Spring Flowers and Bees

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sidoarjo, East Java; My Hometown


The first week at home.

Week of July 11, 2006.

After our brief trip in HongKong, we’re home at last. It’s very relieving to be at home. Surrounded by familiar smells, furniture, and of course my two lovely mongrels.

Coming home has its consequences. Since the air in Indonesia is badly polluted [unlike Canada], my nasal allergy is once again triggered after a long absence in Canada. Moreover, smoking in public places is not controlled very well here. People can smoke anywhere they want and anytime they feel like it. Even inside an indoor restaurant! Everytime I walk by an inconsiderate smoker, I would frown my forehead. Perhaps the only smoke-free environments are inside movie theatre and the washroom.

Beside the polluted air, I don’t have much complaint about anything else.

Traditionally, upon arrival we are to visit our grandparents who live right across the street. They would greet us with a wealth of foods, both Indonesian and Chinese. They did not specially prepare that for us, though. It’s just they are used to having a lot of foods available. Here is a glance at some Indonesian foods found in my grandparents’ house. They are specifically Javanese foods.


The first of the three is called “Kue Lemper” in Indonesian. It is one of hundreds of traditional street snacks wrapped in banana leaf. The savoury sandwich is made of glutinuous rice boiled in rich coconut milk. Once the blocks of glutinuous rice are made, some shredded chicken is stuffed in the middle, similar to a sandwich. However, due to the high content of glutinous rice, this food remains a snack since it’s not good for the digestion to eat glutinuous rice on an empty stomach. They are best eaten on the same day of production because the coconut makes them go bad quickly.

Next up is a partially eaten “Pecel Sayur” that can be easily found in any street vendors or small Indonesian restaurants. There is one popular warung[food sellers on the sidewalk] near my old high-school that only opens in the morning. You can find a lot of people as early as 6am, lining up for the pecel and nasi campur [rice with assorted sides].

The preparation is made easy with the availability of ready-made blocks of peanut sauce. This is no ordinary peanut sauce since it consists of a lot of complicated spices that my tongue can’t detect. After asking my mom, I discovered that the peanut sauce is a mixture of a block of palm sugar [brown sugar], dry-roasted peanuts, lime leaf, kencur [Kaempferia galanga], and chilies for hotness.

There is no rule on which vegetable should be included in the platter. We normally put chayote, bean sprouts, long beans, watercress, and kangkoong; all blanched in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Additional foods that normally goes with this are fried tofu and tempeh, kemangileaves [lemon basil], and flour crackers. All these are eaten with rice. Modest, yet delicious.

The last one on the picture is called “Pecel Lele”, deep-fried catfish placed on top of freshly made “sambal oeleg”. The sambalitself is quite simple to make. Garlic, shallots, big red chilies, small chilies [if you like it HOT], red tomato and shrimp paste; all fried briefly in hot oil. Then they are smashed with sugar and salt on a stone grinder [on “uleg-uleg” using “cobek”]. This is soooo delicious! The catfish is deep-fried till crispy that you can eat the bones. The “kemangi” leaves on top are not only for garnish but they refresh the mouth from the heat of the chili. “Kemangi” often accompanies anything that has “sambal”, they also freshen your breath =)

We ate this “pecel lele” at our favorite restaurant in Pandaan, which is south of my city, Sidoarjo. In a place called “Ayam Goreng Sri”. “Ayam goreng” means fried chicken, and this place is famous for their sweet fried chicken.

Apparently, the journey of my food has brought all of your to East Java’s countryside. I was on a trip to Batu, Malang with my family. We made some stops here and there. First to a plants market neatly arranged on the sidewalk in Batu. You can see the pictures below…

Assorted Greens

I was amused by the Kumquat tree. I’ve never tried these orange sunset colored fruits and if anyone knows how they taste like, please do tell me.

It was refreshing to see so many greens surrounded by the fresh air of the countryside.

Later on in the evening, after having a satisfying meal to cure our homesick, we headed to an outdoor fruit market. Some of the pictures are cropped together below…


There were a lot of interesting fruits that are not available in Canada such as “sirsat” [soursop] and “ketela ubi” [Sorry, but I don’t know the English translation]. Bananas are also presented just like after being cut from the trees. Still clumping together on a long branch. Then, we’ll ask the seller to cut one row for us. I think this is the same variety as the Chiquita bananas available at Canadian grocery stores. Only we call it “pisang Ambon” [Ambonese banana] here.

I hope you all enjoy this first post about Indonesian foods and fruits. There are still more to come although mostly will be in review-style instead of a step-by-step of a recipe.

See you next time!


Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

Nice that you share a peak of what you saw in Hong Kong! I would have had a hard time with polluted air too! And cigarettes!

6:00 AM  
Blogger strawberry said...

Hey Bea!

Thanks for visiting!
I'm glad to be able to share what I saw.
Wait for more posts about Indonesian foods!

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Mae said...

Hi Ceendy,

I left a message here already, i thought but it's not here :(

How lovely for you to be spending time with your family after a long absence!

Thanks for sharing with us some Indonesian tradional food. I just remembered that some Indonesian words are very similar if not the same as Filipino!

2:48 AM  
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10:03 PM  

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