As a diverse archipelago with hundreds of ethnic groups and cultural characteristics, Indonesia has many delightful cuisines in each of its part including West Papua. This easternmost province in Indonesia has rich natural resources which makes it has various culinary delicacies.
If you are visiting West Papua, enjoying the food is something that you cannot miss. Below are some of the most well-known cuisines that you can experience while you’re in West Papua:
Papeda is a sago porridge made from sago starch. Papeda is the staple food of Papuan people and some of those in Maluku. Just like rice for other parts of Indonesia, papeda is eaten as a main course with various side dishes.
Papeda has a white gluey color with sticky texture. To eat it, the people of Papua and Maluku often use a traditional wooden fork. The side dishes usually eaten with papeda are yellow fish soup or stir-fried vegetables like water spinach and papaya flower bud.
Manokwari’s Grilled Fish
You can find this special grilled fish mostly in Manokwari. The fish used in this dish is mackerel tuna. The grilled fish is topped with a sauce made of chilies and red shallots. The typical smell of grilled fish matches perfectly with the taste of the sauce.
You can find this dish not only in Manokwari, but also in other cities in West Papua. Local restaurants that serve Papuan food will usually have this menu in it.
The name “lontar” is actually a mispronounce word from rontaart, a Dutch language for “round tart”. This Papuan pie is stuffed with caramelized sugar and milk and has a sweet taste. The lontar pie is usually eaten at celebration time like Christmas or birthday. Nowadays, you can easily find lontar pie in cake shops in big cities in West Papua.
Sago Worm Satay
Besides papeda, sago worm is one of the most popular foods in West Papua. Sago worm is found inside the sago tree and has a large and plump body. Sago worm has a scientific name of Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. When it has completely metamorphosed, the worm will grow to be a snout beetle.
Some Papuan likes to eat the sago worm raw or cook it on skewers to make satay. When it’s grilled, it has a crispy texture on the outside and softer and chewy inside. With a high nutritional content, the Papuan eats the sago worm to reenergize and rejuvenate their body.
Bagea is a pastry consisted of shredded beef which is called abon in Indonesian language. The pastry has been known as a snack and is usually brought by the tourist as a souvenir from Papua. Bagea can be easily found in souvenir shops under many brands. Bagea has many taste variation like chicken meat, beef, tuna, chocolate, and cheese.
Sago lempeng is a snack that is usually eaten with milk or tea. It is made from baked sago and has a rather hard and sandy texture. This snack is found not only in Papua area but also around Maluku and some parts of Sulawesi. It is also a good idea to bring sago lempeng as a souvenir because it has a long shelf life.
Ant’s nest or sarang semut is a plant classified in Myrmecodia family. It spreads widely in Papua and is rather easy to find. It is called as the ant’s nest because the plant has a labyrinth-like chamber that is used by ants as their nest.
The ants do not just live inside the chamber, they also work as a nutrition delivery system for the plant. Indeed, the Myrmecodia and the ants have mutual symbiosis relationship. This plant has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries. It is believed that the plant can heal various health problems like heart problems, kidney diseases, tumor, and even cancer.
Indonesia has been known for its various condiments, and Papua has one, too. Sambal colo-colo is almost similar to sambal dabu-dabu in Manado. The chopped chilies, shallots, and tomatoes taste refreshing especially because it is dipped in lemon water. The Papuan people usually eat the condiments with baked or smoked fish to give it a rich and appetizing taste.
Just like many culinary cultures in Indonesia, Papua offers unique taste and texture in its cuisines. Its fertile soil and vast marine life make Papua has plenty of food resources. Big cities like Manokwari, Sorong, Jayapura, Merauke, and Timika are some of the most visited places in West Papua.
There, you can find a unique fusion of traditional values and modern life. To pamper your palate, there are restaurants and shops which are offering the Papuan specialty food on the corners of the cities.
So, are you ready to find out more about West Papua through its culinary cultures? Let’s visit West Papua and prepare for the unforgettable journey.