Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Image: Birthday Prawns Pelabuhan Ratu, Indonesia
Image: Fresh Picked Passion Fruit Wamena, Papua, Indonesia
Eating in Jakarta is fun. I just drank the most bizarrely colored beverage of my life. It is a canned drink and is advertised as strawberry but tastes kind of fruit punchy and is rather nondescript. The color is a purplish, pinkish red and is actually very pretty - something I have never said before about a soft drink or any drink for that matter. It has coated the side of my glass with its brilliant hue and most likely my mouth as well.
Indonesia is quite well known for its cuisine, its incredible variety of fresh tropical fruits, chicken sate with spicy peanut sauce, fragrant rice, rich, coconutty curries, amazing seafood, which are all indeed nice. But it also offers a tremendous variety of equally diverse processed/pre-packaged foods - like beautifully colored strawberry drink. The snack aisle of any super market or street side warung is chock a bloc full of incredibly curious and tempting treats. Many of the offerings are recognizable brands but with an Indonesian flare. Doritos are sold but the logo and color of the package design are just not quite right ... and they are ridiculously inexpensive, tasty but again just not quite right - especially when compared to the quite costly can of Doritos with the right logo and color scheme sold at the import store .... and whats up with the new release DVD’s for 2$ and those Pumu, Adadis, Niike, Umbra soccer boots for 15$, and the Gacci, Pulo, Vuton stuff for really cheap – and why all the spelling mistakes in Indonesia .... Back to the treats. Other treats are strictly Indonesian – they don’t mess about with putting on “foreign brand airs” – but they do use cool sounding and looking English language words in the descriptions. Just like in the US when we use Chinese/Japanese kanji characters on t-shirts and stuff because it’s cool. Doesn’t matter if your walking around with a bad ass black t-shirt that says “kiss kiss the magic duckling” – its all about the kanji. I actually saw and purchased a greeting card from a local department store the other day that had written on a cloud speckled sky of a background “clear meat soup, and I love you so” really – it’s English, it’s cool.
Some of the snacks are quite tasty but make one wonder about the Indonesian counterpart of the FDA. Did the chemicals used to make that “Smashing Strawberry” drink such a lovely shade of purple pass some sort of quality control screening process? And what about that super bargain jumbo bag of “Snack Train Chips” for a 1$. How so cheap?? What type of ingredients they got going on in there??? But these are trivial concerns in light of the fun one can have perusing the snack aisle and now and then treating oneself to a taste of the less famous but certainly infamous side of Indonesian cuisine.
Image: Big Happy Pig - Market in Wamena, Papua, Indonesia