Surabaya’s unique brand of local customs, traditions, culture, cuisines and lifestyle are the result of its multi-racial, multi-ethnic population that includes Malays, Chinese, Indians, Arabs, and Europeans living with ethnic groups like Madurese, Sundanese, Bataks, Borneos, Balinese and Sulawesi. An example of distinctly Surabayan culture is Ludruk, a well-known Jawa Timur folk art. Developed since the Japanese Occupation in 1942, it gained popularity during the revolution and has since been thriving alongside modern art forms.
Its cuisine has also benefitted from this pluralism. Epicureans will relish the city’s numerous delicacies such as lontong balap (a stew of sticky rice cake, bean sprout, bean curd and fried cassava and cowpea cake dressed with garlic sauce and spicy shrimp paste), rujak cingur (a salad with cow lips, tropical fruits, turnips, rice cakes, bean curd, cooked fermented soy beans tossed in a black sauce of fermented shrimp paste and ground peanuts topped with fried shallots and shrimp crackers), semanggi (a porridge of leafy greens, bean sprouts and cassava), and even Rawon setan (Evil Rawon, a black spicy beef broth) which, as its name suggests, is only available in the evening.
Look out for food festivals available in certain quarters. At these clusters of street stalls, you can sample an impressive range of foods from Chinese to Western, Peranakan, and Indonesian all at once. Go ahead and explore; Surabayan is great for gastronomical adventures.