When we think of Indonesian cuisine, dishes such as nasi goreng and gado gado come to mind, which can often be found in small canteens like Ayam Goreng 99 in the Sydney suburb of Kensington. What is not so commonly recalled is the rich and multifaceted culture that these dishes convey, from Dutch colonialism to the array of ethnic groups across Indonesia.
Food plays an integral role in daily life in Indonesia, with 41.6% of income in Indonesia going towards food as based on a 2005 study, being spent on ever-present and wide variety of offerings provided by the traditional street food vendor or a common food court where a family shares dinner (Clements & Chen, 2006). Street food in Indonesia is a staple of daily life as vendors form part of the important informal activities in the urban areas of the country, such as in the cities of Jakarta and Yogyakarta.
More recently, the rise and dominance of social media has seen changes in the relationship with food in Indonesia. Whilst Indonesian cuisine may not be recognised globally to the Michelin stars or as commonly found on world’s best restaurant lists, the emergence of Indonesia based food bloggers on platforms such as Instagram has been swift in becoming the most popular method of instantly sharing tantalising images of indonesian cuisine.
Food bloggers such as Prawnche Ngaditowo, who is is known on Instagram as “foodventurer”, began sharing images of the meals he ate in Jakarta as a student after moving there from a small town. The extensive culinary options afforded by living in a big city was inherently exciting for Ngaditowo, who wanted to share his exploration of Indonesia’s gastronomic diversity. As Ngaditowo was not financially capable of studying overseas, exploring the diversity of Indonesian cuisine through food blogging provided an alternate method of exploration in Jakarta itself. Through social media. His audience is unhindered by geographical location, and via his own interactions with his audience he can connect on a global scale, also learning about their own perceptions of Indonesia and the influence his blog has.
Other bloggers such as filipusverdi, a medical student in Jakarta similarly blogs about eating Indonesian street food such as tempeh or bakpao to gado gado, which translates somewhat to “mix mix”. Gado gado is an interesting indicator around Indonesia of different ethnic and historical influences depending on the region, with gado gado betawi referencing the Betawi, who consider themselves the original inhabitants of Jakarta and are now the second largest ethnic group in the city after the Javanese.
Moreover, the value of blogging in Indonesia is being increasingly recognised for its positive impact, with the country being involved in Influence Asia, a social media awards show that aims to “honor achievements in social media Influencers around Asia”, for which Ngaditowo won for the category of food blogger Indonesia in 2015. In her book Food Blogging for Dummies Kelly Sengei argues that food blogs help preserve food legacy, acting as a recording of dishes in a global and easily accessible platform. This is especially true for Indonesia, a country with a large population and where it’s regional diversity can often been unknown on an international scale, with food blogging helping to educate both local and international audiences.
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