes before your seafood is ready. But, while you are waiting for your fish, you can try the delicious otak-otak, a snack made of fish wrapped in banana leaf that costs only Rp. 600.
Seafood is usually prepared to your preference, but the fish is typically grilled with distinctive flavors, right in front of the warung. For shellfish, crab and shrimp there are various options on offer, simply boiled, fried in flour, fried in butter or with sweet and sour sauce. Because of the variety of the seafood, the freshness and the low prices, you’ll be tempted to buy a lot more than you can eat. But don’t worry, you can always take the rest home with you.
Eating seafood at Muara Karang does offer a different sensation, because all the seafood here is ‘fresh from the ocean’.