West Papua is a province located at the western tip of Papua Island with Manokwari as its capital. Besides known for its enchanting natural beauty, the region also houses various delicious culinary delights everyone should try in person or make at home. Just like other Indonesian regions, the delicious foods of West Papua also utilize many richly-flavored ingredients to achieve their signature taste. If you live in big cities, you can easily find our below recommendation sold in restaurants or street vendors. Here are five typical West Papuan culinary delights you have to try now!
Papeda and Yellow Fish Broth (Papeda dan Ikan Kuah Kuning)
Papeda is the primary staple food of West Papua people. It’s made from sago starch, which you may probably be familiar with as a thickening agent in cooking food. Hence, it has a glue-like texture, translucent gray color, and bland taste, considering no other ingredients are added into making papeda. It’s also why papeda is a highly healthy diet option since it contains enough fiber, low fat and cholesterol level, and high nutritional contents.
To enjoy this food, locals often pair it with ikan kuah kuning, which usually uses mackerel as the main ingredient. Other fish like mubara or tuna can also be used instead of mackerel. The yellow color of the broth itself comes from turmeric seasoning. The savory broth can be made spicy according to your preference.
Wrapped Fish of West Papua (Ikan Bungkus Khas Papua Barat)
The wrapped fish in Java is called ‘pepes‘ and generally uses banana leaves to bundle up the fish and its seasonings. The whole package is then ‘dipepes‘ (grilled) over a fire or coals of charcoal until it’s cooked.
In contrast, West Papua people cook their wrapped fish differently using taro leaves. They use two or three layers of leaves to prevent burnout during the grill for every bundle. Before cooking, the leaves must first be cleaned from sap using salt. The typical fish used are milkfish, due to the meat’s good texture that can remain chewy and does not crumble after being grilled.
Another distinctive character of this wrapped fish can be seen from the ingredients, like bay leaf, starfruit, and cayenne pepper. Combining the mixture and cooking process creates a blend of heavenly aromatic flavor and taste, unlike pepes you might usually have!
Smoked Skipjack Tuna (Ikan Cakalang Asar)
As one of the common delicious foods of West Papua, ikan cakalang asar is indeed made from skipjack tuna (although it’s possible to use yellowtail as well). Although this food looks similar to the usually smoked fish, the cooking process is pretty different. Smoked skipjack tuna is placed diagonally on the coals’ side, rather than horizontally. The fish is completely dry (no more water content stored in the meat) and cooked (considering that the fish has a meaty texture with a high-density level).
After cleaning the fish’s stomach contents, it will be smoked for about 4 to 5 hours in a closed room to keep the smoke seeping into the meat. The best way to enjoy this food is with hot rice and soy sauce.
Fakfak Nutmeg Sweets (Manisan Pala Fakfak)
After all the savory options, should we head to something sweet now? Manisan pala fakfak is a unique culinary of Fakfak Regency made from pala Fakfak (Fakfak nutmeg) as the main ingredients. This nutmeg is the primary commodity of the Regency, thus making this nutmeg-based food a vital part of the economic growth of West Papua.
The harvest season for Fakfak nutmeg occurs twice a year: the first is around April, and the second is around September. Most locals still use traditional methods in processing Fakfak nutmeg, like drying it out without a mixture of preservatives or soaking it in a sugar solution. The final result is sweet flavor with original nutmeg aroma, coming in the options of dry and wet sweets.
Lontar Cake (Kue Lontar)
Another one of the delicious foods of West Papua is kue lontar, which, at first glance, looks almost similar to the milk pie found in other regions in Indonesia. Uniquely, the cake has nothing to do with lontar plants. It got the word ‘lontar’ for its name from the Dutch word ‘londtart,’ meaning round cake.
Among locals, lontar cakes are usually served on big holidays. The way to make it is almost the same as making milk pie, hence why Indonesian people name it the Eastern version of Indonesian milk pie. The inside of the cake is very soft and sweet, while the outside is crunchy. Several West Papua cities sell lontar cakes as souvenirs for travelers who come to visit Papua.
Does the above recommendation make your stomach grumble already? We know exactly how that feels when we write this! There are still many more foods from West Papua you can explore, and they all taste just as awesome. Satisfy your hunger with those delicious foods of West Papua now!