Exploring Traditional Gorontalo Food

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
26 April 2014 | blogpost

The World Food Travel Association defines food tourism as “The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.”

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, which has launched 30 Traditional Indonesian Culinary Icons, stated that food is one of the important pillars in supporting Indonesian tourism. The culinary sector's contribution to Indonesia’s GDP in 2013 reached US$ 21 billion.

Indonesia ethnic food

There are 300 ethnic groups recorded in Indonesia, each has it’s own distinctive food, but only 10 percent of them are being explored.

In culinary travel, tourists usually do not just taste the typical food of the area they visited, but also carry out activities such as interacting with traders, and making photos of the food served or sold. Some sites offer local food cooking classes for tourists who want to know more about signature dishes in the regions.

Omar Niode Foundation organized an informal dialogue to explore the city of Gorontalo in the northern part of Sulawesi Island as a prospect for food travel destination aimed at local and foreign travelers.

With a population of 180,000, the city of Gorontalo has mountainous view and nearby coastal areas with world-class dive sites. Tourist destinations promoted by the provincial government officials include the cultural and historical spots as well as natural resources such as conservation areas, beaches, waterfalls, lakes, small islands and traditional villages.

Colonial style house

The Foundation aimed at recording the culinary heritage of Gorontalo and gather input from stakeholders and observers to the identification and promotion of food tourism in Gorontalo at national and international level.

A colonial style residence built nearly 100 years ago in Gorontalo city center was selected as the venue to get a feel of warmth and hospitality of the people.

The main resource person was Gorontalo culinary expert Arifasno Napu, who conducted his doctoral research on how traditional Gorontalo foods relate to nutrition.

Invited guests varied from representatives of tourism schools in Gorontalo, restaurant owners, culinary entrepreneurs, housewives who are proficient in cooking Gorontalo foods, to travelers, foodies, and the media.

According to Napu, traditional foods are foods that are made using typical recipes created by societies in certain areas and had been there for generations.

Hot reflects honesty

Most foods In Gorontalo are hot and spicy. The philosophy of honesty is shown through hot foods that has no sugar mix, and foods without synthetic seasoning. Napu identified 15 types of staple foods, with 11 of them without rice as basic ingredients (sago, maize and cassava). There are 15 side dishes menu with basic ingredients from the water bodies (fish and shrimp).

Traditionally there are 10 kinds of vegetable dishes with local or vegetable-based ingredients that are common in Indonesia (egg plant, water cress and fern. There are 35 kinds of snacks that traditionally are not made of wheat but of maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, and rice flour.

Business owner and Gorontalo culinary tour guide, Noor Sitoresmi, as well as banquet expert, Sri Murwati, uniquely arranged the food presented. Also displayed were cooking equipment such as dudangata (traditional coconut grater), pestles, as well as coconut shell and firewood which give a different taste compared to food cooked in modern stove.

Gorontalo degustation menu

Before lunch, the participants enjoyed and discussed Gorontalo degustation menu, small portions of a variety of Gorontalo snacks, foods and beverages.


Halua (peanuts and palm sugar)

Dumalo (weaved sweet potato and palm sugar)

Kukis Kerawang (decorated cookies)

Apang colo (pancake made with rice flour, dipped in melted palm sugar)


Binthe lo putungo (boiled corn and banana hearts/flower)


Ilahe (fish in sour soup with anise)

Binthe biluhuta (corn soup with grated coconut, basil leaves and tuna fish)

Tabu moitomo (meat in black soup with 15 types of herbs and spices)

Morongi (slow cooked shredded chicken, with spices and coconut boiled for 10 hours)

Iloni (grilled spicy chicken with coconut milk and 10 types of herbs and spices)

Bilenthango (fish split, cooked one one side with spices  on top)

Pilitode lo poki-poki (sautéed egg plant in coconut sauce)


Omu (young coconut with palm sugar)

Es kacang merah (red bean with shaved-ice)


Gohu (shredded young papaya with ginger, vinegar and sugar)

Bepa susu (small cake with durian and milk)

Tobuu (coconut milk, young coconut and palm sugar in boat shaped banana leaves)

Pursuing EASI 

Gorontalo has potentials as a destination for food travellers. However to pursue food tourism seriously there are several steps recommended by the World Food Travel Association, also known as the EASI Process:

1) Education phase - learn what food tourism is; 2) Assessment phase - find out where the destination is in the process such as products and services that travelers would go to for experience; 3) Strategy phase - plan a roadmap for success including the target markets and the budget available; 4) Implementation phase - do and measure the work with feedback for the next year.

Nasi tumpeng set by the government as a driver as well as the cutting edge in promoting traditional Indonesian foods ornamented the dining area of the unforgettable event, served with turmeric rice and Gorontalo side dishes.


Images: Donald Wahani & Omar Niode Foundation