THE EMERALD OF EQUATOR

DIVERSITY

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Indonesia is the world's largest island country.  Amongst 17508 islands, 6,000 islands are inhabited by over 260 million people, which makes it up as the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population.  The country is largely consisted of five main islands Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua where every island has a unique combination of natural surroundings and resided by over 300 distinctive ethnic groups such as Javanese (40%), Sundanese (16%), Batak (4%).   The unique cultural tradition and heritage (arts, costumes, folk dance, lifestyle, housing structure) have continues to be evolved and inherited throughout centuries.

Another name of Indonesia is 'Emerald of Equator,' as it is situated at the heart of the world’s precious coral triangle and along the Ring of Fire.  Below the surface of the sea, there is the richest and extensive repository of coral reef, which makes it the ultimate paradise for underwater enthusiasts.  And it is the home to the unique wildlife creatures including the largest reptile species alive on earth Komodo Dragons, the gardeners of forest Orangutan, and the majestic bird of paradise Cendrawasih, and so much more.  With a rich history that dates back for centuries, Indonesia also holds some of the most fascinating monuments of human civilization.  Among these are the pyramid-shaped UNESCO world heritage Borobudur Temple, and the 9th century built one of the largest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia, Prambanan Temple.  Taking only 2 hours from Yogya is Surakarta's Sangiran site, which is designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and has the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils in the world.

With the unique culture and abundance splendors of nature, the Island of the Gods attracts tourists from all over the world for its extraordinary offering of unique culinary dishes of the region.  It would take a lifetime to explore all of the authentic recipes developed and inherited by ethnic groups for centuries, and will still leave you craving for more.

Enjoy the ever-intriguing culinary adventure in wonderful Indonesia!

CULINARY ADVENTURE

JAKARTA

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 The capital city is the largest city in Southeast Asia with a population of over 10 million.  Due to its geographical location on the northwest coast of Java Island, it is a multicultural society where ethnic, cultural and historical traditions by hundreds of ethnic groups thrive altogether.   Jakarta is the center of commerce and home to global financial corporations, embassies, luxury hotel chains, department stores and luxury apartments, which boasts of ultra-modern architectural style.  During the night time, brilliant lights emanating from the skyscrapers create the beautiful night view of the city.   Jakarta has full of culture and arts festivals throughout the year, and you can shop a variety of authentic handcrafts produced in other regions.  In addition, there are endless choices of food selection from all over the region of Indonesia as well as international cuisines.  Some of the must try dishes in Jakarta are soto betawi, sop buntut (oxtail soup), nasi uduk (fragrant rice simmered with coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaf), rawon (beef stew in dark broth), and es teler (a shaved ice with avocado, jack fruit, durian, coconut milk, etc.).  

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 YOGYAKARTA 

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Yogyakarta is an ancient city located in the central Java island.  As its official name Special Region of Yogyakarta (provinsi daerah istimewa yogyakarta) signifies, it is a city governed by the royal kingdom of Sultanese, who resides at the Royal Palace of Yogyakarta, and has a world cultural heritage such as beautiful ancient temples of Buddhism, Hinduism.   Located only half an hour from the city is UNESCO World Heritage Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.   Prambanan temple, is one of the largest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia.  Other interesting places to go are Sultan kingdom palace Kraton and the street of Malioboro where you can enjoy street foods of Yogja.  The festival of royal palace is held several times a year, and you can enjoy a variety of performances including traditional dance, gamelan music, shadow puppet show (wayang kulit), or attend culinary workshops held at hotels.  Surakarta is located only less than two hours by car from Yogyakarta, and also known for famous traditional cuisine sold at street eateries such as nasi liwet (rice cooked in coconut milk, chicken broth and spices and served on banana leaf), bakmi Jawa (noodle soup), and es dawet (iced beverage with rice flour jelly, palm sugar and coconut milk).

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BALI

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The Paradise of the Gods offers one of the most fascinating travel experience that distinguish itself from other destinations in every other ways.   Surrounded by an emerald blue beach and pleasant climate, the mysterious and charming island is rich with marvelous nature and distinctive culture and heritage of Hindu.  Balinese consider art as a means of communication or expression, and deeply interconnected with daily life of Balinese people who express their homage to god in a variety forms; artworks, music, dance, and festivals.  Walking through the villages of Bali, you will often find a small plate made of dry grass leaves called 'canang sari' filled with small flowers, glutinous rice, salt, which is a prayer and expression of obedience to the god.   Balinese villages are famous for its traditional handicrafts:  Ubud village for paintings, Celuk village for gold and silver, Mas village for wood,and Batubulan village for stone carvings.    You can also find Balinese cuisine cooking classes offered almost every day.   In Bali, what you must try are babi guling (roasted suckling pig), bebek betutu (roasted duck), sate lilit and nasi Bali. 

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NATIONAL DISHES

Over 5000 Recipes + The Essential Spices

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The combination of geographic and cultural diversity in Indonesia has resulted in one of the most unique cuisines in the world.   The local dishes are based on a variety of ethnic and cultural diversity.   As similar to most of the Asian countries, rice with meat, vegetable side dishes are major staples, and uses plentiful of mild tasting spices, herbs, and leaves.   The most widely used spices are nutmeg, clove, pandan leaves, keluwak and galangal that are native to Indonesia as well as turmeric, lemongrass, shallot, cinnamon, candlenut, coriander, ginger, scallion, and garlic that are imported from other continents.   The most common method for preparing food is frying although grilling, simmering, steaming, and even stewing (most often with coconut milk), and commonly use cooking ingredient is coconut milk.   For as many similarities that exist across the islands, there are just as many regional differences.   Bali, one of the most beloved honeymoon destination in the world's 90% of population is Hindu, is a home to popular dishes like bebek betutu (duck) and babi guling (pig).  On the other hand, pork is strictly prohibited to be consumed for the rest of islands like Java island where the majority of population is Muslim.   When you visit traditional markets, you will see street vendors called 'warung' or 'kaki lima' selling a variety of colorful and interesting street foods such as marinated barbequed meat Sate, traditional soup Soto, and fried rice and noodles Nasi Goreng and Mi Goreng. 

NASI TUMPENG

H - Nasi KuningIt is a cone-shaped yellow fragrant rice surrounded by seven different side dishes such as urap (marinated vegetables), ayam panggang(grilled chicken), abon sapi (beef floss), teri kacang (anchovy with peanuts), fried prawn, shredded omelette, tempe orek (sweet and dry fried tempeh), perkedel kentang (mashed potato fritters), perkedel jagung (corn fritters), sambal goreng ati liver in chilli sauce).  Nasi tumpeng tastes even more delicious with hot chili sauce Sambal.    The dish is commonly enjoyed during joyous celebrations in Java and Bali but all other region nowadays.  It has a symbolic meaning as gratitude toward God.  The cone-shaped rice was recognized as a replica of the Mahameru, the place where gods reside and color of yellow rice symbolizes wealth and virtue.  The seven different side dishes also have their own philosophies behind.   “Seven” is pitu in Javanese, a word referencing pitulungan or pertolongan in Indonesian, which means “the helping hands (of God).”  The seven dishes are required to fulfil certain rules, such as land animals (chicken or cow), sea animals (fish), over-ground (vegetables), and underground (tubers).  Although the modern Nasi Tumpeng has undergone a series of modifications, the aforementioned side dishes have always been present.

RENDANG

H - RendangThe traditional food from Padang, Sumatra island is made with beef, coconut milk, and a variety of spices such as garlic, onion, red chilies, turmeric, ginger, pepper, lemongrass, galangal, star anise, kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, turmeric leaves, and asam kandis, all of which have strong antimicrobial property and works as a natural preservative.  As the result, it can last for weeks at room temperature.    Traditionally, it used to be served during festive occasions such as traditional ceremonies, wedding feasts and to honored guests.  Nowadays, it can be commonly enjoyed at restaurants serving Padang dishes.   Rendang is revered in Minangkabau culture as an embodiment of the philosophy of musyawarah, discussion and consultation with elders.   It has been claimed that the four main ingredients represent Minangkabau society as a whole.

1. The meat (daging) symbolizes the Niniak Mamak, the traditional clan leaders such as the datuk- the nobles, royalty and revered elders.
2. The coconut milk (karambia) symbolizes the Cadiak Pandai- intellectuals, teachers, poets and writers.
3. The chilli (lado) symbolizes the Alim Ulama- clerics, ulama and religious leaders. The hotness of the chilli symbolizes Sharia.
4. The spice mixture (pemasak) symbolizes the rest of Minangkabau society.

GADO-GADO

H- GadogadoThe dish gado-gado, which literally means mix-mix is a fitting description of this dish made with slightly boiled, bleached, or steamed vegetables (potatoes, long beans, bean sprouts, cabbage), fried tofu, tempeh (fermented soybean cakes), and lontong (rice wrapped in a banana leaf).   It is served with thick peanut sauce dressing made of roasted nuts, chilies, shrimp paste and lime or tamarind juice, and something crunchy - prawn crackers "krupuk" or crisps made from melinjo, the hard fruit of a tropical evergreen tree.  The morning-to-night time staple is believed to have existed since peanut and cashew nut were brought from Americas and made their way to Asia by Portuguese and Spanish traders in the 16th century.   And it became popularized during the Dutch colonial era in the 17th century by the Betawi ethnic groups as a nutritious and inexpensive dish.   The dish is nowadays available at upscale restaurants as well as open-air eateries 'warung' and mobile food carts 'kaki lima,' which literally translates as "five feet" - the sum of the vendor's two feet and the cart's three legs (two wheels in the front and one supporting leg in the rear).  

SATE

H - SateSate is a juicy slices of marinated meat on thin bamboo skewers grilled to perfection on a flaming charcoal open fire, and constantly brushed with oil for a tantalizing glaze until well-browned.   Then it is served with a bowl of delectably savory peanut dip and cuts of cucumber, onion, and compressed rice cakes lontong.  Some types of sate come with much sweeter flavor with a twirl of kecap manis (sweet sauce) added to the peanut sauce.   Other spices such as galangal (a type of ginger) and finely cut dashes of the limau purut (kaffir lime) leaf further heighten the flavor of the sate and its sauce.   Across the colorful archipelago, regional ethnic groups have created different variations of sate, and differ from one another depending on types of meats used, spices, and complimentary sauces.   But the most commonly used meats are beef, chicken, and lamb.  Historically, the dish is traced back to Java where the Indian kebab imported by Muslim traders first took on a distinctly more eastern flavor, and widely popularized by neighboring countries in Southeast Asia including Malaysia and Thailand.   It is also one of the most favorite dishes by president Barack Obama's during his childhood in Indonesia.   

SOTO  

tn-recipes-Cooking-for-Love-S3E4_Ribs-Soto-with-BergedilSoto is a traditional soup mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables. 

The national dish is highly localized according to available ingredients and cooking traditions in each region, so that a wide range of variants were developed across Indonesia such as soto Betawi, Bandung, Madura, Makassar, Padang.  But one of the most well-known is Soto Betawi, which is the old name of the capital city Jakarta.  It uses a unique combination of fresh ingredients such as herbs, spices, coconut milk, beef and tomato, which create a very creamy and savory taste sensation.   It is usually served alongside compressed rice cakes lontong, mashed potato patties, crackers, and cucumber carrot pickles (called acar).   Commonly used condiments are mung bean sprouts, bihun (rice vermicelli), fried shallot, lime juice, hot chili sauce, and sweet say sauce.   It is omni-present in Indonesia available in many warung and open-air eateries on many street corners, to fine dining restaurants and luxurious hotels.  Some of the recommended restaurants where you can try best Soto in Jakarta are;  Soto Betawi Afung, Soto Betawi H. Ma'ruf, Sroto Eling-Eling, and Nino Tauto.