Jamu Sellers in Indonesia

glass-of-jamubmp.jpgI can still recall the first time I tried jamu, the herbal, traditional drink available throughout Indonesia. I had not long known my wife, Candika, and it was at her house when she passed me a bottle containing a muddy coloured fluid of what looked like, well, raw sewage!. And, it tasted like it. Frankly, crap!. I persisted and for the rest of the day I felt great. Over the years I became accustomed to my daily dose of jamu.

You will have seen the Jamu sellers in Indonesia on your travels. They are generally carrying a basket slung over their arm. In Java however they tend to sling the basket on their backs and carry it somewhat like a backpack. They are known as Jamu Gendong. The word gendong means to ‘carry on the back’.

Early each morning well before dawn the jamu gendong prepares several litres of three or four different of jamu in her home, having purchased the ingredients from a local market. After the conclusion of the preparation, jamu gendong pours the fluid into empty plastic Aqua bottles. These are placed into a large round bamboo basket. The jamu gendong then hoists the basket on to her back and sets off on her regular jamu route.

The word jamu covers a vast range medicinal drinks for various diseases and are available in ready-to-drink form as well as in powder satchets or capsules. Renowned brands of jamu include Iboe, Sido Muncul, Jago, and Meneer. Some people say to avoid buying jamu from the street as the water quality is dubious, but I have not had any problems from it in over 30 years!

Here are a few of the most requested jamu:

Galian singset — weight reduction)

Beras kencur (from rice, sand ginger and brown sugar) — cough, fatigue

Temulawak (from curcuma) — for liver disease)

Gula asem (from tamarind and brown sugar) — rich in vitamin C

Kunyit asam (from tamarind, turmeric) — for skin care, canker sores

Of course there are many more varieties available and include assisting impotency, improving sexual prowess and for women, helping with the monthly cycle.