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Posts tagged ‘Spice Odyssey’

Memories of Panjim

Panjim_1

Olga is delighted when she learns I was recently in Goa. “I’m from Mumbai,” she says, “but a Goan Catholic.” I meet her by chance at a Hong Kong restaurant, and before it gets too busy with patrons, I declare my adoration for the food of her home state. There are two things I regret not doing in Panjim, Goa’s laid-back state capital: the first is that I didn’t stay longer, and the second, that I never joined a Goan cooking class. Read more

Rubber time in Banda Neira

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“Don’t be angry, sir!”

Bu Rosani says this with a hopeful smile, as we sink into the plastic chairs inside her family-run restaurant Rumah Makan Nusantara. At the next table a band of sailors roar with laughter and knock back a few bottles of Bintang, pausing only to puff on their cigarettes. Bu Rosani tells us their ship is leaving soon, and they must be served first. Read more

Holland in Java: the old town of Semarang

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It isn’t long after daybreak when Bama and I find ourselves in a small slice of Europe. Across the tree-lined street, not yet spoiled by the din of motorcycle traffic, the painted copper dome of a church glints in the first rays of the morning sun. Around us rise noble structures in brick and stone, some crowned with the narrow, steep-sided gables of a country halfway across the world. Semarang has one of the best-preserved historic centres of any major city in Indonesia, and we are standing at its very heart. Read more

Semarang and the Chinese treasure fleet

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Lying almost midway along the northern coast of Java, Semarang is a port city with a deep Chinese connection. It is particularly famous for lumpia, the spring rolls introduced by Hokkien-speaking immigrants, while many local dishes use tofu as an important base. The influence extends beyond the culinary sphere, for it is in Semarang that a magnificent temple pays homage to the greatest admiral in Chinese history. Read more

Food from the heart of Java

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Imagine an island seven degrees south of the equator, blessed with rich volcanic soil, where broad coastal plains rise to the hills and a chain of mystical 3,000-metre peaks. An island roughly the size of Greece, of sprawling cities, endless rice fields, and raw, otherworldly landscapes where you might find boiling lakes and plumes of steam billowing from the earth. This island is known as Java, and it is a food-lover’s paradise. Read more

Reflections on a month in India

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When I told family members of my plans to embark on this six-month Spice Odyssey, the country they were most concerned about was India. My mother warned me to brush my teeth only with bottled water and bought me a stash of anti-diarrheal pills to take daily, even if I didn’t have any stomach troubles. My grandfather pulled me aside and said I could trust the people of Malaysia and Indonesia, but Indians would surely cheat me. Read more

For all the nutmeg in the world

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The islands lie half-forgotten, ten volcanic specks in the vast, tempestuous waters of the Banda Sea. And yet this tiny archipelago was so important its name was once writ large on maps of the East Indies. Until the 19th century, the coveted Banda Islands were the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace – spices that were prized for their medicinal value. Read more

Meet the Bandanese

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I cannot begin to describe how much I adore the Banda Islands. Bama and I have recently spent the second half of September happily marooned on this tiny archipelago in the seas of eastern Indonesia. Both of us consider it one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to, and while I mull over exactly how to write about its incredible history and the wonders we saw, I will introduce Banda with photos of its people. Read more

Cook like a Nyonya

Nyonya Cooking Class_1

It’s too late when I notice my pot of duck stew boiling over. In those split seconds between Bama’s warning and the time it takes for me to put down the camera, the damage has already been done.

Quick as a flash, Pearly Kee rushes over to turn down the heat. By now the excess liquid is bubbling and steaming on the hob, with a minor cascade dripping down the drawers and pooling on the floor tiles. “Too much water,” she says. The embarrassment must be evident on my face, because Pearly is telling me not to worry while she wipes down the mess. Read more

My first Idul Fitri

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Indonesian TV stations these days have been peppering their news broadcasts with “suka-duka Idul Fitri”, a round-up of the positives (suka) and negatives (duka) over the long weekend. It has been a privilege to spend Idul Fitri, or Eid, with Bama’s family, and experience the celebrations firsthand. For me, the similarities between our home cultures have been brought into sharp focus – I now realise that this festival is a lot like Chinese New Year. Read more