Fruit in Indonesia is quite an experience. The variety is incredible, cheap and always fresh.
Passion Fruit. In Bahasa Indonesia it is called a markisa. It looks rather like a large orange colored egg and its "skin" is quite shell like. The inside is filled with a glutinous substance filled with crunchy little seeds. It can be a bit of a struggle to get over the texture - unless you are fond of mucous, and then the texture will not be a problem. It is sweet and has a taste unlike any other fruit I have experienced so is rather difficult to explain.
Jack fruit. In Bahasa Indonesia it is called nangka. Although this jackfruit is growing on a tree in Vietnam, the fruit is commonly eaten all over Southeast Asia and is quite popular in Indonesia. The fruit can grow rather large, has a thick skin with lots of tiny little non-sharp needles and contains many pods inside. Surrounding each seed is a yellow fleshy covering. It has a strong smell but the taste is pleasant. A friend of mine described it as tasting like bubble gum. This is interesting, because I recently read that perhaps the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum originated from the jack fruit. It is a dense fruit and is packed with carbohydrates. In its immature stage, it is often the main ingredient in savory dishes, most typically, curries. Indonesians cook it with coconut milk and a bunch of spices and it is incredibly tasty.
Thai Jeruk and Jambu The Thai Jeruk are simply oranges from Thailand that are green when ripe. They will begin to turn a bit orangy green when the become more ripe but never turn totally orange. There are many different types of jambu. I am not sure which this is but all are similar in that they have a crisp and somewhat watery texture. The taste of this particular jambu was very unique. The best way to describe it is "spicy". It actually reminded me of a spiced Christmas cider, with cinnamon being the strongest spice evident. A very interesting flavor.
Persimonnes, Thai Jeruk, Star Fruit The persimonnes were an interesting experience. The only other time I have had them was in Japan where they are called kaki. They had a much tougher skin, more and harder seeds and a bit stronger taste. When I bought these persimmonnes they were coated in some sort of protective white covering. I just looked in the "Eat Smart in Indonesia" book to find out what they are called in Bahasa Indonesia and what do you know, they had an explanation for the coating. They are called kesemek and are coated in lime water if they are to be candied. The lime water coating keeps them from becoming mushy when cooking in syrup during the candying process. I did not know that if coated they were meant for the syrup pot. Instead, when I got home I gave them a good scrub which caused them to age prematurely. They began to shrivel and go soft. I cut open a few and they tasted fine, very seedy with a meaty texture and quite sweet. The Thai oranges, accompanying the star fruit and persimonnes, are ripe when green. They are quite ordinary except for their color. The star fruit is citrus tasting. The ones pictured are just barely ripe. In this stage they are somewhat tart. As they ripen the color becomes a darker orange and the flavor becomes sweeter.
Mangosteen and mangoes In Bahasa Indonesia they are manggis and mangga. The manggis have a segmented white sectons with a few pits. Often the pits are soft and edible. The fruit is very sweet with just a tad of citrus flavor. It can be a little tricky to pick ones that are good; the hard skin needs to give a little when pressed. If it is hard then the fruit inside is damaged. The tropics have a diverse variety of mangoes. Most of the ones we see in Indo are green when ripe. Some are extremely sweet and almost custard like while others are somewhat tart and more fibrous in texture. This particular mango was of the tart variety. The flesh is almost always a vivid orange. Its hard to beat a fresh mango.
Drinks Coffee, tea and cocoa are each grown as cash crops in Indonesia.
This is a what a cocoa pod looks like. Inside are the beans which will be used to make chocolate and cocoa drinks. The beans are quite bitter but certainly "chocolaty" - something like unsweetened baking chocolate. This particular cocoa tree was growing in a garden in central Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Coffee growing in Losario in the highlands of Java. The former Dutch plantation has incorporated a resort on its grounds but still produces and process its own coffee. When the beans turn a reddish color they are ripe. Inside are the "beans" that we would recognize as coffee. They are a greenish color and only turn brown after roasting. Emmerson and myself for a size perspective of the coffee plant.
Coffee at Losario served up with a plate of palm sugar. The sugar is made from the berry like fruit of a palm tree. Palm trees are an important resource in Indonesia and are used to make products such as oil, sugar, and alcohol. Palm sugar is a bit like brown sugar from the States but richer and creamier. It is the sweetener of choice throughout Indo.
Tea growing in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. The crop is grown throughout the tropics in higher elevations where the temperatures are cooler than the lowlands. Tea plants are quite severely cultivated to maintain their bush like dimesnions. If left to grow naturally they reach heights of a small tree. I am standing on just such a tea plant in the first photo.
Drinking tuac in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indo. Another gift of the palm tree, tuac, or palm wine, actually ferments in the tree itself. I am not sure of the details, but supposedly some sugary juice collects in pockets in the tree, ferments and voila - instant wine. It is rather sweet and sours over time so is best drunk fresh. They sell it in markets in recycled water bottles ciphoned out of large buckets.
It is impossible to summarize the cooked cuisine of Indo but these are a few of the more common dishes. Many dishes are strongly spiced and coconut milk is a common ingredient which combines very nicely with the spicy mixtures.
Kangkung, a spinachy type of vgetable, is one of the most common dishes in Indo. The green grows almost anywhere and is gathered along roadsides, in drainage ditches and the like by Indos looking for a cheap, simple side dish.
Ikan Bakar or grilled fish is a popular dish all over Indo.
Ikan bakar, kangkun and a bit of rice makes for a nice meal
The above two photos are of nangka. It is prepared using the immature fruit of the jackfruit. The fruit is separated into sections and cooked in cocnut milk with a variety of spices. Very nice.
Rendang is a very popular meat dish in Indo. It is meat mixed in a spicy paste and simmered in coconut milk for a long time. The coconut milk reduces to the point where only the oil from the milk is left. The meat, at this point is very tender and extremely flavourful.
Shrimp ready for the barbecue at the beach in Pelabuhanratu, South Java, Indo. Seafood is very common and served in a wonderful variety of ways across the archipelago.
Seafood on a stick. A vendor in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand displays a tempting spread of various grilled items on a stick. The whole squid was excellent- served with a spicy hot and sweet sauce. I hope he is back in operation. This stall was on the walkway that runs along the beach. Ko Phi Phi was desemated by the tsunami of 2004.
Cooking fresh fish over an open fire using bamboo splints to hold the fish. This is on one of the islands near the Krakatoa complex of islands. No one lives on these islands. The people who make a living fishing these waterways occassionally stop by to steady there sea legs and visitors to the Krakatoa volcano often camp on the islands.
These pigs are being prepped for a Sulawesi style funeral barbecue where large amounts of pig are cooked and consumed. Sites like this are not too common in Indo as the majority of the population is Muslim and thus avoid pork as a dietary taboo. But in areas that are not primarily Muslim pork is eaten. Parts of Sulawesi practice traditional animism and animism mixed with Christiantiy. West Papaua is probably the most "pig friendly" area as its traditional economy is actually based on pigs. The pigs here are having their very stiff hair burned off.
A blob of red curry paste from a market in Chang Mai, Thailand. Spice mixtures like this are popular all over Southeast Asia and can be purchased from large vats in many markets and grocery stores.
The ubiquitous Jakarta Kakilima. I am sure to any Jakartan abroad this image would conjure up some memories. Kakilima translates into five feet. I have heard various explanations as to why they are called five legs but the one that most makes sense to me is that the vendor is the fifth leg of the cart. Anyway, they are all over Jakarta and are very popular for a snack or quick meal. They sell all sorts of food but each kakilima will specialize in one type of dish such as nasi goreng (fried rice) or bakso (noodle soup). They might set up shop in one location or travel the streets selling their goods. They often come into neighborhoods and each has a certain "call" that alerts potential customers. The call might be vocal or a sound made by certain objects. Each is unique and people recognize what is available by the sound of the kakilima guy. Its a pleasant part of Jakartan street life and an integral part of the food scene here in the city