Thailand has been probably the most successful to promote its image through its cuisine. In Southeast Asia, Singapore has been marketed as a heaven for Asian culinary events and high cuisine with an outstanding restaurants’ scene; Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos are now promoting their cuisine as well as Malaysia which organizes numerous ethnic food festivals.
How about Indonesia? The world’s largest archipelago has one of Asia’s most flavourful and diverse cuisines. Each ethnic has its own way to prepare food but it seems that so far, the country has missed the point to market its cuisine in a more professional way.
International recognition came a few years ago, when a CNN International online poll of 35,000 individuals found that one of the country’s trademark dishes, rendang (a meet marinated in coconut milk and spices) was nominated among the world’s most delicious food.
“Rendang is originated from West Sumatra. There is even an annual Rendang festival being organized in West Sumatra capital Padang. Such an event could in fact help raising more awareness for the province. Many cities have their own culinary specials which could be the base of gastronomy tours”, tells Nia Niscaya, Director of International Tourism Promotion, Indonesia Ministry of Tourism during the last ITB Berlin. “Indonesia soul can then be explored and discovered through our food. We now need to promote it systematically as it is part of a tourist experience in our country”, she adds.
To better tackle the incredible potential of Indonesian cuisine, the Ministry of Tourism created a week ago a unit dedicated to the promotion of culinary tourism. “We Indonesians always assume that foreigners will know well our food. But we now understand that we should also be more pro-active to highlight our culinary diversity”, says Niscaya.
Jakarta as the heart of Indonesia with its restaurant scene, Yogyakarta as the centre of traditional Javanese food, including desserts but also Manado in North Celebes for its flavourful cuisine, Semarang (Central Java) for its spring rolls and of course West Sumatra are among the top destinations to be promoted for their Indonesian food.
Coffee culture is also taking off all around the world and Indonesia is at the forefront to promote one of the world’s most beloved drink. Coffee plantations can now be visited in North Sumatra, Central Java or in Bali. An excellent way also to bring additional revenues through tourism to local communities.