Pass the Green Bean Porridge, Please!
Posted on June 24, 2011 by Courtney Lareau
I have been in Indonesia for almost two weeks now, and today will be my last day working from the Makassar office, at least for the next few weeks while I head up country to the farm lands. Of course my last meal at the MSI cafeteria ends up including one of the more indecipherable dishes I have had during my time here.
Each day at the MSI office, lunch is served around 12:30 p.m. ( I actually don’t really know what time lunch is served because someone usually has to come remind me lunch is ready and prompt me to leave me desk, but it's usually around this time). Lunch always consists of white rice, a vegetable side, protein in the form of chicken or fish (sometimes both), another random side dish, krupuk (prawn crackers) and dessert.
I have come to realize that dessert in Southeast Asia is traditionally some sort of fruit, which if you know me then you know I firmly believe that fruit and dessert are two very separate categories of food that should never overlap. I don’t do peach cobbler, apple pie, strawberry cheesecake, etc. etc. I want no remnants of anything healthy touching my sugary treat. The desserts of past lunches in the MSI cafeteria have included bananas, nagasari (a banana and coconut cake-like substance wrapped in a banana leaf), and papaya.
Today, however, in the dessert section was a bowl filled with what appeared to be a murky, brown liquid. I politely passed on the dish and made my way to a table filled with fellow co-workers. Of course just as I was finishing my meal, my co-workers looked at my spot at the table and assumed I had forgot to grab dessert. So they kindly brought a bowl to my place setting and then stared waiting for me to take my first bite. Before sipping from the spoon that sat soaking in the murky water, I dared to asked my colleague sitting across from me to explain what it was that I was about to eat. It’s “bubur kacang hijau” she replied. Ha! I couldn’t even repeat back to her what she just said, let alone determine what exactly that meant. So of course I had to ask her to explain and she then translated it to “green bean porridge.” Perhaps I should not have asked. Green bean porridge certainly didn’t sound like dessert to me. She then went on to explain there was also brown sugar, sticky rice, and coconut milk mixed in with the green beans. Hmm…it was sounding more and more enticing by the minute (yes, you note sarcasm here). I didn’t like fruit in my dessert, so I certainly didn’t want a vegetable or legume in it either!
Not wanting to offend my new friends, I begrudgingly took a bite of the lukewarm “porridge.” With its soggy, half liquid, half solid texture, my taste buds were pleasantly surprised. The beans and sticky rice added a firm consistency found at the bottom of the brown liquid. It was subtly sweet with a hint of coconut, and I surprisingly finished the whole bowl. Green bean porridge was not a culinary displeasure. In fact, if placed in front of me again, I would eat another bowl in its entirety. It was with the last bite of my bubur kacang hijau that I realized I had yet to blog about my gastronomic experiences here in Indonesia. I certainly have a lot to say about Indonesian food so I’ll try hard to write about it more.
Photo: Green bean porridge at its finest.