INDONESIAN FOOD HISTORY
Known as the "original" Spice Islands, Indonesia is an archipelago made up of over 13,000 islands which stretch between Asia and Oceania dividing the Pacific and Indian oceans. About 6,000 of these islands are inhabited, the most well known of these being Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Located at the crossroads of the ancient world and spanning the trade routes between the Middle East and Asia, it's not surprising that traders, immigrants and even pirates were enticed by the riches of these Spice Islands.
Indonesia is a mixture of many peoples, including European, Indian, Chinese and the native Malays, all of which have influenced the cuisine which is generally of a very spicy and hot nature, utilising the many exotic fresh produce which grows in abundance in the warm climate. Perhaps the first visitors to arrive were the Indian Traders in the 1st century AD, primarily from South-east India. During the 1st and 7th centuries AD they not only introduced the Sanskrit language, Buddhism and Hinduism, but they also brought with them cucumber, eggplant, and assimilated curries into the native cuisine. Chinese pilgrims sailing to India stopped off and stayed in Indonesia and early writings (dating back to c132AD) confirm this however, it wasn't until the early 17th Century that Chinese tradesmen, encouraged by the Dutch, came in any numbers. These Chinese introduced the wok and stir-frying as well as vegetables such as, as cabbage.
In their search for spices came the Europeans including the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and British who began arriving in the early 16th Century. They introduced many other ingredients to the islands including peanuts, avocado, pineapple, tomato, chilli, pepper, squash and pumpkin. Their introduction of Christianity also had its influence on the cuisine, in particular the eating of pork however, with most of Indonesia being Moslem pork dishes are usually confined to Chinese restaurants and in non-Moslem areas like Bali with its predominate Hindu culture.
Middle Eastern traders have settled in Indonesia since the 17th Century introduced many cooking techniques and ingredients for example the use of small cubes of meat cooked on skewers (known today as Satay). With these culinary influences from Asia, the Middle East and Europe, plus the abundance of fresh and exotic produce grown locally, one can expect the cuisine of Indonesia to be varied. Rice is the staple on most of the islands although other traditional staples include corn, sago, cassava and sweet potatoes. In these modern times fish and seafood feature prominently in the Indonesian diet and soybeans, beef, chicken and vegetables are also eaten in quantity.
We are sure you will enjoy experimenting with Indonesian cooking as much as we do and a trip to the Bamboo Shoots Cooking School is without doubt a great place to start with our interpretation of many of Indonesia’s traditional recipes and in particularly those from Sulawesi (Irma’s hometown).