The Local Herbal Drink Got a Significant Makeover on the Island
When you mention the word “jamu”, a cocktail of herbal ingredients, most Indonesian people (especially the younger generation) would crunch their face recalling the bitter taste. What’s in it? The most common ones are ginger, turmeric, be- tel leaves, temulawak, galangal, tamarind— each has their own energizing, detoxifying, body-warming or even slimming properties.
But jamu seems to have a more revered position here in Bali thanks to the widespread (and ever-growing) health food shop and restaurants you can easily find here. Some cynics may call it cultural appropriation because the drink is ingrained in the food heritage of the archipelago, while now it’s a part of the health-conscious yogi’s diet. In Bali, jamu is no longer associated with women cycling or walking around the neighborhood
with a basket of jamu bottles behind her or sling on her back (locally termed jamu gendong); and in its place are cool pack- aging in a jar (see the brand Circle of Life ) or classes where you can learn how to con- coct your own herbal drink, now also mixed with “foreign” herbs and spices like coriander, white Curcuma, red spinach, and beet- root. Some may also use coconut water and instead of regular sugar or honey, now it’s organic brown sugar or vegan-friendly palm nectar. And, yes, they can be more expensive.
Regardless, jamu popularity should be appreciated because it spotlights the complexities of Indonesia’s health staple and the richness of its herbal and spices. At least, no more crunching face—even now the young ones are slowly converted.