Why Indonesian Cuisine is Worth A Trip Around the Globe

I did not expect to discover such an amazing array of fresh, delectable, and healthy food as I recently did in Indonesia. My preconception was that, like most places, you have to work a bit to find consistently good AND healthy. I was in for a pleasant surprise because, compared to other asian countries that in fairness also boast healthy & tasty fare, Indonesia was a stand out!

The thousands of islands that comprise our world’s largest archipelago are home to numerous spices, once sought after by traders worldwide, ubiquitous rice fields, an abundance of fresh fish and free range animals, and, literally hundreds of ethnic groups that together influence a world class cuisine that’s vibrant, colorful and intensely flavored. Indonesians labor hard to survive and to produce, in my opinion, the best food in the world. Here’s one travel writer’s summation of Indonesian food complete with enticing visuals. I’ve only been home a week and my taste buds and my body miss it already!

Eating well in Indonesia was not only enjoyable but also easy and, dare I say, medicinal. Fresh food was readily available in restaurants and food stalls, and apparently most people, both men & women, know how to serve it up at home too. It’s true that Indonesia, fourth highest in population, is yet a developing country and their farm to table lifestyle is primarily responsible for their enviable leanness. Larger cities in Indonesia and Bali, the hindu, more affluent island amidst the primarily Muslim country, show more signs of Western influence both in the prevalence of McDonalds and other fast-food restaurants and in simply carrying more weight. Better health is not one of the benefits of embracing Western food standards.

Food wise, what are most Indonesians doing right and what can we learn from them?

Indonesian meals include:

1. TONS of creatively spiced, diced, and sometimes even pickled vegetables

2. Chicken, beef, tofu, eggs or fish grilled, sautéed, roasted, and often curried just right

3. ONE Serving of rice- yes white rice, claimed to be less processed- or noodles

4. A Sambal or three to flavor & spice dishes up. What’s a Sambal? According to Wikipedia a
Sambal is a hot sauce typically made from a mixture of a variety of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars.’
These zesty condiments served in tiny bowls both spice up and expertly synthesize meals. They also add a healthy dose of prebiotics to feed those hungry probiotics or gut bacteria. Plus the chilis give a small metabolic boost.

5. And finally, Fruit for dessert

Admittedly I was initially disappointed by the lack of chocolate and more decadent after dinner choices that I often indulge in. What I noticed after a few days however, was that my cravings for sweets had significantly lessened. I was more satisfied both physically and mentally because the meals consumed were so very well balanced. There’s that important lesson reinforced once again. Eat in balance and moderation. Now that I’m home I’m doing my best to include an ingredient or two of sambal in my day. Now please pass the chocolate!

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