Community eyes promotion of traditional cuisine

Community eyes promotion of traditional cuisine

Syamsul Huda M.Suhari, The Jakarta Post, Gorontalo | Archipelago | Mon, April 28 2014, 9:59 AM

An array of scrumptious traditional dishes were served during a discussion on traditional cuisine held recently at a 100-year-old Dutch-style house in the heart of Gorontalo city.

Among the dishes were tabu moitomo (meat in thick black gravy), binthe biluhuta (corn soup), bilenthango (spicy fried fish) and gohu lo putungo (banana flowers with grated coconut and spices).

Nasi tumpeng (cone-shaped yellow rice with traditional side dishes) was also served during the event.

The edible treats and discussion were organized by the Omar Niode Foundation, a non-profit organization owned by the prominent Gorontalo Niode-Katili family, which is concerned with improving the quality of education and human resources in the fields of agriculture, food and culinary arts.

“We invited several parties to explore Gorontalo’s potential as a culinary destination for domestic as well as foreign visitors,” foundation head Amanda Katili Niode told The Jakarta Post.

“[There are] around 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, which all have their own distinctive cuisines, but only 10 percent of them have been promoted,” she said.

According to Amanda, no dishes from Gorontalo are included in the 30 Traditional Culinary Icons of Indonesia (IKTI). A number of conditions, Amanda said, must be met in order to be included in the IKTI, such as the basic ingredients being easily accessible within Indonesia and abroad.

“The binthe biluhuta, or Gorontalo corn soup, I believe has met the criteria, so we must jointly promote it,” she said.

Currently, Amanda continued, a movement against the hegemony of fast food by an international non-profit organization named Slow Food is intensively promoting local foods that fulfill the requirements of being both delicious and hygienic.

The network now has 100,000 members across 160 countries and regularly carries out activities such as food education and sampling, as well as trips to agricultural regions, school gardens and farm markets.

During culinary excursions, she added, visitors not only sample local cuisine but can also interact with traders and take pictures of the food. Some tourist sites also offer cooking classes for visitors who wish to know more about local cuisine.

Separately, a nutritionist specializing in the nutritional content of Gorontalo cuisine, Arifasno Napu, said there are dozens of local dishes with high nutritional content.

As many as 11 of Gorontalo’s staple foods are not based on rice, such as binthe biluhuta.

In the past, a variety of Gorontalo snack foods — such as keyabo, tutulu, kolombengi, sabongi and sarikaya — were not made from wheat flour, but from maize, cassava, sweet potato, banana and glutinous rice flours.

“Previously, food diversity established by our ancestors made them self-sufficient in [terms of] food; they did not depend on imported products,” said Arifasno.

According to Arifasno, changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices in preparing traditional foods across the country are part of the impact of globalization.

As part of an anticipatory measure, Arifasno’s office and the Gorontalo Health Agency implemented curriculum at elementary, junior high and senior high school levels regarding nutrional content of Gorontalo cuisine in 2007.

He said his office was now urging the government to issue a local bylaw on the preservation of traditional Gorontalo cuisine.

Separately, Gorontalo Tourism Agency head Sukri Moonti said that his office was coordinating 300 food stalls at tourist areas in Pentadio Resort, which is famous for its natural hot springs.

“As of today, there are 120 vendors who have registered their names to have food stalls. We will not charge anything for the first three months,” Sukri said, adding that the area was earmarked to become the city’s culinary hub. Vendors are expected to start operating in the area in May.