FOOD AND DRINK
Drink lots of fluids. The equatorial sun takes out a lot from you and
dehydration can be a serious problem. Symptoms are infrequent urination,
deep yellow/orange urine, head aches.
Tap water in Indonesia is not potable and it should be brought to a
full boil for ten minutes before being considered safe. Indonesians
are themselves fussy about drinking water, so if you're offered a drink
it is almost certainly safe.
Most Indonesians do not feel they have eaten until they have eaten rice.
This is accompanied by side dishes, often just a little piece of meat
and some vegetables with a spicy sauce. Other common items include tahu
(tofu), tempe (soybean cake) and salted fish. Crispy fried tapioca crackers
flavored with prawns and spices (krupuk) usually accompany a meal.
No meal is complete without sambal a fiery paste of ground chili peppers
with garlic, shallots, sugar, and sometimes soy sauce or fish paste.
Fruit, especially pineapple and papaya provide quick relief for a chili-burned
Cooking styles vary greatly from one region to another. The Sundanese
of West Java are fond of raw vegetables, eaten with chili and fermented
prawn paste (lalab / sambal trasi). Minihasan food in North Sulawesi
is very spicy, and includes some interesting specialties: fruit bat
wings in coconut milk, sambal rat, and dog. In the more isolated parts
of the archipelago, the food can be quite plain.
In most Indonesian restaurants there is a standard menu of sate (skewered
barbequed meat)--most common are ayam (chicken) and kambing (goat),
gado-gado or pecel (boiled vegetables with spicy peanut sauce) and soto
(vegetable soup with or without meat). Also common are Chinese dishes
like bakmie goreng (firied noodles), bakmie kuah (noodle soup) and cap
cay (stir-fried vegetables).
In most larger towns you can also find a number of Chinese restaurants
on the main street. Some have menus with Chinese writing, but usually
the cuisine is very much assimilated to local tastes. Standard dishes,
in addition to the bakmie and cap cay mentioned above, are sweet and
sour whole fish (gurame asem manis), beef with Chinese greens (kailan
/ caisim ca sapi), and prawns sautéed in butter (udang goreng
Indonesian fried chicken (ayarn goreng) is common and usually very tasty-although
the local -grown chicken can be a bit stringy. Then there is the ubiquitous
nasi goreng (fried doe); the special (istimewa) comes with an egg on
top and is often served for breakfast.
There are restaurants everywhere in Indonesia that specialize in food
from Padang, West Sumatra. This spicy, and very tasty cuisine has a
distinctive way of being served. As many as 15-20 different dishes are
displayed in the glass case in front of the restaurant. You tell the
waiter what you want and he sets a whole stack of the little dishes
in front of you. At the end of the meal, you are charged for what you
have eaten and any untouched plates are put back in the case.
As tempting as fresh vegetables may be, avoid eating garnishes or raw
salads unless the vegetables are air-flown/imported.
The beers available in Indonesia are Bintang and Anker, both brewed
under Dutch supervision and rather light (perhaps appropriately for
the tropics). With electricity such a precious commodity, however, in
out-of-the-way places the only way to quaff it cold is to pour it over
Balinese specialties include roast pork (babi guling) in which the pork
is rubbed with turmeric, stuffed with spices and roasted over a spit,
and roast duck (bebek betutu), where the duck is stuffed with vegetables
and spices, wrapped in banana leaf and either smoked or steamed.
Balinese brews include tuak (palm beer), arak (palm brandy) and brem
(sweet rice wine).
Tropical fruits are plentiful and delicious. Bali is known for salak,
which has a brown snakeskin covering three segments, two of which contain
a large brown seed. It tastes like a cross between an apple and a walnut.
Manggis (mangos teen) is pure heaven hidden within a thick purple-brown
cover. The juicy white segments almost melt away. In season November
Bali (street Stalls of Bali)
Restaurant kitchens do not necessarily have healthier food preparation
procedures than roadside warung. The important thing at a warung is
to watch and judge whether or not the cooks inspire confidence. Warung
rarely have a supply of running water, so beware.
The first portion may not fill you up, so a second portion can be ordered
by saying 'Tambah separuh" (add half portion). But only the price
is halved. The amount of food is more like three-quarters. Finish off
with a banana and say 'Sudah" (I've had plenty, thank you). The
seller will total up the prices of what was served you and ask you how
many krupuk, tempe, etc. you added; so keep track. The total will come
to between Rp3000 and Rp7,500 (30 cent to $1.25).
Say "saya tidak makan daging" (I don't eat meat), "tidak
pakai ayam"(without chicken) or "tidak pakai daging"(without
meat). Dietary restrictions are very acceptable and common due to the
various religious and spiritual practices involving food. However, finding
food that truly has no animal products is a problem. Often meals which
appear to be made exclusively of vegetables will have a chunk of beef
or chicken in them to add that certain oomph. Tempe (fermented soybean
cakes) and tahu (tofu, soybean curd) are excellent sources of protein).