Unique…but familiar

At my arrival, I met my Ambonese friends, Embong and Tiara. They took me to Rumah Kopi Sibu-Sibu at Kawasan Trikora. The quaint local café proudly hung pictures of Ambonese celebrities and played Malukan music. They suggested that I try Rarobang coffee, which is mixed with milk, ginger and walnut pieces. It literally warmed my body in that cold rainy morning.  I also ate traditional nasi kuning (yellowed rice with turmeric) with spicy tuna flakes, spicy boiled egg, spicy fried tempe (fermented soybean cake) and vegetables. Unlike the Javanese, the Ambonese love spicy dishes, even in the morning.

The cassava or singkong is paired with typical side dishes like anchovy mixed with bean sprouts, eggplant and string beans boiled with grated coconut. It is added with lime juice, chili, onion, and garlic. It feels very fresh, with a unique texture. When eaten with boiled cassava, it is even more delicious.

The majority of Indonesian people consume rice as their main staple of food. But Maluku may actually be considered the exception to that rule as they eat more of processed sago namely papeda and boiled cassava as their main food.

This was our lunch was in RM Paradise at Jalan Philip Latumahina. Various kinds of unusual vegetables such as papaya flowers, hearts of banana, and bitter gourd accompanied the Kohu-Kohu we ate. In true Malukan culture, we were served with papeda instead of rice, along with boiled sweet potatoes, bananas and cassava to accompany the meal. The texture of the papeda dish is like glue and you have to eat it by rolling it on the chopsticks.

Later on, during our dinner together, we enjoyed the fresh catch of the day; the fried Lemo fish with sambal and vegetables was definitely a good reward for a long day. We drank a cold beer while listening to Gerson’s. The Keiese (people of Kei) is very different from Ambonese. They have strict traditions and still believe in magic and spells. An example of which is sasi or a kind of prohibition spell used to protect property and prevent trespassing. The ceremony for sasi removal is attended by Raja (kings) who will eat sand to prove the efficacy of the cast spells. The local dialect sounds Aboriginal but nowadays, most of the young generation can’t speak it anymore.

Other Maluku Dishes


One particular Riyanni dish that I was heavily tempted to buy was the steamed squid with papaya leave and canary nut wrapped in banana leaf. Served with chili paste rich with cut tomatoes. Try this in Beta Rumah near Sibu-Sibu

Halim Ice Cream

Apparently, this was a big thing once upon a time. Halim Ice Cream is a homemade ice cream brand in Ambon. It is amazing to see that it’s still in production. It is not the best ice cream in the world, but it’s authenticity from the random ice crystals prove that it is not manufactured in a factory. If you grew up in Indonesia this is a piece of nostalgia.

Cempedak Fritters

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; it’s also optional to eat the seeds, which soften upon frying.


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