Bubur Ayam Kampung ala Peranakan

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In the process of cooking daily in Warungkita, I realised for me food are part of my expression of nostalgia and I am my own storyteller through my own family recipes.

I talked the history of this long signature dish of: Bubur Ayam Kampung ala Peranakan (rice porridge aka congee Chinese Indonesian style) that reach my friend Nino’s table yesterday rainy afternoon and we had this talk.

When I grew up, my family favourite spot for Bubur is this particular famous restaurant in Cipayung (all the way after Puncak) called Sudi Mampir (Why Don’t You Drop By – basically the name of the restaurant). They sell the best comforting bubur in the world. My mom and me has always taken by this, and since Cipayung is two hours away (minus traffic) from our home, we tried to make this at home, guessing the recipe by the sense of our tongue, trying to replicate the taste of this particular type of bubur. We managed to have them close to its taste until the day she died.

When my mother was diagnose with cancer in 2005. Her sense of enjoyment of food was lost. And I had to see her pass her days, slipping and slipping further away towards death.

There is a saying in our family or a general belief, that the closest you are to death, in the end you will keep on eating your favourite food. At her death bed, my mother requested a particular shark fin soup from TRIO restaurant in Cikini, which my best friend Alia brought all the way from Jakarta, before she went to a coma. And its one of the last dish that she eat with delight before she died. TRIO restaurant has also been my grandfather favourite when our family still stayed in Jakarta.

A week before my father died, he requested to my grandmother house assistant to cook all his favourite food. I am reflecting now, that food is the closest thing that still attached to us when our sense of life is still lingering. Its the symbol of our survival urge to cling with material world.

My only way as my mother’s daughter at that time, hopelessly 22 and lost with the sight of death, was to go back to my mother’s pots and pan. And cook this particular bubur recipe. It become the only thing that my mother can eat and digest. And yes, I believe every time I stir the pot, I put all my love and tears, and maybe a tinge of fear even with the fact that I know I am going to lose her.

But in the process years later I ended up improving this recipe and reclaim them as my own. I add ginger, lemongrass and a whole of ayam kampung (free range chicken) to the pot. Making them to have the reputation of bringing people back to life (I wish) when one of my best friend name them “Bubur Pembangkit Mayat” (The Porridge that Can Rise Death People).

Such reputation came in the changing season or at the rainy afternoon like yesterday that hit Jogja. When a friend or my son or even myself is going to catch the flu or cough or slightly shivering, I always make this one whole pot of chicken porridge. It really help people who are sick and a very comforting dish. I remember when my best friend, Dina, can’t eat anything in her early trimester of pregnancy, I always come to her house and cook this for her. This porridge had grown to something we all love together. I am so glad how this memories has turn out to be one of my most meaningful story.

Thank you for sharing this pot, Nino, by coming to our warung in the middle of the heavy rain. And also every other friends, worker, customer that had enjoy this pot of memorable porridge. Thank you for sharing my memories. I will not forget this.

Have a nice Sunday

This post is a late post from a few months back. Slowly going back to the blogging world.

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Our Bubur Ayam Kampung is serve every Saturday in @warungkitajogja,

Nitiprayan – Jogjakarta

Karanganyar: Cetho Temple, Kethek Temple and Sukuh Temple

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Sunrise view from Candi Cetho, Merapi, Merbabu and Sindoro Mountains range, Central Java, Indonesia

I’ve been missing Java a little bit since moving to Bali for a while, and I remembered this trip that I impulsively did before I went to Kathmandu again last year. I went with the boys, my ‘brothers’ and my son, Bhumy, to Candi Cetho and Candi Sukuh in Karanganyar, Central Java.

These two magnificent old temple have a special meaning to me since the very beginning of my first visit way back in 2005. Its located near Solo where my father lineage come from, its been an inspiration for my favourite theatre, Teater Garasi, in Jogjakarta for their masterpiece work of Watubatu. It has also been always a personal pilgrimage for my Javanese ancestors.

Their unique architecture style are one of my favourite in Java. It is somewhere reminding people with the style in Latin America. I am so glad that I could take Bhumy in this trip and also visiting a newly found temple behind Candi Cetho, Candi Kethek (The Monkey Temple).

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Krisna praying in Kethek Temple, Central Java, Indonesia

IMG_0329The boys on top of Kethek Temple

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Bhumy in the path to Kethek Temple, Karanganyar, Central Java

Its nice to see my son back on his barefoot and exploring the wilderness with his uncles. We rent a car for two days and head off to the temple. The small hotels are still nice like I remember. The feeling of the place stayed sacred after seven years even.

I took the bath in the Saraswati statue, where they have one of the best water spring in the area. It brings the memories of a personal silent time I had with the place years ago and somehow I awash all those memories that I need to let go. I felt home and quiet at peace.

IMG_0649  IMG_0638Cetho Temple, Karanganyar, Centra Java

While entering Sukuh temple, one of the local old guide explained to us a lot and even showing Bhumy a lot of things while we were there. The architecture of both temples are still a mystery for modern archeology. The way they made the statues and the way it constructed like a certain pyramid has somehow become a missing link in the typical Hindu-Buddhist period of Java. I had a long talk before with one of my professor and we agree that the theory of its age is more likely that its dated on the site latest renovation that happened in 17th century. This place feels ancient to me. Much much more ancient.

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IMG_0678Candi Sukuh, Karanganyar, Central Java, Indonesia

The Hindu in Indonesia do regular ceremony and pilgrimage to both places. Also the Javanese that also still practicing Kejawen rituals. Both of these sites are still active, so please show your respect while you are exploring these areas especially when people are praying and practice certain rituals. Its as sacred as any places of worship.

A Reflection of Taking A Rest

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Writing about a journey has never been an easy one. Especially when most of the experiences are inward. How do you suppose to describe the sense of travelling inside yourself. To be honest, sometimes you feel lost in words after many journeys. And when you found yourself in your so called homeland, you only wanted to wrap yourself in a cocoon.

By January 2015, it’s already the rain season outside, in this tropical rainforest state and you wanted to wrap yourself more. You are already back home and scattered yourself all over the main island and the gods too. You never really stop walking. You wanted to rest and you know you mindfully need one. And you did.

***

You asked your local massage guy, Pak Warto, to help you in shutting your body down. This strong headed body of yours, who often forgot it limits, who always chase herself to go beyond her limits and sometimes it feels not so good. The body would take it toll in the end, and in that third week of December, you start your hibernating period.

Closing yourself.

But not totally, because you have your growing six year old boy beside you who would want to snuggle every single time because he has been missing you so much. And he is in a bear cub mode on. But you need that too for your eternal motherly bonding with your children. And he helps you. Reminding the essence of nurturing, that to grow is also by giving nurture. Or like my wise friend, Hanny said, to let go is to let in things too. It has always been a two way process, a circle, not only a one way thing.

And the flu started. A bad one with extra cough. The young cub got one, but not as bad as you. You feel the pain, the choking in every time you tried to speak out and something stuck by your throat. And slowly you sooth yourself down. Hot lemon water, those childhood classic: Ibu dan Anak cough syrup made in Hongkong, the forever saviour of Indonesian: Tolak Angin, and extra extra long nap.

You sooth yourself by slowly talking inside. Very slowly. And listen. Listen to yourself. You feel Bali is calling you, once again, like in every grandmotherly calling.

You had to take a flight exactly at Christmas night, that nearly poked your brain to death, which you commit not to ever take another flight when the flu happen. But like all things you arrived safely in Sanur. You had come to rest. Breathing the sea breeze of the Balinese southern sea and sleep in for some more. Enjoying your private space with your son. Your soul mates popping up in the house. Giving you all the love, hugs and food for all the nourishment of your heart. And in the end you find yourself in the magic mountain of Pupuan. Finding yourself in the circle of women healers and the heart of your soul mates. And be blissful, be thankful. Finding all the love in the eyes of loved ones in the first light of 2015. And you snuggle in for some more.

Everything feels out in the open of the grass fields and the wind slowly whisper in your ears. The moon is still. And you burst slowly like a never-ending fireworks. Seeing your own beauty. The beauty of each moment of your lives. Even the beauty of all the pain that had transforms you until now. And you let yourself be healed. With every tears that runs, you wash away all your sorrow. With every smile you give, you give all the love you got inside you. And just BE.

With all the imperfections of life, the impermanence of a moment and FEEL them completely.

Your purpose in life is often to find this BALANCE. In where to start and where it ends. When to keep walking and when to stop. Life has teaches you that in your journey, you start picking up your pace. Smoothing things out. Slowing things down. Stretching yourself to see the flexibility of your heart. The beauty of a certain fall, the courage to stand up and the ways to fly away.

And you know there would be time for you to walk again, start that run and raising that head once again facing all what lies ahead.

For now, rest, my dear heart.

Listen to your own heartbeat.

photo: Asabhumy snuggling in Sanur’s house

Gunung Kidul: The Sacred Beach of Ngobaran

P1050968Bowing towards the sea from Ngobaran beach

She decided to free herself, dance into the wind, create a new language. And birds fluttered around her, writing “yes” into the sky. ~ Monique Duval

Entering the last month of 2012, somehow made me reflect a lot. The above quote is a summary of about how I feel this year. Those quote somehow remind me of the feeling when I arrived in Ngobaran beach. I had my first trip to Ngobaran beach with Patrick and Pak Moko. We passed the hilly roads of Gunungkidul which had that certain melancholic view, crossing the teak forest and all. Ngobaran, the word come from both Javanese and Indonesian “Kobar”. “Kobar” means flame, “ngobaran” means in flame.

The place itself believed by the local as the place where the last Hindu king from Majapahit kingdom, Brawijaya V, immolated himself to death. Some believe he is “moksa” (vanish into enlightenment). The official story which I read in the morning of the government tourism sign, was a little odd myth. It is said that the last king had two wives, they were being chased by new ruler from Demak, which are no other than one of his son, Raden Patah. Before he immolate himself he asked the two wives a question “How much is your love to me?” His second wife, Dewi Lowati, said her love is as big as the mountain. While his first wife, Bondang Surati answer that her love is like a dirty nail, where when she cut it, it will always grow. Realizing that his second wife love is lesser than the first one, he pulled Dewi Lowati to burn with him into the fire.

Although there are many tales around about the death of Brawijaya V, I found this quite intriguing. Not to mention, the surrounding temple complex. A sacred pura (temple) with Balinese style undergoing a renovation. A new looking candi recently build by the Kraton. A sacred petilasan of Brawijaya V, with wooden huts on top of the highest cliff point towards the sea. A temple build exclusively to the South Sea Queen. Caves. A mosque facing the south and next to a lingga. The diversity of beliefs in this place make it one of the favorite sacred spot for many people coming here.

IMG00660-20120917-1718A new recently build candi

P1050955Temple complex and above the hill is the petilasan

P1050980The mosque and the lingga

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Sea urchin stir fry, high protein!

Magnificent sunset from above the petilasan. Sleep under the stars by the candi. Hearing the waves all night long. Eating stir fry sea urchin of local specialty with rice and hot sambal. Entering a cave that rain from the inside. Those were the things you could do while in Ngobaran. Do things with respect because you could felt the sacred sense of this place no matter you believe the myth or not.

IMG00663-20120917-1726The magical sunset of Ngobaran

I really could stay up in Ngobaran once again, just to make it another sanctuary when I need to write my own language. Where the nature, spirit and self talked as one.

rembang delicacies #1: ways to eat and die happily

P1060258rembang staple food: the most tasty sate srepeh

exploring local delicacies in rembang means in the future you would have to come for more. it took me another eight months after my first bite on their nasi tahu campur (rice tofu mix in sweet spicy peanut sauce) and my longing on savoring sate srepeh (thinly slice chicken satay in spicy sauce of garlic + red onions + chilies + coconut milk). ah, the pain of longing.

i arrived at night time in rembang, due to some technical issues my travel car was two hours late. and added to all spices, hunger is the best kind. with pop and yoesam, we went to a night time warung in the market place, called rumah makan behek. they just open, so anything they have is in their warmest delight. they have the warm rice, some lodeh (soupy vegs), the best fried tempe (originally wrap with teak leaves), black ink squid satay and oh dear, one pot of boiling sate srepeh sauce! i might just die in happiness before i even took my first bite.

P1060251life saver in rembang night time: rumah makan behek

and i died that night in a happy stomach.

then woke up at 7.30 AM the next morning, pop was waking me up. “you want to catch the famous srepeh warung for breakfast?”. in a mere addiction which i recalled of my eating habit while i was in rembang last time, of course i said yes and rise.

P1060254the famous bu slamet warung, go before 8 AM before all run out

we were not late this time. the satay is still available. i had my biggest grin and touch heaven back and forth, when eating the sate srepeh with the nasi tahu campur. i know i can eat this food for life kinda thing.

P1060256nasi tahu campur on teak leaves

P1060260the perfect combination

i think it’s time i try to make my own recipes, because blogging this already making me having a bad craving. there are some food i haven’t manage to take picture of. some of them are lontong tuyuhan and the kelo mrico, you could check my friend’s labodalih post on them here.

a lot of rembang delicacies are based on how they process intestines, which really means you really have to master the spices. it’s a nostalgic feeling when you are having the bite of the local food. the sense of a busy ancient port lost in time. here are some of their variants:

IMG01995-20120403-1411local rujak style, with fish intestines sauce

P1060386the liver of a stingray cooked in sweet soya sauce

P1060611vintage sign of pak brengos

P1060609rawon pak brengos, the rembang style: light in color and use the cow intestines

530097_10150719435744637_1240525196_nthe sate laler: goat satay (and fats) for a late night dining

obviously after this culinary trip i need some detox on my system. but parts of me, or well my stomach happiness was left in rembang somehow. so how is your ways to die happily by food?

rembang: why the world need to guard their springs

P1060304lustful water of semen

don’t you just want to jump into the water?

i’m back to yogyakarta after another visit to my favorite part of the northern coast of java: rembang and lasem. i found myself complaining for the unbearable heat and the level of humidity of yogyakarta. it is the second consecutive time this year (or the past month), i’m complaining about the weather in the city i’m living. it is hotter then the coast and jakarta! (i can’t even believe i’m saying this).

while the world just seen a huge storm passes new york, us living in the archipelago have been seeing the change in climate where things become unpredictable. even for us living only with two season: the wet season and the dry season, the weather is so confusing. i remember just in september i’m still snuggling in my tibetan blanket at cold summery nights and finding myself clenching my teeth while taking my late motorcycle ride against the cold wind. nowadays i’m surviving daily at my house in the thinnest balinese sarong. the weather is wrong, people. climate change is here and it is no bullshit.

the last navicula borneo tour give me the glimpse of how bad our last rainforest remains. it’s around 25% forest left in borneo. human greed is such a major destruction to this planet. please check paul daley blog for more information on the attempt in maintaining our borneo rainforest.

P1060292the teak forest preservation, sale, rembang

while now, in the remembrance of the hot afternoon in rembang, i reflected to the many spring water that i’ve seen surviving and should maintain that way. i went up to sale, rembang in the forest preservation area where they have a spring called semen. it was to my surprise that the coastal area of rembang hide this beauty from the last time i was there.

P1060293semen spring in sale, rembang

P1060294the other pond of the spring

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other side of the spring

it is just a spontaneous trip inspired out of rembang afternoon heat. although before i do wanted to see sale, where one of my old friend puthut ea come from and hear all about it in his story from time to time. this spring is where he learn first time to swim. we packed fruits from the local market (finding myself being excited with the local varieties which are getting rare in the big cities). passing teak wood forest and suddenly finding the little forest hideout where a beautiful spring shyly welcome us.

P1060310proudly wearing the lasem batik

i changed myself to a borrowed lasem navy blue batik and took my first dip. it was a quiet afternoon. the local herdsman let his goats roamed around the field nearby the spring. pop put on his italian oldies song with portable speaker. the sensation of swimming in a spring hidden by a little forest took to another level. we spend hours in the spring and not wanting to get out from the cool calm water. i spent time staring at the sky among the trees while laying back on the water and remembering what it’s like to feel being hidden and covered by so many big trees. it is such a peaceful feeling. in a moment like this i often just want to thank to life for each beautiful gift. for each beautiful moment.

in the afternoon the local kids come to swim and some families also take some dip. pop said this feels like family picnic in the late 1980s. the rest of the guys quietly munching on juwet (the javanese grape) and pomegranate. i guess somehow time didn’t move there and in this spring we all voluntarily trap ourselves in its enhancement.

P1060325enchanted forest

i believe every single spring is sacred. people were not allow to cut trees around the spring so as not to dry the source of underground water. for some spring i found the water come under the tree itself. i found in many local tales that a spring is “keramat” (could mean sacred but could mean spooky for some) for many local beliefs. i personally think our ancestor mean for every single of us to show our respect towards nature.

in some ways i feel in indonesia we have plenty of water, often in abundance. but taking this for granted is a wrong move. in our big cities nowadays clean water is scarce. the jakarta river – citarum is the number one most polluted river in the world. rembang case itself, along the way to the spring, i found just across the teak preservation area is one of the many karst mining site ruining the natural landscape of rembang. it could even dry their river and water resources. it is a heartbreaking sight.

P1060340reality bites: preservation versus mining in rembang

i suddenly remember the mystery of easter island story, where they were building up their statue to praise their gods and using lots of wood in putting them straight up on the ground. until they came to the last tree, they decided to cut it and their civilization going downhill to the path of annihilating themselves. we should learns from these kind of stories. that whatever development of civilization human wants themselves going, it would not last without the consciousness by going in line and harmony with their natural surrounding. that the real progress is existing in the human heart to really appreciate what they have and take care of it. i really hope that we would not found ourselves in deciding to cut the last tree standing. we should guard our spring water for the importance and existence of living beings in this planet.

P1060320river nearby the spring and hope it never runs dry

north halmahera: wangongira – tobelo dalam

_MG_0283wangongira sacred spring, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

water is our life. most of my travel somehow end up with water. i’ve been even collecting spring water from various springs lately. i even put water as part of bhumy name: wisesa, means water in javanese sanskrit. as while i was pregnant with him, i spent once in two days swimming in the spring just 2 kilometers away from our house then. living in jogjakarta made me being accustom in the tradition of swimming or taking a late night dip in the springs. in the traditional javanese belief, spring water is sacred. they even have the tradition of kungkum, means, meditation in the water.

one of my biggest impression in my tobelo days is the spring in wangongira. we first heard about it in our third day while meeting with the village elders. the village elders from wangongira reminded me with gandalf version of tobelo people and them-whose-name-could-not-be-spoken (but you can write them down). while preparing for the “nusantara water ritual” ceremony in tobelo as the sacred water bearers, their main resource of water itself is being threatened. the national water company (PAM) is currently building their water tank so near to their spring.

wangongira spring is very unique. various type of paddy plant grow in the middle of the spring. they used to held traditional ceremony celebrating their harvest. now the paddy in the middle of the spring is gone, only some grow scattered downstream.

IMG02160-20120417-1219sacred various type rice-paddy plants used to grow here, where the rocks are now :(

we somehow end up going there with the regent inspection hearing about the issue. the track could only be done by a four wheel drive and it’s impossible to be passed when it’s raining heavily. it was a jumpy ride for all of us. the car nearly stumbled twice on our way.

the wangongira spring is so beautiful, i touched the water firsthand to say hi, the rocks that ruins them broke my heart instantly. i feel like crying. i asked the regent a very straight question: “does tobelo has problem with water, that this kind of thing need to happen?”, he answered that it’s not but if tobelo become a big city, it would be. the incident is that PAM before promised the villagers to build the water tank 100 meters away from the spring, somehow they decided to build their water tank so near with the spring and ruin the sacred paddy plant.

IMG02165-20120417-1223PAM water tank on the spring

i never got the idea with this logic of such development. that a city have to grow so big, it sucked everything to the center. it sucked other people’s life, such as the wangongirans to support their existence. the wangongirans rely their daily needs of water from the spring. one more thing that makes me choke, that this water project runs for 90 billions rupiah from the central ternate government. it’s so obvious the motive of this useless and unnecessary project. f*k it.

IMG02168-20120417-1518path to some semi-avatar world

522871_10150677174072043_2101248955_nwangongira village, tobelo, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

IMG02172-20120417-1537crosses on the ground

the only thing that could calm me down is to take a dip into the spring water. beforehand we should ask permission: tabea molulu. the story goes that a long time ago, one of their ancestor from huana lina, a women walked from the hills carrying some newly harvested paddy. she fell from the hill and the paddy plant fall to the spring. and that’s how the legend of wangongira spring started.

_MG_0319the ladies throwing their water buckets, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

_MG_0329me and rinto taking some water back to the villagers, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

_MG_0330rinto passing filled water buckets, photo courtesy of labodalih sembiring

me and dalih decided to take a walk around the village. our local youth guide is rinto. he is so funny and hilarious. he took us around and nicely answered all of our questions. we ended up taking another dip while waiting for the car to come back to take us.

we were helping the women villagers in filling their water upstream, while some workers were throwing rocks to the spring. the village children were also around helping to carry the water back to their mothers. and suddenly someone screamed: watch out snake! me and rinto swam back and running to the small hill. half of the people watch a medium size snake going into the water. half of them did not. while catching back my breath from running, our driver was back.

suddenly rain pour heavily. it was like flooding from the sky. our car could not start either. we nearly did not make it back if the rain last more than 30 minutes. at the 20th minutes, i remembered something, i haven’t say bye to the spring and the place, while panicking along the running to the hills thing. i said in my heart: tabea molulu, thank you for today and someday we will be back again. we ask permission to go home now. the rain stopped, the car ignited. in a place like this, you should believe in the spirit of the place.

IMG02159-20120417-1215the downstream from the spring

i prayed one day, human could conquer their greed and stop exploiting mother nature. i wish to still see my son and other children could still play in these amazing water. i owe wangongira a promise to go back again one day. i hope this nature beauty stays in their place.

for more about this story: A Public Works Project Threatens Rice Harvest in Remote Indonesia (by Labodalih Sembiring)