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Rujak the Tapanuli Way – Mangarabar

Rujak (roujack) or rojhak is a sweet sour salad made from fruits and vegetables and is mostly eaten as a snack between meals throughout Indonesia. The fruit and vegetable variations are many. Some regions even have rujak in their array of ceremonial foods.

Take for example the custom of mangarabar when the harvest is nearly finished and people have some leisure time in many villages in Tapanuli. Mangarabar is a word in the Batak Mandailing dialect, meaning to prepare a rujak as Indonesia’s top gastronome and epicurean el supremo Suryatini N. Ganie explains.

Mangarabar in Tapanuli, especially in villages, differs from preparing a rujak or sweet and sour salad in urban regions. The difference is especially noted in the ingredients, preparation and most important the situation when a mangarabar is required.

To make a rabar (rujak) during a mangarabar requires a certain set of obligatory ingredients consisting of three main ingredients which are red chilies, salt and unripe or green fruits.

The fruits are plantain, cempedak and belimbing (star fruit). All the ingredients are then put into a traditional stamper or lesung and coarsely pound.

Arranging a mangarabar after harvest may seem a very simple affair but not executing it will be regarded as a rather serious mistake in many villages in Tapanuli.

The time to arrange a mangarabar is mostly decided by some village elders when they are having a casual meeting at somebody’s house. Children, teenagers, elderly people are welcome to join to make the event successful.

Arrangement is planned so that the mangarabar will be a pleasant get-together. They look for the fruits for the right ripeness and also for a place large enough to accommodate many people.

Choices will be sometimes difficult because even the elderly and those with a small home will offer their place for the mangarabar.
People also offer for organizers to use their fruits or vegetables. And young men cut a banana tree while teenagers clean and cut the fruits and vegetables to put into the lesung or traditional stamping utensil.

Red chilies and salt along with granulated sugar to make the rabar more delicious is donated by the elderly, who use sugar to sweeten their morning coffee.

Those who are not able to give any basic ingredients help to stamp the rabar.

For many people, the mangarabar is a way of showing togetherness. It gives those involved a satisfied and proud feeling. Those who are too lazy to help will feel awkward when offered a portion of rabar.

While enjoying the rabar, people talk about plans for the next harvest, and, of course, expectations are the next mangarabar will be just as successful.

Mangarabar is really a special event for the inhabitants of the Batak Mandailing region in Tapanuli and a much anticipated date after harvest.

Rujak is sold by vendors, who display a colorful array of fruit in their glass container. Normally available is a rujak of yam beans, cucumber, pineapple and some colorful fruits like varieties of guavas.

Last but not least just to give you a small variety of regional rujak here are some recipes from all around the archipelago from Jakarta to Manado.