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SumatraFrom Greece we head west to Sumatra – which is an Island in western Indonesia and is part of the Sunda Islands.   Sumatra is the biggest/major island that is totally in Indonesia and the 6th biggest island in the world at approximately 470,000 square km and is an elongated region traversing a crosswise axis, North west – South east. Sumatra’s maritime border is The Indian Ocean on the West, North-west and South-east with other islands bordering the South-western coastline and the Bukit Barisan mountains create the backbone of the island; which incidentally have numerous active volcanoes. The North-east sides are remote, out of the way lowlands with complicated river systems, mangroves and many swamps. The Riau  and West Sumatra regions is where the equator crosses the island. Typically the island is humid and hot and boasts a very tropical climate and tropical rain forests once dominated the landscape. Over the last 35 years at least 50% of the tropical rainforest has been  lost, but Sumatra still has an extensive, varied range of animal and plant species, where numerous species are critically endangered for instance the Sumatran elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros,Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran Ground-cuckoo and Sumatran tiger.

There are around 52 languages spoken in Sumatra and all fit into the Austronesian language family, with the exception of Chinese and Indians and all Sumatrans are Multi diverse, multi lingual and  multi religious. Most of the varied groups share many similar traditions and the different tongues are closely related.

Cuisine of Sumatra, is classed as Indonesian cuisine. However, there are dishes that are typically Sumatran.                Indonesian cooking is one of the most colourful and flamboyant cuisines in the world, full of deep, penetrating powerful flavours. Many local cuisines exist, often based upon native culture and imported foreign influences. Indonesia has around 5,350 long established recipes, with 30 of them deemed the most important. Indonesia boasts large number of mouth-watering foods; from affordable rice, noodle and soup dishes in warungs (local diners) to street-side snacks and expensive restaurants.

Sumatran food is traditionally very spicy with coriander, copious amounts of chilli, ginger , lemon grass and garlic. Most of Sumatrans are Muslim, so there is very little pork available. The Batak people around Lake Toba are mostly Christians so you can get some excellent pork dishes there.

Some of the spiciest food in all of Indonesian is the Padangese food from Padang in West Sumatra.  So the cuisine from Sumatra is known as Padang Cuisine where Beef Rendang is popular dish and this is what Ian had kindly prepared and cooked.  Rendang is traditionally served at festivals and special occasions.   Beef Rendang or Rendang is a dry beef curry which is quite spicy but delicious with the most tender beef pieces. Sumatra is also the cultural and emotional home of Kopi Luwak, Coffee Luwak, the world’s most expensive and tasty coffee. Sumatra is influenced very much by Indian Food. However. after you have tasted it several times, you will find the difference between the North and South. The North is curry from meat, spicy and hot and thickened by coconut milk, where the South curry’s can be sour and contain fruit and fresh vegetables.

As I walked through the door this evening the aromas were gorgeous and I knew Ian had chosen what we were going to eat tonight. Unfortunately Ian forgot to take pictures of the processes, so I will only be able to show you what the finished dish was like.

Our recipe – again – came from the Hairy Bikers, but Ian didn’t make it low fat and used oil as instructed, so this dinner is a total of 12 weight watchers points for those following weight watchers. The recipe is for a crowd so Ian had to make it smaller for just the three of us… The Book is called “The Hairy Bikers Great Curries”, (love this book – and they do cook some low fat curries too) but here is a link to the PDF version on line version, and here the pictures of the finished dish…served with Jasmine rice.

Family Verdict:  Gorgeous dinner and easy to prepare and cook – Ian’s words. The flavour was awesome and really enjoyable and scrumptious. You could taste all the flavours and it wasn’t too hot, but I suspect Ian tailored this for Rory, so more chillies could be added. Rory only said 5 out of 10, but I suspect it was still a little spicy for him. Definitely one we would cook again…and fantastic for a midweek meal..