Turmeric: Indonesia

Should you have time to study regional Indonesian recipes, you will see that turmeric frequently appears. Indeed, to many Indonesian cooks, this ingredient is indispensable.

As it is so frequently used in cooking, many Indonesian people plant this rhizome in their garden so as fresh turmeric and its leaves will always be on hand as gastronome and epicurean el supremo Suryatini N.Ganie explains.

Turmeric (Curcuma domestica Val), or kunyit in Indonesian, is used as an important spice in many countries around Asia where rice is the staple.

Turmeric gives dishes a musky flavor and a yellow color. It has been used for centuries in Indonesia, not only in the culinary sense, but also in traditional medicine.

At special events, turmeric yellow, or kuning emas, is often used to color certain items. The color is obtained by grating and pressing a fresh turmeric rhizome.

During the period of Dutch administration, some important regional heads, called bupati, were given distinctive rewards for their loyalty to the Dutch Government. These rewards were dark green and turmeric colored cotton parasols and gave the holder the right to VIP treatment.

At certain regional wedding ceremonies, turmeric is used to color raw rice grains, which are later tossed toward the bridegroom when he enters the house of his spouse-to-be.

The rice is also mixed with coins, causing female guests to rush to collect as many as they can. Many believe if they collect some coins and yellow rice, wedding bells will also soon be ringing for them.

At many wedding ceremonies, the main dish is nasi kuning — a turmeric yellow-colored rice dish served to the bride and bridegroom for their first marital meal together.

However, just to remind those eager to get their hands on some lucky rice, turmeric stains can be quite difficult to remove from clothing!

Turmeric blends easily with many spices. It can even be used in the same spice mix as coriander, cumin, galangal and pepper.

Ingredients such as salam leaves, lemon grass and chilies are perhaps the most suitable turmeric companions. Mixing coconut milk with turmeric will give a dish an attractive golden accent.

For a refreshing and medicinal Javanese brew for the ladies, just peel and slice about 15 grams of fresh turmeric rhizome, put it in a pot, add 400-500 milliliters of water, 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste, some brown sugar to taste and bring to the boil for 3-4 minutes.

Lower flame and continue simmering until a herbal aroma is obvious. Let cool and take a sip to check taste. Drinking 100 milliliters of this drink, known as kunyit asam, twice a day can relieve cramps, especially during premenstrual periods.

Not only Indonesian people believe turmeric is a VIP among spices. Jean Carper, who writes best-selling books on food-related medicine, said turmeric is one of the world’s most beneficial spices. Among its many talents, turmeric lowers cholesterol, hinders platelet aggregation and protects the liver from toxins.