Aceh: The Exellency of Spices

NANGGROE ACEH DARUSSALAM –Indonesia’s special region located at the northern end of Sumatra covering more than 22,000 square miles. It is closed to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India separated by Andaman Sea. Not only Baiturrahman Grand Mosque is Aceh famous of, but also dynamic Seudati and Saman dances, picturesque beaches, heterogeneous tribes and culture, and most importantly its culinary journey involving abundant herbs and spices boosted by the influences from Arab, Indian, Siamese, Malaya, Dutch and Spanish.

1. Timpan

One of Acehnese traditional sweets served in the period of Moslem holidays (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha). Either one or two days prior to the holidays, Acehnese women will start making the dish by preparing a young banana leaf in advance as the dressing. As the ingredients are flour, banana, and coconut milk completed with srikaya for the main filling, it is no wonder that its sticky, glutinous, and scrumptious look successfully grabs the sense of hearty and adorable dish for young and old people. The process of making timpan is easy by stirring and elongating all the ingredients until chewy, filling it with srikaya, wrapping the dough with the leaf, and steaming it for 30 minutes.



2. Rujak Aceh

Indonesian’s specialty mixed fruit salad consisting of tropical fruits (papaya, mango, pineapple, jack fruit, guava, cucumber, etc.) that are cut into small pieces and served with peanut plus palm sugar dressing. Samalanga, one of Aceh’s region located in Bireuen district, is well-known for its sour, sweet, and spicy fruit salad. To make it more colorful and reddish, Aceh’s reddish spices will be such good ingredient to include. Acehnese fruit salad has a special way of presenting the dish either by serving it on a plate (for the visitors who prefer to dine in) or wrapping it with a banana leaf (for those who want to take it away).

Acehnese Fruit Salad


3. Bubur Kanji Rumbi

Acehnese rice chicken porridge that is scarcely to be found in usual days as it becomes one of Ramadan’s fast-breaking menus. Different from prevalent porridge, kanji rumbi consists of the typical ingredients such as cinnamon, coriander, pepper, fennel, mace flower, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger. Because of the varied spices and herbs, Acehnese people recognize this food as ‘porridge with 40 kinds of spices’. Besides, the cooking process is also slightly different from the porridge in general. The boiling porridge is excluded from ingredients and spices. Instead, they are wrapped in cheesecloth to reduce the amount of spices mixed in the porridge.

kanji rumbi


4. Martabak Aceh

Starting in Serambi Mekah, one of the cities in Aceh, is the place where its typical stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread swiftly emphasizes its delicacy throughout Indonesia. Becoming one of Acehnese street food destinations, this type of Asian-style pancake cannot be missed while in Aceh. Most martabak dishes have an egg as the main component, but in Aceh, the cooking process is quite ‘anti mainstream’ as the egg becomes the skin of martabak similar to Canai bread. For Acehnese people, this dish is often called ‘inversed-stuffed pancake’. In spite of the unique way of cooking, the taste is sensational and scrumptious when it is completed with shredded red onions and sliced chili.

martabak aceh (2)


5. Nasi Gurih 

It is one of starchy and gluten main courses similar to nasi uduk (in Jakarta) and nasi lemak (in Riau, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore). It can be called literally as ‘succulent rice’ in Acehnese language resembling the rich taste of steamed rice cooked in coconut milk and spices. Additional ingredients such as salt, lemongrass, Indian bay leaf and pandan leaves are included along with the cooking process to enhance its aroma. In most warung or food stalls in Aceh, this menu is offered not only with its basic ingredients (fried peanuts, fried shallot, soybean paste, chili, and fish chips) but also with assorted side dishes consisting of fish and shrimp in chili, fried chicken, beef jerky, and fried mashed potato patty.



6. Ayam Tangkap

Acehnese homely crispy fried chicken emblazoned with shredded fried leaves and green chili. Literally, it is translated as ‘caught chicken’ that perhaps will make you smile for a couple of seconds. Besides, Ayam Sampah (literally ‘garbage chicken’) and Ayam Tsunami (literally ‘tsunami chicken’) are several epithets used for calling the dish judging from its messy look. As several components such as salt, ginger, garlic, and spices added up to the chicken with a touche of herbal infusion at the end, it is definitely a hundred percent success to escort you for such ultimate delectable culinary experience.

Ayam Tangkap 2


7. Sate Matang

One of the best skewered lamb or beef satay originated from Matang Geuleumpang Dua in Bireun district, Aceh. The word matang in Bahasa means cooked or done, but it does not mean that the rest of other satays are under or overcooked. Most of Indonesian satays are served with peanut and soy sauce completed with a plate of rice (Indonesian’s must-have meal), but Acehnese people show a slight difference in having a bowl of mutton broth as the complement, giving it a sweet taste similar to soto (Indonesian’s authentic soup). For most Indonesians, this combination may sound weird and elusive. Despite the perplexing concept of satays in Aceh, the broth itself is the golden key of impeccable delicacy.

sate matang


8. Eungkot Keumamah

A type of wooden fish sliced in a petite size before dried in a week or more to produce such chewy and firm texture. In the period of Dutch colony, Indonesian fighters adored the dish as the ingredients were everlasting, practical, and scrumptious. Besides, it became a daily food supply for Acehnese fighters while conducting guerrilla warfare in the middle of the forest or hiding down to the ground, according to the history of Dutch aggression in March 1873. Because of its memoirs, eungkot keumamah is a hearty food for most Acehnese people from generation to generation. Usually, it is pan-fried added with sauteed chili and other seasonings to make it more colorful, reddish, and tantalizing.

eungkot Keumamah 2


9. Gule Pliek U

Another Acehnese local food since the existence of Aceh kingdom consisting of mixed vegetables such as long beans, papaya, and melinjo leaves cooked with fresh coconut that is processed to fermentation about 15 days. Pliek U or patarana is the coconut lees squeezed by two blades, a traditional tool. Furthermore, it is pressed with a large bolt to extract the oil, producing minyeuk reutik palm oil. Meanwhile, the lees itself is re-dried for a period of time, resulted in blackish look bringing out a distinctive aroma of the coconut oil. The undergo process to make the dish is derived from the custom of Acehnese people in rural areas of cultivating the coconut in such traditional way from time to time, maintaining its originality.

gule pliek uu


10. Sie Reuboh 

One of Aceh’s simple signature dishes that uses beef or buffalo meat as the core ingredient. Before seasoned with onions, garlic, chilies, black pepper, and spices, the meat is boiled at first added with vinegar to create a sour sensation. However, sie reuboh’s key feature to make it durable is the meat’s fat or gapah in Acehnese language that is not preferable for those who are on diet. Though the fat is quite dominant in the cuisine, its taste never fails anyone who enjoys having it anytime as it has not only sour taste, but also salty, lively, and spicy taste as well. Unfortunately, not many people recognize and even know its existence as nowadays the era of instant food is getting recognized worldwide.



11. Kari Aceh

Not only in Indian and Thai food is curry always be associated with, but also in Indonesian cuisine, especially Aceh. Because of the introduction to spices in Aceh carried by foreign traders long time ago, combining these components with ubiquitous Indonesian ingredients such as chilies, ginger, lemongrass, etc. will create a breathtaking fusion and sensational flavor as well. The key ingredients to make Acehnese curry are payok (ground-roasted coconut) and asam sunti  (a local dried starfruit) consisting of two curry types. One is dry and thick – like a paste, and the other is gulai that has creamy texture.

curry (aceh)


12. Mie Razali

Established since 1967, Mie Razali, the Acehnese noodle pioneer restaurant, has lifted its existence among food connoisseurs not only in Indonesia but also abroad. Its signature dish is miraculously mind-blowing as the broth of the boiled noodles pops up carrying out the taste of crab that can be accustomed based on the spiciness level. Shrimp, steamed squid, lamb, and beef are the other compliments to the cuisine besides crab – the main ingredient. Acehnese yellow and thick noodles can be served in three ways such as fried, boiled, and stewed depending on each person’s preference. At the end, this culinary treat should be listed of not-to-miss food in Aceh.

mie razali 2


13. Gulee Sie Kameng 

A type of Acehnese goat curry that has several names such as Kari KamengKari Sie Kameng, and Kuah Sie Kameng. Among Indonesians, gulee is referred to gulai. Meanwhile, sie means meat or daging (in Bahasa), and kameng is goat orkambing (in Bahasa) while kari is another name for curry or gulai. The essential component to create such delicious goat curry is toasted-shredded coconut or u neu lheu (in Acehnese local dialect). The way Acehnese goat curry is made stretches a little difference from other Indonesian curry menus spotted from the usage of dried chili (known as capli klengin in Acehnese language) instead of fresh chili.



14. Gayo Arabica & Ulee Kareng Coffee

Grows on an ancient volcanic area in Gayo Highland, Aceh – Indonesia, Gayo Arabica coffee has become an enormous hit for coffee lovers since 1930. Besides, it reaches the fame in the eyes of the world after Acehnese people discovered its mild and rich flavor following with the satisfaction of pleasure as there is less caffeine, making it a proper choice for those who suffer stomach aid after drinking it. A very distinctive taste is what makes Gayo Arabica coffee’s fans will never get sick of. The bitterness of the coffee is barely recognized, and its originality aroma remains from the coffee bean are the reasons why it becomes one of the international coffee menus nowadays.

Gayo Arabica Coffee


Meanwhile, ulee kareng is one of the districts in Aceh that produces its own local coffee brand. Beginning in 1960s, ulee kareng coffee started gaining its fame throughout the entire country until present, becoming the most wanted signature Acehnese coffee among the tourists. Differences stretched from these two coffees are the way it looks and how it is presented. Gayo Arabica coffee has more brownish and light color compared to the ulee kareng Coffee that possesses more blackish and dense color.  Gayo Arabica Coffee is presented in such elegant and casual way. On the other hand, ulee kareng Coffee is presented in a unique way by brewing it with water that is kept in a state of boiling at first, filtering it for several times with a fabric coffee filter, and pouring it from kettle to kettle.



15. Ie Boh Timon

An epic combination between lime and cucumber blended into one of Aceh’s must-try drinks especially during summer season. According to Acehnese language, Ie means water or air (Indonesian); Boh means fruit or buah (Indonesian); Timon means cucumber or timun (Indonesian). As Aceh restaurants often have spicy and oily cuisines in their menus similar to the South Indian dishes, most people will have their tables accompanied by the drink to stabilize high cholesterol food (especially mutton and goat curry) and to ease the high blood pressure caused by the food. Because of the fresh aftertaste and practical way to make, no doubt that Acehnese people have this drink in their menus.

Ie Boh Timon



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