Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 22 December 2013 • Destination
Not a whole lot of people know that there are really good Maluku food, at least not a whole lot of my friends do. I didn’t either until my first trip to Ambon. Turns out, those people can cook! It shouldn’t be surprising though, considering Maluku is well known as a spice paradise and heavily colonised for its spices. Wouldn’t the locals use it to cook? Wouldn’t their dish taste awfully rich? And it is until today, as we encountered during our #BarondaMaluku trip.
Natsepa Beach is not only a locals’ favorite for the ‘rujak’ or sweet fruit salad as we’ve said here, but it’s also the place to find one of Mad’s favorite snacks: cempedak fritter. From the outside, cempedak is a fruit similar to jackfruit, but on the inside it doesn’t smell as strong and has smaller fruit pods. The fritter basically comprises of a few fruit pods, with seed, dipped in batter and fried in clusters. The batter subtles the cempedak taste. It’s also optional to eat the seeds, which soften upon frying. We bought a good bunch for everyone, especially since a piece didn’t cost more than half a US dollar (in 2013). And for that price, we could see Mad, this dark skinned, tall, Malukunese, smile and being nostalgic of his childhood. Priceless!
This street is known to have some of the best and most famous food in Ambon. We popped in a few places and ended up buying a little bit of something in each venue. Here are those places.
‘Sibu-sibu’ translates to gentle breeze, the kind you would find on a relaxed day at the beach. How could it not have a gentle breeze since it is a terrace-like café. It’s a whole lot of Maluku with walls decorated by posters mostly of Maluku’s famous people and traditional carving from top to bottom. During Ambon’s social conflict in (1999-2002), Sibu-sibu was the local’s reconciliation ground from opposing groups to meet and discuss the remaining fate of their land. After the dark times, Sibu-sibu is still the place where a lot of Ambonese gather and build what is to become Maluku’s future. These people are the kind I like, that knows food is a primary need and wins over a whole bunch of stuff including fear of the political situation at the time. Till now, it’s still is the place for some prominent Maluku people.
Serving its own brew, the Sibu-sibu Coffee Shop provides coffee with a wide range of mixes. Its specialty is the Rarobang Coffee, a smack in the mouth as it is coffee blended with a strong dose of ginger and added a bit of a crunch with its floating local canary nut. Other spices are hinted in the drink and condense milk is optional. It’s the coffee of stamina, keeping you up awake, keeping your cells warm and happy. With an extra egg, this coffee is said to be the ‘vitality’ booster, if you know what I mean?
Sibu-sibu mostly serves Maluku’s traditional cakes. Everything on the menu is worth a try. The snacks can accommodate any appetite as it consists of sweet and savory munchies. It also serves a few heavier courses that can fill one hungry stomach. Its instant noodle is far beyond your usual ramen and seconds will be a preferred option. Of course, the food has to be great! How do you win a man’s heart over a meeting if not through his stomach?
A pop into the neighbouring shop to Sibu-sibu bought good to our tummy. The shop on the right if facing the Sibu-sibu Coffee Shop, provides some awesome seafood dishes. One particular dish Riyanni was heavily tempted to buy was the steamed squid with papaya leave and canary nut wrapped in banana leaf. It was served with chili paste rich with cut tomatoes.
The squid was perfectly cooked and wasn’t rubbery. The papaya leaves weren’t too bitter and the walnuts gave that crunchy texture to it. Culinary Gods were being very nice to us. We were a bunch of kids stuffing our mouths and being really loud about it. Can we all go to heaven now?
Apparently, this was a big thing once upon a time. Halim Ice Cream is homemade ice cream brand in Ambon. It’s been around as long as Mad can remember. It’s amazing to see that it’s still in production, proving that they have a market. This ice cream is more of a sorbet, having more ice crystals than ice cream, but still having that creamy content from milk.
Home cooking is usually a very basic pallet. It’s the taste of home and it always brings us back to that feeling of being safe and sound. Although it might come from somebody else’s kitchen, but home cooking has that special something, which we can all accept no matter whose house it came from. I might be exaggerating but I’ll take the chance by saying home cooking has a special spot for travelers that wander a lot and once in a while crave for that homey feeling in their tummy.
It was an honor to be invited to Mad’s home and have a fiesta of Maluku food. His mother and extended family were uber nice to prepare a shocking amount of food for us hungry kids all down to dessert. We had the ‘ambal’, which was grilled sticky rice with shredded coconut. The coconut gave that rich savory hint to the sticky rice. On top of it we had sautéed papaya flower and leaves. It’s a common veggie dish for eastern Indonesia that made me kinda wonder if this part of the country has a significant amount of papaya trees compared to west Indonesia, ‘cause I don’t see much traditional dish in the west. And of course, a bunch of seafood. Grilled fish! Mmmmm… .
On top of it all, we had ‘es buah’ or fruit balls with ice in sweet water and ‘Kue Lontar’ or Lontar cake, which was kinda like custard pie but wasn’t too soft. The pie particularly was really good because the custard and the crust was just right to even each other out. We struggled to gobble everything up especially after having seconds. But, we ate as much as we can.
Happy faces after seconds
I’m pretty sure I can represent the #BarondaMaluku team by saying thank you to Mad’s mother. It was the perfect meal to end our escapade to Maluku.
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