M. Zakky Ramadhany
The Sundanese cuisine of West Java is popular across the archipelago for its fresh flavors, spicy hot sambals and sour soups. But how many people are aware of the delicious drinks that are also born of this rich tradition?
Whether it’s to cool down on a scorching hot day or to warm up on a crisp, clear night, West Java has a range of traditional drinks that are sure to hit the spot every time. Here are some of the bountiful beverages found in this cultural region:
This drink is popular in high-altitude regions, where the temperature drops drastically at night. To keep their bodies warm as the sun goes down, many people in the mountains like to drink bandrek, a hot beverage made with all kinds of warm spices. The basic ingredients are ginger, black pepper, long pepper, cloves and palm sugar, known in Sundanese as gula kawung . All of the ingredients are boiled in water until the aroma of the ginger and spices are released. The taste is described as pedas-manis , literally “hot-sweet.”
Bandrek is usually drunk in the evening when the air begins to cool. Local people say that the warm drink prevents the wind from entering their bodies, an affliction known as masuk angin . The spices are said to have properties to improve blood circulation and stamina. In the past, bandrek sellers would be seen distributing the drink from house to house, but today it is readily available in powdered form, sold in a sachet.
Another refreshing drink in this family that is guaranteed to make your tongue dance is es doger. Why is it called es doger? Well, people say that it gets its name from the way it is sold pushed around in a cart, or in Indonesian, didorong gerobak . Enjoying es doger in the middle of a hot day is like heaven on Earth. It is cold, sweet and refreshing. The composition is similar to es goyobod and es campur. It is made of shaved ice, sliced avocado, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and diced bread. But it also has some interesting additions, such as tape ketan hitam , which is a mix of fermented cassava and black-sticky rice, and pacar cina , literally “Chinese girlfriend/boyfriend,” better known in English as tapioca pearls. The whole drink is colored with a pink syrup made of young or curdled coconut. Es doger can still be found sold from carts outside schools and in housing complexes. But these days, many sellers take up a permanent spot that specializes in the drink.
This is a very traditional drink in West Java. Lahang is basically sap, tapped directly from a palm tree. It is the raw material for making palm sugar. To get the best sap, lahang sellers must go to tap the palm tree at dawn. If they are late even a little bit, the quality of the sap will be affected. To keep the sap fresh throughout the day, the sellers carry it in a bamboo tube with a handle attached. The tube must be sterilized before it is used to stop the sap from turning sour or stale. Sellers do this by blowing smoke through the bamboo to kill any bacteria inside.
Lahang is an acquired taste. Those trying it for the first time may find it strange due to the sap’s distinctive smell. But believe me, this drink is just the thing to enjoy in the middle of the day. Served fresh from the bamboo, this drink is natural, healthy and very refreshing.
It can be said that bandrek and bajigur are two lovebirds that cannot be separated in the culture of West Java. When we go to buy bandrek, we can be sure that bajigur will also be sold there, and vice versa. Bajigur is made from palm sugar mixed with powdered coffee, ginger, coconut milk and various spices. The preparation process is not so different from bandrek, the palm sugar, coffee, spices and coconut milk are heated together on a stove until the aroma is released. Bajigur sellers usually provide boiled snacks that are the perfect accompaniment to the hot beverage, such as boiled peanuts, bananas and sweet potatoes.
In Sundanese, the word goyobod has a meaning similar to the English phrase “like a drowned rat.” When you see this iced drink practically drowning in sweet coconut milk, you will know how it got its name. At a glance, es goyobod is no different to es campur , the dessert made with shaved ice, coconut milk and a mix of fruits and jellies. But those from West Java know the difference in es goyobod is found in the hunkwe , a special kind of jelly made from mung-bean flour that is chopped up into springy cubes and added to the mix. The typical es goyobod is made of shaved ice drizzled with syrup, liquid sugar, sliced avocado, bread, coconut milk, shredded coconut and a generous spoonful of hunkwe jellies.
M. Zakky Ramadhany