A spicy Indonesian Iftar during Ramadan


Dubai - Seven-year old Leon Mahatma Murdi and his father welcomed us at the parking area of their flat in Al Barsha.

By Angel Tesorero

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Published: Tue 21 Jun 2016, 8:13 PM

Last updated: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 9:04 AM

For non-Muslims, the best way to learn about Ramadan is through the eyes of a boy who is steadfastly fasting for the first time. And that's what we've experienced when we visited the house of Murdi Primbani, Indonesian Consul for Information, Social and Cultural Affairs, last week.

Seven-year old Leon Mahatma Murdi and his father welcomed us at the parking area of their flat in Al Barsha. We've noticed that the boy's lips were partly parched, meaning he hasn't taken any liquid since the break of dawn, but his eyes were very lively and his demeanour bubbly. He was wearing a clean and neatly-pressed baju koko, an all-white loose shirt worn traditionally by Indonesians, and he gladly took our hands leading us to the lift to go to their flat.

We admired this little boy's sacrifice not to eat and drink, yet he was still very cheerful. His smile was really contagious and when we asked him why he was fasting, he simply answered, with no pretension: "Because I just wanted to."

His father provided us with a longer reply: "This is the first time for him (Leon) to fast. We just came back from Umrah in April this year and the journey to Makkah impressed him very much so he now wants to feel the essence of Ramadan."

Consul Murdi then introduced us to his wife, Amelia, who is three months pregnant, and to his guests: Consul-General Arzaf Firman and wife Jeny; Consul Temu Alam and wife Atiek; and consular staff Restoro Sukantu.

Leon was the only boy in the crowd and like any other boy his age, he was getting restless but at the same time inquisitive. He was checking the professional camera of our photographer while Murdi was explaining to us the traditional Indonesian Iftar we were about to partake.

His wife, who hails from West Sumatra, prepared all the dishes and Murdi said: "The food is traditionally spicy. And the rationale why the food is spicy is because the spice also acts as natural preservative. So back in the days when people from Indonesia had to travel to Makkah by boat, which takes about three months, the food was still good to eat." Then the consul, who is originally from East Java, gave us a brief history of Indonesia, telling us that the country's name was derived from the word Greek translation of the Indus River and the word nèsos, meaning "Indian island." Islam was first adopted by Indonesians in northern Sumatra in the 13th century, through the influence of traders mostly passing through Gujarat. By the 16th century, Islam became the country's dominant religion.

Indonesia is now the most populous Muslim majority country in the world, with 90 per cent of its 260 million people are Muslim. The country is situated between the Indian and Pacific Ocean and it is also the world's largest island country with more than 17,000 islands and more than 400 languages. But this diversity is also what makes the country unique and its national motto is "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" meaning "Unity in Diversity" or "many, yet one".

Despite coming from different parts of Indonesia, the three diplomatic officials shared with us that they have the same fond memories of Ramadan when they were kids. They said that prior to ending the fast, Indonesians do "ngabuburit" which is doing fun activities an hour before Iftar. Young boys or individuals walk around neighbourhoods beating big drums called beduk while others were visiting friends and neighbours while food were already waiting on the table.

But Consul Alam said that "ngabuburit" is not about killing time at dusk - it is more about communal activities, togetherness, friendship and tradition.

Going back to Leon, he may not be doing the same "ngabuburit" as what his father did but his understanding of Ramadan is just the same. And for us we felt humbled by his faith and strong will.


To end fast

Martobak, square beef samosa (influenced by Arabic-South Indian culinary)

Bala-bala, fried vegetables

Mi Goreng, flavourful and spicy fried noodle dish common in Indonesia

Es Campur, fruit cocktail with coco pandan syrup and condensed milk, a must in every gathering

Kolak, sweet potato and banana in heavy coconut milk with palm sugar, most common in every Indonesian home during Iftar

Main course (West Sumatra delicacies)

Rendang, beef in spicy coconut milk, prepared and cooked for days, one of the most famous delicacies

Sake padang, beef satay in thick rice flour sauce, best to enjoy with boiled rice cake

Dendeng balado, thinly-sliced dried meat, similar to beef jerky, preserved through a mixture of sugar and spices

Gulai Tunjang, beef knuckles in heavy coconut milk and vegetables

Nasi padang, Gulaidaun Sinhoy and jengkol, cassava leaves in heavy coconut milk served with round potatoes

Ikan goreng, fried fish served with soy sauce and chilli

Ketoprak, boiled vegetables and tofu and rice vermicelli served with spicy peanut sauce

Kerupuk, crackers, easily purchased and heavily enjoyed by all Indonesians

Emping, bite-size chips made of melinjo or belinjo (Gnetum gnemon) nuts

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