Savoring Ambon’s Grilled Fishes
Cities in eastern parts of Indonesia are well known for their mouthwatering fish dishes. Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, is no exception. Unfortunately, there are not much restaurants serving local fish dishes despite its well-known diversity of fishes. Luckily, Tempo seized an opportunity to taste various cookings of fish from local waters.
That night, The Natsepa Resort and Club served roasts of 57 kinds of fishes. It was the celebration for PT Pertamina’s 57th anniversary and Pertamina Diving Club planted seagrass on Ambon gulf.
Natsepa’s Executive Chef Panca Nugraha said that all types of the fishes are grilled after being marinated with ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and chicken broth powder for half to one hour.
“All of these are taken from waters around Ambon gulf,” said Panca.
The most special fish, according to Panca, is the napoleon fish, whose price reaches up to Rp3 million each. Napoleon fish are not too large, its length almost the size of an adult-s arm and slim.
Besides napoleon fish, there were alsokarupa, lolosi, gurapa, kapas-kapas, kerapu batu (rock grouper), kerapu macan (tiger grouper), cakalang, bubara ekor kuning, kakap putih (barramundi), cedemu, tuna, kerapu bara, tengiri (scomberomorus), bulana, samandar, and parrot fish.
Napoleon fish and the groupers were soft and savory. But napoleon fish has more dense texture and thicker flakes than other sea fishes, whereas the parrot fish tasted sweet with softer meat.
The fishes were served with sambal (chili sauce). Pance prepared four kinds of sambal : matah, colo-colo, dabu-dabu. The most typical sambal of Ambon is the colo-colo. Colo-colo is similar to soy sambal but with soya sauce is served separately to the slices of chili, shallot, basil, tomatoes, and chinese lemon. The soy sauce is usually poured on the fish after it is smeared with chili slices.
Hot rice, boiled cassava plus some vegetables were also served. And don’t forget the Kohu-kohu, Ambon’s distinctive boiled vegetable salad.
The vegetables in Kohu-kohu include long bean, bean sprout, and basil. It is mixed with grated coconut and seasoned with shallots, chili, Chinese lemon and slices of cakalang fish. It tasted sour and hot.
Eating fish with cassava is another of Ambon’s distinctive tastes. Ambon’s cassava, called kasbi, is sweet and soft. – Tempo
The West Sumatran Leaf Coffee
Have you ever heard of coffee made out of leaves? You will find such unique coffee in West Sumatra. The Pondok Lemang and Kawa Daun Pak Pangeran in Padang Panjang Regency are two places in West Sumatra where you can find the kawa or leaf coffee.
The Pondok Pak Pangeran coffee shop is strategically located on the street between Padang Panjang Regency and Bukittingi. Every day, hundreds of people come to the shop to enjoy the refreshing leaf kawa.
The leaf coffee is truly made out of Arabica coffee leaves, which is roasted until blackened. Then coffee leaves are put into boiling water until the water is coffee black. Even more uniquely, the coffee is served in a coconut shell. In this way, the aroma of coffee become more fragrant and adds to the enjoyment.
The leaf coffee has been a tradition of West Sumatra people since the Dutch colonial era. During that time, residents are prohibited to enjoy the luxury of coffee beans despite the Netherlands forcing them to plant coffee. The residents then took the initiative to process coffee leaves into coffee.
Leaf coffee at Pondok Pak Pangeran Cottage is served alongside traditional snacks lemang and durian. Lemang is made of tape (fermented cassava) and sticky rice roasted in bamboo. These traditional dishes are suitable to be eaten during the day. One portion of leaf coffee and lemangare is usually priced at Rp10,000.
Pangeran, the owner of a Pondok Kawa Daun coffee shop, said that in addition to refreshing, the coffee leaves are demanded because they are believed to have efficacy against cholesterol, high blood pressure, and fever. – Tempo
Crispy Cricket Chips of Surabaya
Seeing crickets as bird food is a common sight. But what about crickets chips for humans? The experience of eating rempeyek jangkrik (cricket chips) is offered by Farmer Group Elok Mekarsari RW 8 of Semolowaru Village, Surabaya, East Java.
“The taste is undoubtedly crunchy and savory,” said the chief of the group, Ary Widiastuti.
The cricket chips are sold for Rp7,000 per package. Each package contains six to seven chips. According to Rini, a member of the group, she produces 25 packages a day. Her customers come from surrounding regions and other cities.
The production of the cricket rempeyek is left to Rini and Bu Subur. Rini is tasked to ‘kill’ the crickets. It is an easy yet challenging task.
First, the crickets are put into a pan filled with boiled water. Agility is needed so that the crickets don’t jump out before they enter the boiling water.
“I was afraid at first, but I get used to it now,” Rini admitted.
The crickets which are selected for food are the younger ones, i.e., a month old after hatched. Young crickets are rich in protein.
The dead crickets are moved into the frying pan to be sauted to dry. Once they are dried, they are chopped. The heads and legs are thrown away. The body parts are chopped into smaller parts and poured into the liquid dough to be made into chips.
Next processes are the specialty of Bu Subur. The lady is experienced in catering business and she is good at making rempeyek. In her hands, the dough is fried into crunchy and savory rempeyek.
Those who have never tried this snack will think twice before trying. But one bite will be enough to make anyone crave for its crispy sensation. – Tempo
The Melting Point of Indonesian Dishes
Culinary tourism in Medan has become more popular in recent years. One Medan resident, Indra Halim, said that Medan should be the center of culinary experience in Indonesia.
“There is no dominant taste, but it is rich of flavors,” Indra said about a Medan dish in a cafe in Medan.
For example, the influence of Malay culture can be found in dishes such as nasi lemak (fatty rice) and lontong sayur. Whereas kwetiau, fu yung hai, and dishes made of duck are influenced by Chinese culture. Indian style can also be found on foods like egg martabak , cane bread, and boiled noodles.
“Only European flavors have no dominant influence on Medan culinary,” said Indra.
The variety of dishes is enriched by traditional Batak foods such as saksang, roasted pork, kidu-kidu, and many others. To be added to the list of traditional foods, dishes a la Mandailing such asikan salai is worth trying. The lemang of Tebing Tinggi and dodol of Serdang Bedagai Regency are recommended for the sweet tooth.
Culinary expert William Wongso supports the idea of Medan being a place where distinctive dishes fuse together.
“Medan is the melting point of dishes from various ethnics,” William said. Chinese culture holds the dominant influence on Medan dishes that make the dish different from those of Padang, which is identical with coconut milk cooking.
However, according to Indra, Chinese foods have developed and created variants of food distinctive to Medan in the past. For example, Bihun Bebek Asin can only found in Medan and offers tongue-spoiling flavor.
The secret recipe to the dish is feared to have vanished, however. Many people consider the food as non-halal as it is created by Chinese ethnic. But the truth is the food is halal.
Restaurants that serve distinctive dishes in Medan are still many. Indra is in progress of creating a booklet that lists culinary destinations in Medan. – Tempo
The Royal family of Yogyakarta Sultanate Palace have special food that is only served during the celebration of tingalan Dalem (Sultan’s birthday). The dish is called nasi blawong (blawong rice).
According to the widower of the late Gusti bendara Pangeran Haryo Jokokusumo (youngest brother of Sultan Hamengku Buwono X), Raden Ayu Nuraida, nasi blawong has been served since the birthday celebration on Hamengku Buwono I until present. It has been regarded as a sacred dish.
Nuraida, who wrote book about 100 royal recipes entitled “Yogyakarta Palace Culinary Heritage” explained that the name of the food was taken after the dish ware where it is served. The ware is in a form of large blue plate. The Dutch word for ‘blue’ is ‘blaw’. Javanese tongue slipped the spelling into ‘blawong’.
Blawong rice is red in color despite the fact that it is made of white rice. The reddish color resulted from variety of spices included during the cooking. As the side dishes, the rice is served withbacem (fermented) fried chicken, eggs of pindang fish, and diced beef cooked with soya sauce. The beef cooking is called lombik kethok.
The dish taste savory since it is cooked with whole shallots, Nuraida explained to Pito Agustin Rudiana from Tempo on November 10. Due to its special status, the dish are hardly found among residents’ society.
“For the royal family, nasi blawong is considered sacred,” Nuraida added. – Tempo
The Story of Solo’s Jenang
For the citizens of Solo, jenang is more than just a soft, tempting food. Every kind of jenang holds its own particular meaning. Slamet Rahardjo, the founder of Indonesian Jenang Foundation shared knowledge about the meaning behind kinds of this Javanese traditional porridge-like food.
“Jenang is special in the eye of Surakarta citizen,” said Slamet.
Although the dish can be found in almost all kinds of traditional ritual such as child birth or death ceremonial, not all kind of jenang can be served in random occasion.
The jenang suran, for example, is always served in the traditional thanksgiving (selamatan) ritual on the month of Sura (first month of Javanese calendar). In addition, there are also jenang grendul or candil porridge served in the occasion. The brown and soft-textured sticky rice dish symbolize the harmony in life which is always alternated with differences.
People in Surakarta also know jenang procotan which is made from rice powder and banana. This kind of jenang is usually served in birth ceremony to resemble the hope for the baby to be born safely.
There is also jenang lemu which is usually served alongside sego liwet (rice dish). According to culture observer of Kasunanan Palace, KGPH Dipokusumo, the food was originally served in the palace on Thursday nights selamatan ritual.
“Then, the food would be given out to people who pass by the Kori Kamandungan,” Dipokusumo explained.
Differently from jenang procotan which start to be rarely seen, jenang lemu and sego liwet can easily be found in the traditional markets in Solo.
“Nowadays, many foodstalls serve the dish that it becomes a typical dish of Solo,” Dipokusumo added. – Tempo