The food of Indonesia is a representation of the people, the landscape, and the past.
The abundance of rice is a reflection of the fertile soil, spices are still as potent as the times of the trade ships, and the fiery chili echo’s the passion of the people. The cuisine is truly a mash up of many cultures, with culinary influences from China, Thailand, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia.
Indonesian food is not complex; the beauty lies in the simplicity. Here each ingredient retains their flavor, each being an internal part. Layering is achieved by technique. The frying of the garlic and shallot, char of the wok or smokiness of the burning coconut husks, crunch from the peanuts, heat from the chili, complexity from soy or fish sauce, everything being brought together with the palm sugar and then brightened up with lime and coriander.
Ikan (fish) is a favorite, usually whole and grilled over coconut husk. Ikan Kuah Assam (tamarind fish head soup) was one of my favorite soups of the trip, made with spicy sambal, sweet coconut milk, and tart tamarind.
Nasi Campur (various meat & fish, vegetable, egg, shrimp chips and peanut sauce) or Nasi Goreng (fried rice) is an everyday staple, as are Gado Gado (mixed vegetables with peanut sauce), Gudeg (curry made with jackfruit).
There is an amazing variety of fresh fruit, papaya and bananas growing everywhere, as well as baby pineapple, and some I never tried before such as salak (Snake fruit). It looks just like snake skin on the outside and elephant garlic on the inside, but tastes like a mix of apple and walnut. I loved it so much that I saved some seeds and will try to grow it in my garden. Nangka (jackfruit) is an enormous spikey fruit that can weight as much as 40lbs. It has large juicy segments with large seeds and tastes of slightly fermented, very sweet pineapple- another interesting taste!
A favorite of the people are their fresh juices, always offering them to guests as they enter there home, always a very welcome treat after long, hot and very humid travels! Papaya, mango, banana, and even avocado are amazing!
Some of the best coffee in the world is grown here. Of course you heard of Sumatran and Javanese coffee but have you ever heard of Kopi Luwak? The Asian palm civet is a cat like creature that lives in the trees and only eats the ripest coffee berries. Then after the beans go through their digestive track, where they undergo fermentation. Then they are deposited (AKA pooped) onto the forest floor where they are harvested by the coffee farmers, cleaned, dried, roasted, ground and enjoyed! This is some of the most highly regarded coffee in the world. A cup of luwak coffee can go for as much as $80!
The variety of each of the 17,000 islands and 245 million people throughout Indonesia is to say the least, remarkable! Each island is more like its own continent, with completely unique people, building styles, languages, religions, agriculture, and of course food. From the sweetness of Java, the complex curries of West Sumatra, the spit roasted pigs in Bali, and the fiery bite of chilies from Lombok. It was truly a culinary journey through the archipelago called Indonesia.
Terima kasih (Thank you)