The Pisang Goreng Delight: Indonesia

Fried bananas or pisang goreng, are one of the tastiest delicacies to devour for a quick snack between meals. Even better, add a couple scoops of ice-cream and it is the yummiest!.

You can buy them on the streets from the carts or kaki lima, in any restoran and even down at the beach whilst you are relaxing and watching people drown in the surf or getting their eyeballs burnt out by staring at the magnificent and world-renowned Kuta sunset.

I never realised there were so many methods of cooking pisang goreng. For instance,, the Dutch just used to peel the bananas and fry them in butter. There are numerous varieties of bananas also available throughout the archipelago as Suryatini N. Ganie, the Indonesian culinary expert, explains.

Not just 'pisang goreng'

Pisang goreng or fried bananas ranks next to nasi goreng or fried rice as one of the most commonly sold dishes here. At nearly every street corner an itinerant fried snack vendor has it in his array of gorengan or fried food on display. Some people consider pisang goreng as their breakfast while for others it is just a snack or a solution to those late night munchies.

Actually pisang goreng is just one snack one can make from bananas. It is one of the easiest snacks to make when unexpected guests drop by or friends call saying they are in the neighbourhood. Frying pisang goreng takes just a matter of minutes if the batter in which they are dipped is ready or one could even do without batter like the Dutch in former times who just peeled and fried them in butter and enjoy it with nasi goreng. Of course you must have some bananas on hand.




Next to the above methods pisang goreng can be made in other ways. One of the popular methods of making pisang goreng is the pisang molen (molen is Dutch for mill). A piece of banana is wrapped in rectangle thin dough and then fried or even baked. The dough of the pisang molen is flattened by an Italian pasta maker!. Should the bananas not have the right sweet taste, no problem, there will be ground sugar, honey, syrup or a thick sauce of brown sugar to pour over it.

Banana is one fruit that is found in abundance and in huge variety in Indonesia.

There are said to be about 300 varieties of banana in our archipelago, new varieties or formerly unknown ones are now on the market. About five or six years ago pisang barangan that grows prolifically in North Sumatra was relatively unknown in other parts of the archipelago but it seems that the barangan banana variety was as adventurous as the North Sumatran people as now they are sold everywhere in Java and regions further east. When baking a cake for the first time with this banana variety one has to lessen the sugar because they are sometimes very sweet. Then there is the pisang nangka (jackfruit banana) that grows in Jakarta and is lesser known in Bali.

Of the bananas that are often given to babies, the variety called pisang Ambon is also very good for banana bread. For those who are trying to avoid oily food just take pisang kepok and steam it. With a topping of steamed and grated young coconut it is a delicious breakfast treat. When purchasing pisang kepok don't buy pisang batu by mistake. It looks almost the same as pisang kepok, only it has a myriad of small stone-like pits, hence the name pisang batu, and is mostly given to birds!

For those who like to eat banana as is, try the golden pisang emas or pisang susu, bananas with a somewhat creamy flesh and mostly small in length. Pisang raja which is one of the best varieties is also mostly eaten as is but can be also used for cooking and baking purposes.

Like many foods in Indonesia pisang is also used in ceremonies as a symbol of hope and prosperity. In Jakarta, a whole banana bunch (setandan) or sometimes two or three, according to the social standing of the hosts hang from the ceiling just to show their guests that there will be enough food for everybody at the occasion. When attending the wedding of the eldest daughter of the village head, I asked a woman why nobody touched the fruit. She answered that it was only to show their hospitality because at Jakarta weddings, one can stay until the wee hours of the morning and have some of the pisang from the bunches for breakfast.

Suryatini N. Ganie

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