Great markets and strong coffee, or How I tried Indonesia

With a strong homemade coffee in hand, I watch the market in Kuta, in the south of the island of Lombok, sizzle. One of the women cleans the freshly opened fruits of the breadfruit tree – my favorite fruit, which in Yogyakarta, Java, for example, is cooked unripe to prepare meat. The already yellow, fleshy and really sweet interior of the breadfruit crunches between the teeth just like salaka, a fruit that is native to Sumatra and Java in Indonesia. In English it is called snake fruit – snake fruit, because its shell resembles the skin of a snake. In Indonesia, the durian also has a home, known for its pungent smell, which is why you won’t be allowed to get on the plane with it. Besides fruit, I taste homemade sweets, mostly rice and wrapped in banana leaves.

Indonesian markets are places of noise, smells, life. Unique flavors. Each market is characterized by something different. In Padang, Sumatra, almost all traders sell palm sugar. In the north of Celebes, in the mountains, everywhere smells of coffee beans. On Flores and Bali, you have to bargain well, here the locals won’t give you anything. In a village near Kuta, once a week, sellers spread their wares along the road, so that it is barely passable. And there is also a fish market in East Lombok…

Fish market

From Kuta in the south of the island, about two hours by scooter to the eastern tip of Lombok. Tanjung Luar is a famous fish market or fish market, where fishermen from the entire west coast of the Nusa Tenggara archipelago land every morning. Locals on motorbikes carry fish in bowls on their heads, horse carts are carried by women who have bought fish to sell. Traffic and the number of people per square meter increases as we approach the port. Fishermen unload fish from their boats, from the smallest to sharks. Women in colorful dresses sit by a pool full of tiny fish and octopuses. Others spread the catch on tarps where they are left to dry.

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In a concrete shed, of which there are several, men cut larger fish. A few sharks lie motionless on the ground – only later do I learn how much their hunting threatens the local ecosystems. For money, the locals have no choice but to catch and sell even these predators, some of which are three meters and more. Other men precisely sharpen their machetes to slice the meat. At my feet stands a basin full of bloody tuna heads. In the next shed, women load small fish into large salt crystals to preserve them. Then it will be served all over the island with a traditional dish mixed rice – literally mixed rice or rice with side dishes. This is inside mixed rice most often fried tempeh and tofu, cooked vegetables, in East Java, for example, unripe breadfruit, cooked like meat. Furthermore, fish and small fish in various preparations (after all, we are on the largest archipelago in the world), boiled eggs, finely chopped herbs with grated coconut, roasted peanuts, which are sprinkled on the surface of the food. Only a teaspoon or two of each selected side dish is served, no more. They are arranged around or on piles of rice.

In Indonesian cuisine, similar to other Asian cuisines, several flavors meet on the plate at once. Spicy, with chili. Sweet, which often creates, for example, coconut. Bitter than some vegetables, such as okra. And lime gives acidity.

Meat for the poor – tempeh

Indonesian cuisine is as diverse as its nature, culture and people. Each island has its own specialties, some of which you wouldn’t dare to try. On the island of Flores, for example, the locals love dog meat. I still hope it will be mixed rice I haven’t eaten it, but I’m sure it was once offered to us by a family from Flores. In Sumatra, around the volcano of Mount Kerinci, during certain holidays they serve rice steamed in carnivorous plants.

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Tempeh, a fermented soybean, is often served with the ubiquitous rice. According to many experts, tempeh is the healthiest form of soy. Locals call tempeh poor man’s meat. In the town of Tanjung in North Lombok, one of the main tempeh producers is Mus. A small, thin man with a wide smile makes about 250 kilograms a day together with his wife and three other helpers. In a one-room house, they first boil the soybeans, then peel them and wash them in the machine. Japanese bacteria help in fermentation. A young Indonesian woman packs processed material with bacteria in plastic bags and stores them on the shelves. “It takes three days to make tempeh here,” says Mus, who mostly sells his products to locals on the island. Tempeh is a local invention, Indonesians often fry it in oil with chili or prepare it in curry sauce.

Warm base

Chili is a staple of Indonesian cuisine, it might be second only to rice in the list of ingredients. I understand this in my friend Yoan’s kitchen when she gives me the task of slicing about thirty green chilies into small rings. “If you forget to add salt to your food, nothing will happen, but don’t offer it to people without chili,” says the petite Indonesian woman. Besides the popularity of the taste, the use of hot chili in home cooking has another, practical reason. Chili causes a sweating reaction in the body and thus cools the body in a tropical country.

Green pepper, tofu, shrimp and eggplant – we will prepare one main dish with rice from these ingredients. The other will be known shady, Yoan considers it the best food in the world, and not just in his native country. It comes from West Sumatra and is usually made from beef. However, Yoan prepared the chicken. It takes three hours to cook the meat so that it is properly scented with herbs and soaked in coconut. There is also plenty of time to learn the love story of Yoan and her husband Ivan. Yoan yells at him when it’s time to add the coconut meat to the pan. Ivan opens the door to the garden, where coconut trees grow around a small pond. He cuts the coconut with a machete, opens it, pours water and scrapes the inside of the coconut. By squeezing and washing, it becomes the main ingredient for cooking rendang. I grate part of the coconut and fry it in a pan and add the meat at the very end.

This recipe must also have a spicy taste. He will take care of this sambal – chili pepper paste and several other herbs. We clean the onion, garlic, fresh turmeric and ginger and mix everything.

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There is a pot for cooking rice on the cupboard in the kitchen, it should not be missing in any household. During the day, the pot is turned on to keep the rice warm whenever the household serves it.

Prawns are ready shady growing slowly. Joan still makes salad, even though they don’t eat a lot of greens in the country. He mixes green beans with cabbage, bamboo shoots and cucumber. Then he starts preparing the local dressing dear, of course, with chili. For two portions, he needs two red chili peppers, one hundred grams of roasted peanuts, juice of one lime, ginger, brown sugar and salt.

Bitter and strong

Indonesian coffee prepared by locals will get you going. Local families serve it several times a day, always with a good dose of sugar. It grows on several islands, and the local population knows different ways of processing it. For example, in the village of Werong on Flores, when she roasts it in a pan, the local lady completely intoxicates us with the smoke. In a kitchen with wooden plank walls, a small Indonesian woman sits on a chair by an open fire with a large frying pan on top of it. Cereal keeps her eyes on her, constantly turning them with a wooden spoon until they turn completely black. After roasting, together with a man and a neighbor, he crushes the grains while they are still hot in a tall mortar. They want a fine powder from the grain, from which they will then prepare a drink. Here they serve it with sweet potatoes.


Eating habits here are also influenced by religion – Islam. During Ramadan, the most significant is the first and then the last day when the fast ends. I experienced the first one with a local family near tourist Bukit Lawang, where tourists go to watch orangutans. Yoan and I cooked dinner together, but no trouble. Joan did taste, but only on the tip of her tongue, and then spat out the food. Nothing more is allowed until the sunset countdown on TV. That’s when the householders begin to grab rice and various side dishes – homemade mixed rice. There is also dessert, especially water. While at this moment the locals were waiting for a difficult 40 days, holidays Eid or Eid al-Fitr it is much more joyful at the end of Ramadan. It is an occasion for family gatherings, similar to our Christmas. Already the day before by Lebaran children in families wrap sweetened rice in banana leaves. Food is cooked as needed shadychicken soup Chicken Soto (rich soup with chicken broth and meat, noodles, vegetables, coconut milk and rice), the dough is baked similar to our doughnuts, only in different shapes. During your visit, they will offer you, for example, a coconut drink with gelatin cubes. Every family has its own snacks
people visit several houses in one day. And they no longer have to wait until the sun goes down, they eat throughout the day. It is after fasting.

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