Bumbu is the Indonesian word for a blend of spices and it commonly appears in the names of spice mixtures, sauces and seasoning pastes. Indonesian dictionary describes bumbu as "various types of herbs and plants that has pleasant aroma and flavour — such as ginger, turmeric, galangal, nutmeg and pepper — used to enhance the flavour of the food."
It is a characteristic of Indonesian cuisine and its regional variants such as Balinese, Javanese, Sundanese, Padang, Batak and Manado cuisines. It is used with various meats, seafood and vegetables in stews, soups, barbecue, sotos, gulais, and also as an addition to Indonesian-style instant noodles.
Unlike Indian cooking tradition that favoured dried spice powder mix, Indonesian cuisine is more akin to Thai, which favour the use of fresh ingredients. Traditionally, this mixture of spices and other aromatic ingredients are freshly ground into a moist paste using a mortar and pestle.
The spice mixture is commonly made by slicing, chopping, grinding, beating, bruising, or sometimes burning the spices, using traditional cooking tools such as stone mortar and pestle, or a modern blender or food processor. The bumbu mixture was usually stir fried in hot cooking oil first to release its aroma, prior to adding the main ingredient (meats, poultry, or fish).
The main function of bumbu is to add flavour and aroma, but prior to the discovery of refrigeration spices were used as preservatives. Garlic, shallots, ginger and galangal have antimicrobial properties and serve as natural organic preservatives.
Known throughout the world as the "Spice Islands", the Indonesian islands of Maluku contributed to the introduction of its native spices to world cuisine. Spices such as pala (nutmeg/mace), cengkeh (clove), daun pandan (Pandan leaves), kluwek (Pangium edule) and laos (galangal) are native to Indonesia. It is likely that lada hitam (black pepper), kunyit (turmeric), sereh (lemongrass), salam koja (curry leaf), bawang merah (shallot), kayu manis (cinnamon), kemiri (candlenut), ketumbar (coriander), jahe (ginger) and asam jawa (tamarind) were introduced from India or mainland Southeast Asia, while daun bawang (scallions) and bawang putih (garlic) were introduced from China. Those spices from mainland Asia were introduced early, in ancient times, thus they became integral ingredients in Indonesian cuisine. While the New World spices such as chili pepper and tomato were introduced by Portuguese and Spanish traders during the age of exploration in the 16th century. List of spices used in bumbu are:
- Adas manis (anise)
- Andaliman (sichuan pepper)
- Asam jawa (tamarind)
- Bawang merah (shallot)
- Bawang putih (garlic)
- Bunga lawang (star anise)
- Cabai rawit (bird's eye chillies)
- Cabai merah (red chili pepper)
- Cengkeh (clove)
- Daun bawang (leek or scallion)
- Daun kari or salam koja (curry leaf)
- Daun pandan (Pandan leaf)
- Daun salam (Indonesian bay leaf)
- Jahe (ginger)
- Jeruk purut (kaffir lime)
- Jeruk nipis (key lime)
- Jintan (caraway)
- Kapulaga (cardamom)
- Kayu manis (cinnamon)
- Kecombrang (wild ginger)
- Kencur (Kencur)
- Kemiri (candlenut)
- Ketumbar (coriander)
- Kluwek or keluwak (Pangium edule)
- Kunyit or kunir (turmeric)
- Lengkuas or laos (galangal)
- Lada hitam (black pepper)
- Pala (nutmeg/mace)
- Seledri (celery)
- Sereh (lemongrass)
- Temu kunci (Chinese keys)
- Temu lawak (curcuma)
Indonesian cuisine also recognize various types of sauces, condiments and seasonings, some are basic seasonings, some are indigenously developed, while another was influenced by Indian, Chinese and European sauces, such as:
- Garam (salt)
- Gula merah or gula jawa (palm sugar)
- Cuka (vinegar)
- Kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- Kecap asin (salty or common soy sauce)
- Kecap ikan (fish sauce)
- Kecap inggris (worchestershire sauce)
- Minyak kelapa (coconut oil)
- Minyak samin (ghee)
- Minyak wijen (sesame oil)
- Minyak zaitun (olive oil)
- Saus tomat (tomato ketchup)
- Saus cabai or sambal botol (bottled sambal or hot chili sauce)
- Saus tiram (oyster sauce)
- Santan (coconut milk)
- Kacang tanah (peanuts), fried, grounded, spiced and add water to make peanut sauce. Prepacked ready to use (just add water) satay, pecel or gado-gado peanut sauces are available in Asian grocery store.
- Terasi (shrimp paste)
- Petis (a type of shrimp paste)
- Tauco (fermented soy paste)
- Ang ciu (Chinese cooking red wine)
- Bubuk kaldu (broth powder), similar to bouillon cube but in granular powder.
- Vetsin or mecin (Monosodium glutamate)
Recently there are some additional foreign sauces and seasonings that has been included into Indonesian kitchen and sometimes used as condiment, such as:
In Indonesian cuisine there are myriad variations of bumbu spice mixture, divided according to each recipes and each regional cuisine traditions. For example, Balinese cuisine recognize basa genep bumbu, while Minang cuisine recognize pemasak bumbu. However, there are four generic basic bumbu recognized in Indonesian cuisine divided according to its colours.
- Bumbu dasar putih (basic white bumbu), consists of ground shallot, garlic, galangal, candlenut and corriander, all are stir fried in coconut oil, use it right away or stored in a jar and put in refrigerator for further uses. It can be used in all Indonesian dishes that had whitish color, such as opor ayam, sayur lodeh, various soto, and only need to add Indonesian bay leaf, lemon leaf, and lemongrass. It can also used to cook rawon, semur, mie goreng, various stir fried vegetables, tofu and tempeh dishes.
- Bumbu dasar merah (basic red bumbu), consists of ground red chili pepper, shallot, garlic, tomato, burned shrimp paste, coconut sugar, salt, all are stir fried in coconut oil, use it right away or stored in a jar and put in refrigerator for further uses. It can be used for various Indonesian dishes that have reddish color such as various stir-fried vegetables, nasi goreng, sambal goreng hati, etc., only need to add daun salam (Indonesian bay leaf), bruised lemongrass and galangal.
- Bumbu dasar kuning (basic yellow bumbu), consist of ground shallot, garlic, sauteed candlenut, burned turmeric, coriander, ginger, galangal, black pepper, all are stir fried in coconut oil, use it right away or stored in a jar and put in refrigerator for further uses. It is used in various Indonesian dishes that have yellowish color, such as various soto, pepes, mie goreng and ayam goreng, sometimes acar kuning yellow bumbu are poured upon ikan bakar or ikan goreng.
- Bumbu dasar jingga/oranye (basic orange-colored bumbu), consists of ground red chili pepper, shallot, garlic, caraway, anise, coriander, candlenut, turmeric, ginger, galangal, black pepper, all are stir fried in coconut oil, use it right away or stored in a jar and put in refrigerator for further uses. It is used in various orange-colored Indonesian dishes, such as gulai, Indonesian curry, kalio and rendang.
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