Nasi Tumpeng : A Birthday Celebration

A birthday and a surprise : Nasi Tumpeng.

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A birthday gift (and surprise from Veronica), a celebratory dinner. Nasi Tumpeng, the elaborate rice dish from Indonesia, painstakingly made with love.

The rice – uduk rice tinged yellow with turmeric – is moulded by a cone-shaped woven bamboo container and occupies center stage on a tampah or round woven bamboo plate layered with a banana leaf. An assortment of Indonesian dishes form the base.

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Tonight, it is quail eggs, urap or vegetables (sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes), meat kebabs wrapped in seaweed strips, telur pindang or  boiled marble eggs, ayam goreng or fried chicken, a spicy sambal, chicken fritters or perkedel, sliced boiled eggs.

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And on the side, a gravy of diced potatoes, snow peas and tofu.

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According to Wiki, there is a philosophical meaning to every part of a traditional tumpeng. Folklore in Java and Bali draw parallels between the cone-shaped tumpeng (a mystic symbol of life) and ecosystems. The various side dishes and vegetables represent life and harmony in nature. The height of the cone symbolizes the greatness of Allah, and the food at the base of the cone symbolizes nature’s abundance. The yellow tinge in the rice symbolizes wealth and high morals.

The authentic tumpeng should contain at least one animal meat to represent a land animal, fish to represent sea creatures and egg to represent winged beasts. Vegetables represent food provided by the plant kingdom.

Whenever there is a reason to give thanks – a wedding, birthday, anniversary or new year – the tumpeng is the dish, with the rice representing gold and the many dishes surrounding it indicating a bounty of food and luck.

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And so the birthday was celebrated, with love and gratitude.

Thank you Veron. It was delicious and it was deeply appreciated.

 

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