Lately I’ve been working a second job caretaking a property outside of Katherine bought by foreign nationals hoping to make their own mark on the northern cattle industry. With them they have brought some cultural differences in the form of little delicacies and cuisine.
Despite my hesitation at trying common Indonesian food in Asian restaurants I was put in a situation where it would have been rude of me to turn it down. So there I sat, in a strangers’ house, with the biggest plate of nasi goreng in front of me. And actually, it wasn’t too bad. It was like the snag and scrambled eggs of Indo… with rice and sweet soy sauce. I now know there is something not too scary for me to eat if I ever travel over the Timor Sea.
I was given a little gift for my initial efforts. A box of Dodol. Think Cadbury Roses but Indonesian style. It’s like a soft toffee of indescribable texture and taste but it is sweet. Nehalennia translated some of the words on the wrappers for me given she grew up in Indonesia. There was chocolate, honey, milk, sesame, date and one we couldn’t figure out what is was.
And then this week there was another couple of gifts. Kuwe koya. I was told it was like cake but upon opening the wrapping is was more like a compressed biscuit of powdered sweetness with a pomegranate filling. It was alright except for the pain it caused in my teeth. And then there was Brem. I was told that was fermented sugar. Nehalennia said it was fermented rice paste. I tried the teeniest bit and thought it was sherbet gone wrong. Very different and requires an acquired taste.
But who knew foods of Indonesia that wouldn’t normally be found in your typical Asian restaurant would end up in my belly. Trying foods that don’t make sense to me (fermented sugar) and flavour combinations I wouldn’t ordinarily think of as a sweet (sesame Dodol). But there you have it. Because the world comes to Australia to try its luck and brings with it their foods. Just as it has since the Chinese brought us tom yum and dumplings in the mid 1800’s. Though I wouldn’t know what that tastes like… yet.