Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Story of the Candy Man

I met Pak Emen two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon. He was busy scooping shredded cotton candy onto pink crackers when I saw him. He sat at the corner of the ATM Centre, with a big square can resting between his legs and a fork on his right hand. In Indonesia, the food that he was making named Gulali, or Rambut Nenek. It's a generous amount of shredded cotton candy sandwiched with thin pink crackers made out of flour. The sight of people like Pak Emen, making cotton candy sandwiches on streets, is an ordinary sight in Jakarta.

Pak Emen, the Candy Man

Pak Emen came from West Java, from Mahalengka to be exact. He came to Jakarta with his wife to seek for job. "I have been making gulali since I could remember," he said. The tanned skin man said that he start making gulali since seven in the morning until he ran out of cotton candy. "I don't usually sell all of my gulali in one day, so if I have some left overs, I bring them home," he continued. 

The Javanese shared stories about how the cotton candies were made. "First, you mix sugar with flour, then you put it in a special machine that make them melt and stretch. Unlike the big gulali (or cotton candy), we use flour to make it less sticky and last longer," he said, still scooping the candy onto crackers. "After that, you put them in another machine to be shredded. In the end, you will have something like this." he continued, pointing his eyes into a big square can in front of him. I peeked inside and was welcomed with piles of shredded cotton candy. If you think finding a needle in a haystack is difficult, maybe finding a needle in this pile of sugar will be less complicated and sweeter. 

"I don't make the candy and the crackers myself because I'm too old to operate the machine," said Pak Emen, "you have to heat it with fire, and pull and push and pull and push. It's heavy, you know?". The old man told me that he usually buys the candy and the crackers from his friend, who came from Brebes, then make the candy sandwich and sell it to the local citizens. "My friend also made the pink crackers. Did you know, we only need water and flour to make them?"

A can of shredded cotton candy

Scoop a generous amount of candy onto the pink crackers

"I can make hundreds of this in a day," said Pak Emen. He sell his gulali in a plastic bag, four pieces of candy sandwich each, for Rp8.000,00. It was not pricey at all for a bag of sweets, but when I was younger, we can buy five candy sandwiches for Rp5.000,00. 

"I make gulali everyday from morning until evening at this very spot," he said, "so, if you want some candy, you know where to go.". I had to leave for lunch, so I said farewell and thank you to Pak Emen for sharing stories about himself and his job to me. Of course, I didn't forget to buy myself some gulali for me and my friends at work. Who wouldn't drool at the sight of those sweet sugary crackers?
Voila! your gulali is ready to be eaten

A piece of gulali

Grab you gulali while they're still fresh

So, if you want to grab yourself some Indonesian traditional sweets, you can visit Pak Emen at BCA's ATM Centre in Melawai, Kebayoran Baru. With less than a dollar, you can enjoy traditional sweets with your friends and family. 

Gulali Pak Emen
In front of ATM BCA
Jalan Melawai Raya 110 - AB
Kebayoran, Blok M
Jakarta Selatan

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