Street Food Gets on Stage at a Literary Festival

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
19 October 2014 | blogpost

Meet intrepid food bloggers, Amanda Katili Niode, chair of Omar Niode Foundation and World Food Travel Association's Ambassador in Indonesia, and Bayu Amus, who will take you on a whirlwind tour of Indonesian street food, spiced with writing tips on capturing the journey served with Indonesian cakes, snacks and lashings of local coffee.


A blurb featuring Omar Niode Foundation along with culinary connoisseurs was on The Kitchen Program flyer distributed at the venues of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2014.

I was ecstatic, as The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival founded by Janet DeNeefe, has been named, “One of the world’s great book festivals” by Conde Nast Travel and Leisure, and “One of the six best literary festivals in the world” by Harper’s Bazaar UK.

The Kitchen Program

Janet and her team planned The Kitchen Program, now in its second year, to give festivalgoers opportunities to gain an up close and personal encounter of the writers and chefs culinary skills. It was also designed as part of a pilot project to see whether a food festival can get off the ground.

My heart sank when reading the Program Book. Our session, Sharing a Love of Street Food, was scheduled as the first session on The Kitchen Program at 10.30 AM, overlapping with great events at 8 venues around Ubud, on the second day of the festival.

I crossed my fingers, hoping that enough people would show up to fill the seats at Toko Toko Restaurant, a quaint venue in the middle of a beautiful garden on Sanggingan Street.

Bali street foods

I have exchanged emails in preparation for the sharing session with Bayu Amus of Epicurina, an accomplished customer experience designer and a prolific food writer. 

We arrived early on the day and I was relieved to see people come in, one by one with their friends and significant others.

Bayu started on a serious note, the definition of street food and continued with reasons to love street foods. They are yummy, he said, and cheap, an inseparable experience, the best example of local taste, and the living history that helps preserve the earth.

Mouthwatering pictures followed, illustrating Bali Street Foods and signs of a good street food: high turnover, visible cooking and the vendor’s legendary status.

In the middle of his presentation Bayu invited the audience to taste Bali street delicacies, specifically sate languan Warung Ari (fish), sate plecing Ana Muslim (beef) and arem-arem (rice cake with vegetable fillings).

Some were hesitant due to their bad experience with street foods, but Bayu was ready to inform them on the cure of food borne diseases. Globally people often consume ginger to ease discomfort and activated carbon to absorb bacteria. In the US, apple cider can help contain bacterial problem; while in Asia, indigestion goes away with Po Chai pills, the Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Gorontalo street foods

It was definitely hard to match Bali Street Foods, but I thought I could share some information on Gorontalo Street Foods. Gorontalo, in North Sulawesi, is not a famous tourist destination yet although it has natural landscapes of mountains, seas, reefs & lake without the crowd.

As a small city of 200,000 people, surprisingly Gorontalo has noteworthy street foods that can provoke all your senses.

The staple food, known as baalo binthe or corn rice is a street food eaten with a variety of vegetables such as sautéed kale, papaya flower, stir fried ferns, eggplants in coconut milk, chicken iloni style (grilled spicy chicken with coconut milk and 10 types of herbs and spices) and grilled fish.

Along a beach, named Pantai Indah, with a backdrop of pounding surf, street food vendors offer binthe lo putungo, Corns are boiled or roasted with candlenut shells, sprinkled with grated coconuts, salt, chili and banana flowers.

Ilabulo, a favorite chewy & hot street food is a mixed of sago, chicken liver and gizzard, coconut milk, shallot, garlic, ginger, red-eye chili, spring onion, salt & pepper. The dough is wrapped in banana leaves and grilled using fired coconut shells.  Jalan Diponegoro where the ilabulo vendors hang out is a sensory delight. Visitors enjoy the sights and smells of this Gorontalo delicacy. Ilabulo is said to be the cuisine of kings before it became a favorite street food.

As a finale to my Gorontalo Street Food presentation, the festival volunteers served Kopi Pinogu that I brought back from Gorontalo. It is an organic coffee, a blend of Robusta and Liberica, grown in remote green fields of Pinogu Regency, Gorontalo since the 1700. To get to Pinogu traders have to walk for 10 hours and follow a dangerous trek. Kopi Pinogu, locally tagged as to Tiyombu lo kopi organik, or the ancestor of organic coffee is promoted as Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands’ beverage of choice.

Speaker line-up

I guess my fears of not having enough audience were unfounded. The venue was a full house with enthusiastic participants, some happily standing until the end of the program.

Among the line-up of speakers during the festival, following the street food session, were Janet DeNeefe; Master Chef Chris Salans, owner of the award winning Mozaic Restaurants; Chef Penelope Williams of the Bali Asli Restarant and Karangasem Cooking School; Indonesian food guru and author, Bondan Winarno; Rodney Glick of Seniman Coffee Studio; and Ian Burnett, author of Spice Island.

I guess the audience and the speakers were all good signs that a food festival will definitely be on the agenda for the next Ubud Writer and Reader Festival.


Images: Skipjack & Crab: Bayu Amus; Rice Corn & Ilabulo vendor: Donald Wahani: Pinogu: Wahyuddin Kessa; All others: Omar Niode Foundation