Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Musings on Indonesian crafts and food

Eventually, D replaced her broken thongs. All in all, in the space of a few days in Solo and Yogya, D bought three pairs of thongs and one set of sneakers, for around Rp120000 in all. The great worksmanship meant that only one pair of the thongs remains. The rest has fallen apart, while the sneakers' inner sole was so well made that she walks on a wide spaced plastic grid that cuts into her feet by now. Our two tries to buy portable water heating spirals met with similar disaster when the plastic handles (allegedly bakelite) melted during first use - we got two lukewarm cups of water out of them. My first batik shirt has no buttons and is starting to unravel at the buttonholes, the second one is coloring any water it comes into contact with as well as my sweat so blue I'm surprised the colors are not all gone yet. I'm afraid that if you want something to keep, I must advise you not to buy Indonesian - unless there's some trick we've not found out yet.

Food on the other hand, is quite good even at street level. In fact, the best gado gado we've had are from street vendours. One restaurant in Yogya was too busy arranging the veggies in a pretty tower to not overcook them, or to make a decently hot peanut sauce. The live jazz band was a nice touch, though. The only drawback is the preponderance of fats and oil in everything. Also, unless they're used to westerners, the only vegetarian option is often nasi or mie goreng (fried rice or noodles), which is rather monotonous and, of course, oily, with time. My usual standby in these cases was bakso, chicken meatball soup, until I got fed up with it during the long trip from Jakarta to Bukittinggi.

It can be surprisingly difficult to get fresh fruit, considering that banana, coconut, mango and other fruit trees are everywhere. It is often necessary to find a market, which could as well be impossible when you're staying in some small village.

By now, we've also started eating at tourist restaurants, especially at Liberta Homestay in Tuk Tuk (my blog'll get there, sometime), and enjoying such things as vegetable tacos (taco means fried canneloni-like dough in Indonesia) and avocado salads, and I'm also quite happy with those.It's especially nice to have something that seems like breakfast (omelet or porridge), since Indonesian breakfast is usually leftover nasi goreng. Only bubur ayam, rice porridge with chicken, even remotely seemed like breakfast to me.

The most interesting food must be Padang cuisine, which is basically an assortment of mystery dishes (Indonesia speakers could probably find out what's on the plates) that are arranged before you, and you choose which ones you're willing to try.

Fresh juices are great, and often available. I think I've written of es kelapa (iced coconut juice with strips of coconut flesh, syrup and, if you're lucky, lime), jus apocado (avocado juice, made with milk), jus melon. We've also had good mango juice, and passion fruit juice. The local beer, Bintang, is all right, but rather expensive at Rp 20 000 - 30 000.

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