Indonesian cuisine was influenced by traders from India, the Middle East, China, and, later, Spain and Portugal. The Dutch, who colonized many of the 6,000 islands that make up Indonesia, adapted the buffet eating style of the native peoples, into the famous rijstaffel (or rice table). Sambals and tempeh, an adaptation of tofu, also originated in Indonesia.
About the only drink Indonesians themselves take with meals is China tea. Powerful coffee, introduced by the Dutch in 1699, is grown widely on Java, Bali, and Sumatra and is served pitch-black, sweet, thick, and rich, with the grounds floating on top. Indonesian kopi is sometimes laced with chicory or chocolate.
Is it just a happy coincidence that Dutch beer goes so well with Indonesian food? Heineken of Holland taught Indonesians how to brew the country's ubiquitous pilsner-style Bintang lager beer, the best accompaniment to Indonesia's hot, spicy food.
For native brews, mildly alcoholic tuak (palm toddy), brewed from various palm sugars a month before consumption, provides you a mellow slow-motion high. Tuak is prepared by filling a length of hollow bamboo with palm juice, then burying it for a week to allow fermentation to take place. Very popular in non-Muslim regions of Indonesia. Brem, usually home-produced, is rice wine made from glutinous rice and coconut milk. Old brem (more than three days old) is sour and contains more alcohol; new brem is sweeter and packs less of a kick. Badek is another fermented liquor obtained from rice. Tipple arak is an insidiously potent distilled rice spirit made from fermented molasses. Tourists like to drink arak with Sprite or 7UP.
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This page modified January 2007
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