Dear Ibu Trish: Can a vegetarian possibly survive in Jakarta? Signed, Hold the Burger
Actually, you can get a surprisingly wide choice of vegetarian food in Jakarta -- but whether it's completely meat-free is somewhat in doubt. When I'm working I'll usually go down to the street and get something like this for dinner:
On the right is a little potato pancake, or perkedel; at the bottom are green beans cooked in coconut milk, and scattered throughout is the incredibly delicious tempeh they make here. I recall tempeh in the States as having all the appeal of wet cardboard, but here (where it was invented) it's phenomenal - especially cooked up crunchy-chewy in a sweet sauce. And of course, you get a nice incendiary blob of chili sauce, if you so desire.
Other warung staples include hard-boiled eggs in chili sauce, eggplant with spicy tomatoes, and various kinds of wild spinach and water spinach. It's all tasty and cheap - usually 30 to 50 cents for dinner, with enough left over to make fried rice for breakfast.
The dubiosity has to do with the fact that the warungs never seem to have enough serving spoons to go around, so the guy will grab one out of the nearest dish of braised beef or whatever, bang it vigorously on the side of a pot, and ladle away. Therefore, the possibility of cross-contamination with meat molecules is high. If you're okay with that, you're in good shape.
There are also carts and warungs all over devoted to gado-gado, or steamed vegetables in spicy peanut sauce -- yum -- which would be the Official Vegetarian Dish of Indonesia, if there were one. And if you like your health food less healthy, the gorengan (fried stuff) carts sell addictive pieces of deep-fried tempeh, tofu and sweet potato.
NOTE: I was mostly thinking of one- or two-week visitors when I wrote this; it may not be a wise longterm strategy, as my friend John points out in the Comments.