Forgotten Spices of the Archipelago
‘Jamu’ is most commonly found on the backs of traditional Kain Kebaya-wearing Javenese women. Transported via bamboo baskets, these young-middle aged women travel from villages to towns throughout Indonesia, shifting supplies of their local medical tonic. This often contains a mix of natural materials such as roots, bark, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit, sweetened with a dollop of honey, royal jelly or milk.
The industrial arm supplies Jamu as instant dried sachets to the big cities. These days it can also be found as supplements and gummies and is a growing industry worth millions of dollars. However it’s still something that’s best enjoyed fresh. Whilst at the Tugu Hotel in Canggu, I enrolled in a class that leant some simple recipes to amateur brewers.
Traditional Jamu Base Recipe
- Clean and peel the fresh Turmeric to remove any loose skin or blemishes. Put it in a blender with sliced ginger root and 4 cups of water. Blend until smooth. (Traditionally this is done by hand using a pestle and mortar)
- Pour mixture into a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add lime juice and palm sugar or royal jelly to taste. I used 2 tbsp of lime juice and 1 tbsp of palm sugar, but I can see that more of either would be nice too depending on your taste.
- Strain through a very fine sieve, nut milk bag or muslin cloth (remember, it’ll stain), pour into a glass bottle or jar and enjoy or refrigerate.
The traditional recipe is Turmeric based, which is a potent anti-inflammatory, it has been known to help fight against cancer and aid metabolism. The fresh Ginger has also been shown to be useful in gastrointestinal and nausea related issues. Raw honey is a great source of antioxidants and has been used for centuries as a natural antibacterial and antifungal, or natural palm sugar can be used to sweeten and deliver an array of phytonutrients. Lime is high in vitamin C and has a beneficial effect on the skin, re-introducing a rejuvenated glow.
The following ingredients can also be added to taste during the simmering stage in part 2, for an extra potent health kick:
Papayas contain an abundance of vitamins and enzymes that make them powerful antioxidants. It boosts your immune function, supports digestion and blood sugar levels. Traditionally these leaves are added for those at risk of T2 diabetes and in need of better blood glucose regulation.
Tamarind is a delicious sweet fruit that like Turmeric, is found abundantly in a variety of culinary dishes in the far east. It is rich in vitamins and minerals including E, B, calcium, phosphorous and fibre. It is traditionally added to assist children fight parasites and worms.
‘MONKODUKU’ (MONK) FRUIT
This can be used with / instead of raw honey to naturally sweeten the mixture, especially if using bitter papaya leaves. Monk fruit gets its natural sweetness from compounds called Mogrosides – a low calorie, antioxidant sweetener, a little like Stevia.
Known as ‘dog dumpling’ fruit in Barbados, is a special kind of fuit known as the ‘miracle fruit’ in Cuba. It has a slightly odd smell which is an acquired taste, despite belonging to the family of coffee plants. Like many of the other ‘superfruits’, it contains high levels of vitamin C and has traditionally been used to aid in healing afflictions of the skin, gut and immune system.
Jamu Kunir Asem
Function: This Jamu is most popular for women and helps to regulate menstruation and feminine hormones in general
Ingredients: Tamarind (50 gram), Tumeric (1 ounce), Palm Sugar (2 ounce), Lime (2 pieces), Sugar (1 spoon), salt to taste
Preparation: Wash tumeric and clean the skin, grind it into strips using a peeler or mash with pestal and mortar, add palm sugar. Add mineral water (heated), add sugar, lime juice and salt to taste then strain.
Jamu Kunchi Sirih
Function: Most popular for women for beauty and helps feminine hormones in general
Ingredients: Tumeric, Tamarind, Betel Leaves, Coriander, Wild Ginger, Palm Sugar, Salt
Preparation: Wash and clean all the ingredients, skin the tumeric and wild ginger. Grind all the ingredients into a paste using a pestal and mortar until smooth, add mineral water and salt to taste then strain.