When Alison and I first booked our flights to Indo, we knew we would be starting our research right at the beginning of Ramadan, and I was a bit apprehensive about this. We heard horror stories from our advisor about the last time she had been in Sulawesi during Ramadan—everything was closed during the day, and she spent a whole month hiking for hours without eating a decent meal or having a sip of water in front of her fasting field assistants.
For those who don’t know, bulan puasa (fasting month) requires Muslims to fast between the hours of 5am (dawn) and 6pm (or when the sun goes down). This means no food, drink, or cigarettes (smoking is pervasive here) for 13 hours. As we have learned, there are many ways of coping with bulan puasa. Some people simply don’t go to work, while others stay up all night and sleep all day. Some of the people on our research team fast, and others are Christian and do not. This makes things a bit complicated, however, as we try not to eat or drink water in front of them out of respect/guilt (I haven’t decided which one it is…maybe both).
Although it seems drastic to deprive oneself of daily sustenance for a whole month, there is certainly a silver lining, and that is Kue (pronounced “ku-ay”). Kue is an interesting phenomenon here, as it comes in literally hundreds of forms. It is essentially a dessert that is eaten in the evenings after buka puasa (literally, “open fast,” but translated as “breaking the fast”). Besides being delicious, the best thing about kue is that different types are often traded between households. Within the first week of Ramadan, Alison and I tried at least 6 different varieties! Here is the break down:
Kue Baje’ : A green, melt-in-your-mouth, mini burrito of deliciousness. Made with gula mera (palm sugar), fresh kelapa (coconut), and wrapped in beraskatang (a pandan flavored pancake).
Kue Palu : A solid, grainy cake made with rice flour, kelapa, and chunks of gula mera. Tastes like frosted mini-wheats.
Kue Teng-Teng : Another melt-in-your-mouth treat made with baked gula mera and kacang (peanuts)
Kue Bugis : A gelatinous, steamed concoction made with susu kelapa (coconut milk), glutinous rice flour (the best kind of rice flour!), colored tapioca, pisang (banana), and gula kelapa (coconut sugar)-all wrapped in a banana leaf.
Kue Enak (enak = delicious…not sure of the real name, though!): OMG this one tops all kue in my opinion! It is steamed in a banana leaf and has an outside layer of glutinous rice flour, a middle layer of black rice flour and a sweet, sticky center made of melted gula mera and freshly grated coconut. YUM!
Needless to say, we are in kue paradise over here, people. Next step: figuring out how to make them so we can share the deliciousness upon our return!!!