Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 27 March 2015 • Destination
People are well aware of Minang/Padang food. Seems like there’s not enough posts out there repeating that Rendang is the number one food by CNN. People also know Javanese food and their tendency to be sweeter than others. Apparently, Makassar food isn’t far behind, having a name for itself amongst Indonesians, and hopefully to the world (Go Makassar food!). But, I don’t understand the lack of popularity for Manado food and their significant taste.
I’m a fan of Manado food. Well, I’m a fan of food, period. Manado food, specifically, is spicy and rich in taste. They mix much basil in some of their food, which I like and prefer so than eating raw. Their spiciness is also entertaining. Although it could go to the extreme, their default is just right for me. Their main protein, seafood, is my favorite protein of all. So Manado food works pretty well with me. To my knowledge, I wish it were more popular than how it is today.
My Manado food list would be:
Dabu-dabu is a chili condiment. It’s basically chopped up tomato, chili and shallots, bathed in lime juice and coconut oil. The mixture is heavenly, as it’s rarely wrong with different combinations. I love eating anything with dabu-dabu, and if I had the tongue of steel, I’d eat it with nothing else. It’s fresh and delicious. Slurp!
Sambal Roa, another spicy paste, is a condiment made with Roa fish, endemic to North Sulawesi. The fish gives this unique taste for the condiment. I can’t say exactly, but easily put, it’s like fried fish and chili paste mixed together. On any given day, that would be my default favorite food with rice. Aside to usually eaten in meals, it’s also an option to eat it with banana fritters, as the locals do.
Bubur Manado, or Manado porridge or Bubur Tinutuan, is rice porridge mixed with veggies. It usually has a yellow color to it because it’s cooked with pumpkin. Spinach, cassava and corn are other ingredients that make up the porridge. Usually bubur Manado is served with ‘nike’ fish cakes. The fish cakes enrich the taste of the mildly bland porridge.
The term rica-rica basically means sautéed in chili paste. Principally, it’s like a balado in Minang/Padang food, but has a different take on it. The basil easily differs rica-rica to the Minang/Padang version. If you’re a hot spice fan, than this is the dish for you. Usually, chicken or fish would be the main protein to then be cooked in rica-rica style.
Woku is another type of cooking style. It’s a more soupy kinda dish with rich broth bathing the chicken or seafood. It has a spicy, mildly sour, rich taste to it. There’s no easy way for me to explain it than the taste is as festive as many other Indonesian soups, but I think the rich basil leaves differs it to the rest.
While the world can likely be found cringing towards people eating spiders, grasshoppers, scorpions and maggots (god I hate the taste of these little suckers), I have to disagree of the consensus. In my opinion, the world should cringe more seeing the protein source at Tomohon market, about 2 hours from Manado. These people have it for the worst, especially in Indonesia. They have cats, dogs (this is more common in Indonesia), forest rats, and bats. While I think that there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just culture, I have yet to taste them. Not that I’m chicken shit, but I just haven’t come across a commercial restaurant that seem clean to serve these protein. I mention this because I think it’s important to identify this unique trait of the local food.
The Tomohon market is identical to Manado food because basically the ingredients are found in Manado as well, but not as open. The market of Tomohon holds no bars when it comes to displaying their produce, which could show domesticated animals. It is said, the lack of stray cats in North Sulawesi is not without a reason.
One of my favorite greens that go very well with the spiced Manado food would have to be the papaya flower. The bitterness of the flower is just right to neutralize the rich taste of the other dishes. It’s not too bitter like its leaf and it’s sort of crunchy adding texture. Sautéed papaya flower is delicious. It’s quite common for east Indonesia territory and North Sulawesi is none other.
Then I wonder how papaya can reproduce if we keep eating its flower?
I do have to add, being one of the provinces that produce a lot of coconuts; North Sulawesi is abundant in coconut oil, Manado food included. I’m no food expert and can’t explain why exactly, but the coconut oil seemed to bond the taste of the ingredients. I’ve tried dabu-dabu without coconut oil and it tasted a bit lighter than the ones that do.
God, this is making me hungry. So, have a go with Manado food? Or have you loved it as much as I do?
I was reminded by the reader below, about the Manado dessert, Klapertaart. Aside to Wikipedia information about the sweet delight, I don’t have anymore knowledge other than it taste delicious if made well. It has a custard like texture, enriched by strips of young coconut flesh. There’s a hint of cinnamon, a dash of raisin, and sometimes a splash of rum. The great taste of smooth coconut-flavoured custard with chunky coconut is heavenly. Oh how I want one now!