Bangka Belitung Islands is a province in Indonesia which comprises the two main islands of Bangka and Belitung as well as several other smaller islands. Aside from white sandy beaches and scenic islands, the province is also known as a culinary haven among Indonesian visitors. Local tourists love the unique dishes that has both Malay and Chinese influences. Now that AirAsia is flying to Belitung, the secret is out, and now it’s your turn to tuck into the delicious offerings of Bangka and Belitung!
1. Si Kentut
Now who would have thought of dubbing such a cute treat kue si kentut (Indonesian Malay for ‘fart cake’)? Despite the horrible name, taphi pan (its name in Hakka Chinese) actually smells nice and is believed to have health benefits. Made with daun kentutan (skunkvine, Paederia foetida), it’s a must-have for the local Hakka community on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese calendar.
2. Lempah Kuning Nanas
A famous export to the rest of the Indonesian islands from the two islands is lempah kuning (the name known in Bangka) or also known as gangan ketarap (in Belitung), which is basically a turmeric and tamarind-based spicy soup. There a few varieties of lempah kuning, a popular one is lempah kuning nanas (spicy soup with pineapples) with its bright flavours and is usually made with either mackerel, pomfret, snapper, or painted sweetlips.
3. Lempah Kulat Pelawan
Aside from lempah kuning which is a fish dish, there’s another class of lempah which is called lempah darat with vegetables as the base. Among lempah darat, lempah kulat pelawan is coveted by many thanks to its premium ingredient: kulat pelawan (Indonesian truffle, Heimioporus sp). Known as the priciest Indonesian mushroom, it is often compared to chanterelle by the Western palates.
4. Mi Belitung
Probably the one thing every local Indonesian visitor would seek out when visiting Belitung, mi Belitung is basically yellow noodles drenched in a sweet and savoury brown gravy. Shrimp is the main ingredient for the thick gravy, and made perfect by the addition of palm sugar, Indonesian bay leaves and greater galangal.
5. Serati Bumbu Ketumbar
A rich, aromatic dish with coriander as the main spice, along with nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and star anise. A mainstay for every begawai (celebrations in the local Malay dialect), it is usually made with free-range chicken, but once in a while Muscovy duck (serati in Malay, menthog in Javanese) will also make an appearance.
6. Lakse Belitung and Lakso Bangka
Laksa is a class of noodle soup which is a product of acculturation between the Chinese immigrants and local indigenous population of Southeast Asia. In Bangka and Belitung, the noodles come in the form of thick noodles made of both rice and sago flour. The favourite fish for lakse Belitung and lakso Bangka is Spanish mackerel.
7. Rujak Daun Ubi
Rujak is a local traditional salad, and a variant which is synonymous with Bangka Belitung is rujak daun ubi. Made of the leaves of cassava and papaya that is first boiled and then sautéed with onions, chilies, shrimp paste and salt, before being served. Unfortunately, rujak daun ubi is not as popular anymore and it’s getting more difficult to find it in food stalls and restaurants around the islands.
8. Mi Goreng Seafood
Although you can find seafood noodles around Indonesia, the Bangka Belitung version of the dish is known to be especially good as the islands are blessed with abundant marine life. Thin yellow noodles are fried and topped with udang jerbung (white banana prawns, Fenneropenaeus merguiensis) and doused with a broth flavoured with oyster sauce, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), as well as white pepper and spring onions.
Pantiau is another popular noodle dish from Bangka Belitung, thin noodle strips made of rice and sago flour, which bears many similarities with kwetiau in the rest of Indonesia (or kway teow in Malaysia and Singapore). Dorab wolf-herring or Spanish mackerels are the usual accompaniments for the noodles.
10. Saucu Nyuk
Crispy roast belly is not unique to Bangka Belitung, but the local Hakka community is famous for their version of the dish which has the right combination of crispy skin and juicy meat. Saucu nyuk (in Hakka Chinese) or babi panggang Bangka (in Indonesian Malay) is great even with the simplest accompaniment of a plate of steaming white rice and fermented yellow soybean paste.
11. Bolu Macan
Bolu remeng or bolu macan (macan is a Javanese loanword which means ‘tiger’) is like a combination of pound cake and Portuguese bolo, a reminder of the Western colonialists’ influence in Bangka Belitung Islands. Called lofu pan in the local Chinese dialect, it got its name from the swirled pattern which is reminiscent of a tiger’s markings.
12. Pia Nanas
Bongli piang (in Hakka Chinese) or pia nanas (in Indonesian Malay) is another product of the delicious acculturation between Hakka Chinese immigrants and local Bangka Belitung Malays. The result is a Chinese pastry with local ingredients like coconut milk and palm sugar, with pineapple jam filling, a favourite for all the holidays across cultures and religions.
If you’re visiting Bangka Belitung during the Chinese New Year season, you might be able to try pangchiam, a special snack for the holidays. It is basically a crêpe stuffed with blocks of pulled candy and a good sprinkle of crushed peanuts.
Featured Image: Alyssa Kowalski (Unsplash)
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