Back to My Roots: Makassar Food and Fun, South Sulawesi

Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 November 2007   •  Itinerary

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Since it was the Idul Fitri moment, this visit was a more of a family thing than a relaxing vacation. And when it comes to my family, it’s actually not a vacation. Hectic and drama! I couldn’t visit the magical places of Makassar and beyond, so sorry guys, this entry would be a little different. But not to worry, a somewhat culinary trip is provided. And that’s definitely a trip in this city. I only had 5 days to stay, so I tried so hard to squeeze in as many Makassar food as possible. Oh I can’t tell you I didn’t do it for the site, I did it for my appetite after the fasting month hehehehe…

Makassar food

I had the pleasure to visit Makassar again in 2007. Makassar is the capital city of South Sulawesi province, on the Sulawesi or Celebes Island. Tourists usually know the magical land of Tana Toraja, but to get there, Makassar would be the city to transit. Of course, all planes end up here. Many of my mom’s family still live there, and this year everything seems to work up to the effort: I have a piggy bank to dig out, my mom wanted to go, my mom wanted me to pay for the expenses there, haven’t seen my grandparents and relatives for about 5 years… so yeah! Great timing! Hahahahahaha….


Besides my culinary trip, my mom, a few relatives, and I suddenly had the wits to just go see one of the small islands around Makassar. I actually was kinda nagging to go because I love snorkeling so much, and it’s crazy to be in a coastal city without jumping and peeking in the sea. In a sudden instant, while we were all staying at the Makassar Grand Hotel, my uncle said we could see Samalona Island. A small island not far from the Makassar city. In 2 hours everything was set. A bonus trip for me! HOORAY!!!


Samalona Island

Samalona Island

We arrived at the island at about 10 am. After reaching there, we went to my uncle’s contact that can provide accommodations and facilities for anyone’s stay. His name is Daeng Rurung. You won’t be able to miss it because of the size of the village. Ask around, everybody knows everybody. We got to his house and ask if they could prepare lunch. It was a done deal! I couldn’t wait for the taste of traditionally barbequed fish with Sambal (chilli sauce). Yummm…

But to fill in our rumbling stomach, my mom and aunts had the initiative to fry some cassava in Daeng Rurungs house. So off they went in to the kitchen and did what they do best, cook! And we had our snacks within 20 minutes. It was delish! Traditional foods are the best, people!

A small fisherman village that exists in this so called remote island, needs high maintenance. There is no fresh water on the island, so they have to contain water while it rains or they have to buy it from the city. Daeng Rurung is known as a quite wealthy man for the people of the island. He has fresh water stored most of the time because he can afford it, that’s why he had the fresh water to accommodate visitors. Very recommended!

Apparently, I spotted a solar panel around. Didn’t know who it belonged to, but quite smart for the owner to have it. They also didn’t have electricity so they have to use a generator. But this one house is pretty smart if you ask me, especially with sunlight all year around.

Samalona Island


Siesta At The Docks

After snacking, we decided to hang around the docks. The docks are elevated about 2 meters above the water level at that time. It’s entirely made out of wood. Underneath it is the clear waters with school of fishes and other countless colorful fishes visible to the naked eye. The colors were AMAZING! You would wonder how such a beautiful place was hidden not far from main land. The sea breeze entertained our steaming sense with cool temperatures. Ahhh…. a great time and place for a siesta. My ‘creative’ aunts ‘borrowed’ a mat from Daeng Rurungs and placed it on the docks where we can all sit around or sleep.

Flashy City Man, Fishing

My uncle, who originates from a fisherman village up in Aceh, just had to go fishing. With raw squid as bait, he caught more and bigger fishes than the locals did. The locals seemed amazed by this city looking slick totally dressed up guy. My uncle seemed to tap in to his inner child and didn’t want to stop fishing, even though he was just using a fishing line tied to a hook. He even borrowed the equipment from the men that was fishing there.

Samalona Island


Swim and Snorkel Samalona Island

I really wanted to check out the water and what’s in it. The boatman said there were some reefs that I could peek in on the other side of the island. I couldn’t wait, but we had to eat lunch first, and wait until the sun set a little more to the west. When the time came, I took out my bathing suit, jumped in it and headed out to the spot intended. I was alone. None of my aunts and uncles was interested. But I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. So off I went with a snorkel that I rented from the locals. It cost Rp 15.000 for about 2 hours. It originally cost Rp 20.000 for the whole day, but I didn’t have the whole day. So I bargained!

Samalona Island

I walked to the area in bare foot in the hot sand. Started to put on my snorkel and sought out the surprises yet to come. It was so and so at first. The water was wavy coming in that afternoon, making my swim a tad heavier. But surprisingly, the water was still clear. The reef was alive but nothing impressive caught my eye because it was way too shallow and there were not much corals around. Not to mention rocks. SO I decided to venture a little more to satisfy my curiosity. At least I could say, I looked around the whole area… but to my surprise… the water became this colorful city of corals and fish. Schools of fishes was around, and the corals so colorful you would think a 5 year old colored it for fun. Not to mention the blue waters in the background. The reef became deeper and suddenly coming to a drop. The drop was filled with waving colorful corals and occupied by various fishes. I was flabbergasted! The only way to describe it was… it’s like a picture from a tourism brochure. It’s that good, and even better. I didn’t want to go any further than the drop. I wish I could see the drop from up front, but my oceanography is not as good enough to tell me if there were dangerous currents around. Again, I was alone. So I just peeked on the side and stared satisfied with the beautiful scene the area offered. So different to that in Bunaken, and yet still so beautiful. I definitely have to go back with a friend.

I tried to swim around the island just to fulfill my swimming needs. I stopped and chickened out after I found that the sea bed suddenly came to a drop not long after the reef. Suddenly a bottomless sea and this was no more than 1 meter from the water line on the beach. So I decided to walk instead.

Adrenaline Rush On Our Way Back

After finishing our meals, we all decided to head back. The sky was a bit gloomy in the distance and the water rumbled a little. So we packed up and went home, bringing a bunch of fish my uncle caught earlier. The waves turned to be a little rougher than we thought. The way home was a whole rollercoaster. The waves were about 1-2 meters high and yet we were on a small boat that was struggling to get back. This situation is quite common for the boat driver. And he can handle it well As long as the people don’t panic. The people of South Sulawesi are well known as sailors and are not afraid of the sea, so just trust their skills. My ‘talkative’ mom, aunts and uncle suddenly became very quite, holding on to their lives and sanity during this trip back. I was the only one laughing out of fun, because my adrenaline was pumping and I was getting all wet because of the splashes the boat made. I just trusted these men to navigate us home. And once the boat entered the closed waters, they were all ‘talkative’ again. Hahahahaha… a sight I’ve never seen in my life and yet so valuable.

It was a great 5 hour trip, and offer a memory of a lifetime.


Many have heard of Coto Makassar and many other special cuisine of this land, but not much have the knowledge of the right place to visit when stepping to its origin. I know it’ll be very subjective, but if you have no reference at all, you’re much welcome to taste this family tradition trip. My family are very fussy about food. So we always visit our favorite places and won’t compromise for anything else. Now I should warn you, at certain times of the year, or day for instance (lunch), you have to go through all the pain until everything seems ABSURD. It’s the art of eating in Makassar. And it makes the whole culinary trip worth while. JUST TRUST ME ON THIS AND GO THROUGH IT ALL!

And another thing is, a culinary trip is about taste, something I can’t explain exactly. Take my word on it, but the best way to go through it is by proving it yourself.

We’ll start with 2 of the most famous dishes: Coto Makassar and Konro.


Coto Makassar

Coto Makassar is a soup with a very dark coloration, but note this! No coconut milk is used, so the thickness purely comes from the seasoning itself. Inside of it, you will find cuts of meet and inner organs… hmmm … sounds tempting ay?

Makassar food

You will definitely find a lot of places selling coto. Of course, it is the land of its origin. But, the number one place on my family’s list is the small kiosk on Lamuru street. It only exist in the morning, WHILE STOCKS LAST! And believe me, it doesn’t last long. Just go along the street and you will find a small kiosk that has tons of cars parked in front of it. No number is applicable.

This venue is quite famous, where people with the fanciest cars come to eat. They are definitely not fooled by the appearance and atmosphere of the place. Unlike a proper restaurant, it is a small hut that has fabric as its wall. It has a very very limited amount of seats, and to RSVP is to stand behind the person who is eating until they are finished and leave their seat. It’s crazy, but it’s the only way to que.

The kitchen is a hidden place behind a piece of cloth where you can’t see all the nasty things they put in the coto…khehehe… kidding… NOT! Just trust them. They’re.. err… nice..!

Makassar food

And they prepare the dish on a small table where you could see the preparation this time, along with their sweat and everything icky around it. I know it sounds awful but it’s all in the package. The more you struggle for the food, the better the food would taste. This folks, is the philosophy of eating in Makassar. This also makes the place worth visiting.

A portion would cost about Rp 20000, with a few ketupat (compressed rice) included. And the chili contains Taiciyu… a chinese ingredient that I can’t spell and you must must must try. You have to at least sweat when you eat here!


The next favorite and famous dish is the Konro. This also is a sort of soup consisted of a few ribs of cow. It’s served with the bone, making it tastier. I used to despise this dish, but once I ate at this place, I heart Konro. And the only way to eat it is the primitive way… using your hands! No better way is recommended, and of course a plate of white rice, and you can eat the rice with spoon and fork :P. This dish costs about Rp 16.000 for the Konro soup alone, and about Rp. 4000 for a plate of rice.

Makassar food

This place is located near the public field or Karebosi. That’s why it’s known more as Konro Karebosi. Don’t worry, this place is more solid, meaning it is a restaurant. It is just on the corner of Baukaraeng and Bandang street. Ask around if you think you can’t find the place, people would know about it and show you the way. The Konro here is sooo good. The meat is cooked perfectly so you can basically suck the meat off the bone, and chewable, which is important. The soup is so tasty. And it is a COMPULSORY gesture to add the lemon provided, a little sweet soy, and a spoonful of chili. Oh… I’m drooling as I type this. Nothing beats this place.

There are some choices of standard drinks that you choose from. Which would cost you about Rp 4000-6000.


I had the pleasure to enjoy another traditional dish called Kapurung. My grandmother’s sister made it specially for my mom and her 8 other siblings that are rarely in the same city. It’s made from Sago, the main food of the east, and veggies mixed with fish. The veggies are basically just sweet corn and spinach. The fish are shredded in to small pieces. All mixed in one big mush and then eaten like slush or to be exact slurped! Last time I ate this dish, was about 7 years ago, and it’s really hard to make. It needs the right recipe to create just the right taste. It tastes like tasty glue, with other tastes slipped between each taste. It’s hard to find but I don’t have a reference of a place to eat Kapurung commercially. I would like to know though! Got some idea?


She also made Lawa’, which is a dish that I have always wanted to taste. To my surprise, it came out of my mum’s family kitchen. It’s a dish made of raw fish and coconut. It tastes GREAT! It’s fresh and tasty. I think they also put in some lemon and other ingredients. It went really well with the Kapurung. And I had one of the best luch ever. As a friend of mine, Beny, would put it, if I was a convict, then after that lunch I would be ready to be hanged hahahahaha…

Makassar food


Meatballs with Buras

If meatballs are well known in Java, it’s met its competition here. Ati Raja is a small restaurant that sells meatballs. Now I know that it’s common in almost all parts of Indonesia, but you HAVE TO try these. The meat balls are yummy with the right texture and it’s soup also has the right flava, according to me that is. For three important reasons, this place is so worth going. First, unlike in Java, meatballs are eaten with Buras. Buras is a type of compressed rice like ketupat (which is shaped like a cube) but with a more flat rectangular shape. The taste is a whole lot different. It’s one of the most traditional foods here. And it’s quite hard to make, even the technique of wrapping it in banana leaf can affect the taste, but this place definitely can make ’em good. Second, the chili is quite unique and blends nicely with the other elements, even with the Buras alone. Last, is the fried meat ball. One dish will be served especially for the fired meat balls. Eating it alone taste good, but dipping it in to the meat ball soup, a small dip in the chili sauce and then eating it half crunchy half smooth is THE BEST! Can’t get enough of it! Drooling… drooling..

Makassar food


Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice)

One of my favorite breakfast in Makassar is Nasi Kuning or Yellow Rice. This rice is cooked with eggs, making its color bright like a sunflower. Although common throughout Indonesia, the taste is different in Makassar. It has more side dishes and rich in flavor. My family usually buy it near the harbor…

The yellow rice is served with an egg, vegetables with its soup, sweet dried potato, lungs of a cow, meat and a whole lot of jazz! For myself, a portion I consider to be enough for two people. Just enough to fill in a hungry stomach in the morning. The taste is yommay! Really! So many taste in one portion.

Makassar food


Djogoyudan Noodle and Barbequed Fish

Two additional dishes that are also on the list are Mie Djogoyudan (mie = noodle) and Barbequed fish, both on Andalas street. Mie Djogoyudan, located at Andalas street # 29 has a different structure than the noodles in Java. It’s much thicker and has a perfect tubular shape to it. A lot of the noodle venues in this city use this type of noodles, probably because the there is a bigger market for this kind of noodle. Anyways, this noodle is presented with pieces of chicken, half of a boiled egg, and seasoning. Again, like all Makassar dishes, it must be served with a squash of lemon. There is a choice of boiled and fried noodles. It tastes so different to many noodles you usually taste. Worth visiting.

Makassar food

The other dish is barbequed fish that is located on Andalas street but I can’t seem to remember the address. Pardon my age then. But it’s well known and if you ask around they probably will show you.

Jalang Kote

Jalang kote… have no idea what it means, but it sure is yummy. For the people in Java or those that have visited Java and tried some of the small cakes there, you would know this snack. It’s called Pastel in Java. In Makassar, it’s called Jalang Kote. Here, people do not eat it with raw chili, but with a chili sauce made by the shop that sells it. My family’s favorite is Jalang Kote 288 on Sulawesi road. It has a big sign that hopefully you can’t miss. The road is practically a sign battle between shops seeking attention, so better keep you eyes open! These snacks are sooooo good, that it’s compulsory for me to buy it and bring it back home to Bandung if using air transportation because it lasts for a few days (and that’s the amount of time heading to Bandung by sea and land). Every single time I head out there!!! Really, it’s that good! My family has always been curious on how they made these Jalang Kote taste soooo good, and feel challenged to try to make it themselves. But curiosity kills the cat… and the ingredients turn out to be imported from neighboring countries hahahahaha…. Jalang kote here is tasty and has great chili sauce. It blends nicely, and the veggies and vermicelli just taste delish! They fry it just tight with a brown crisp color. It the best way to eat it is at home with your family and accompanied by a cup of sweet hot tea. I don’t really care if the ingridients are important, it could some kind of bluff for competitiors. As long as I can enjoy the yummy taste of the snacks.

Makassar food


Pisang Ijo (Green Banana)

A dish that a lot of Indonesians know of South Sulawesi is Pisang Ijo or Green Banana. As its name, this dish is in a form of a green dough covering a banana. It’s a dessert dish. And also covered with white fla and pink syrup. My familiy’s fav restaurant for eating the dish is called Bravo, and again the shop consists of high arrangements of tiles, and been in the business since my mom was still in her teens. The dough is somewhat smooth making it chewable as does the banana. They use Kepok banana for this dish which is usually sweet and is a bit tougher that your regular banana. The syrup is also unique being a syrup they’ve been using since the beginning. I think that’s the chefs secret thought. This place also offers Jalang kote.

Makssar food


Pisang Epek (Pressed Banana)

Another dessert dish made from bananas is the Pisang Epek or the Pressed Banana. Again, the banana is Kepok. It basically is barbequed banana which then is flattened and added liquid red sugar with a hint of durian. I don’t like durian but in this dish I don’t mind. Our favorite is the Senyum Safari which is located in one of the kiosks at the Losari eating venue. Just stroll around the area and you will see its sign big and bold under a white light.

Mind you, both dishes are heavy desserts that are better enjoyed in the afternoon between meals, and not after a meal.

Makassar food

One thing I notice from these restaurants, are that they are old restaurants that have been around since my moms and her siblings were in elementary school. That’s about ummm… more than three decades ago. Apparently they don’t care about the appearance of their venue. They renovate, but they don’t redecorate. People come and eat anyways since the first time they were around. A very interesting concept especially for me who has been in Bandung and Jakarta all my life, where people sell atmosphere as part of the package. It’s definite, the food comes first. Oh how I love me my Makassar food!

Boat riding at the harbor city of East Indonesia

We rented a small boat that cost about Rp 200.000,00 to Samalona island. This is quite cheap compared to the usual Rp 250.000,00 – Rp 300.000,00. It was my uncle’s contact by the way. Need it too? Contact us!

Samalona Island

Anyways, we got on the Mandala boat and headed out for about 30-45 minutes off shore. You can’t really see the island from Makassar, but it’s definitely there. Makassar is so visible from this island. It’s a small small island with some trees and a huge white sandy land on one side of the island. My uncle says, when season changes, so does the white land there. It moves depending on the wind and currents occurring.

Getting there means that you will pass many container ships that are to and from the near by harbor. Makassar is the biggest city in East Indonesia so the harbors are pretty busy all year around. That day, the weather was perfect. The sky and the water was blue. Reaching to the island you could see the crystal clear water that drastically changes color in to light blue and white because of the sand beneath. It was sooo clear, you could see everything underwater from the boat including the sea urchins or the black echinoderms with prickly thorns all over its body. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered such pristine beaches.

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