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Each ethnicity has its own local food leading to a diverse character and uniqueness.

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There are different ways to prepare the food i. In relation to this, culinary development in Indonesia can be categorised into at least three phases: 1 original phase, 2 multicultural phase, and 3 contemporary phase [ 37 ]. Each phase has distinctively way as to how the food is being prepared, being presented or served, and being consumed or eaten which, in turn, shapes a strong basis for the establishment of the Indonesian food culture.

This food culture is learned, shared, and passed from one generation to another and whilst some foodways have been refined and adapted, the majority are still applied until today.

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  • The word original indicates the food culture in this phase is a reflection of how indigenous people undertook food-related activities ranging from food acquisition and preparation to food consumption without the influence of other nations. The ingredients used to prepare the dishes were taken from the surrounding natural resources whilst the cooking technique employed was relatively simple and the majority used hand-made wooden or stone cooking utensils.

    During this period, the most popular dishes were being steamed, wrapped in banana leaves, with the main ingredients as rice and cassava [ 37 ]. The second multicultural culinary phase was characterised by the influence of cooking art brought by successive waves of traders from Europe, India, Middle East, and China [ 37 ]. The Portuguese arrived first in but were soon followed by the Spanish, the British, and finally, the ones who became the dominant players, the Dutch [ 7 ].

    The arrivals of these traders had a significant influence on the food culture of Indonesia. The ritual involved many servers who passed around a large number of various dishes from rice, meats, and vegetables and served the guests. The classic style rijsttafel involved serving of up to 40 different dishes by 40 male waiters. Rijsttafel was initially a symbol of high status; therefore, it is symbolised by the abundance and variety of dishes being displayed and served.

    Indonesians adopted rijsttafel as part of daily dining practice where all dishes are being served altogether on the dining table.

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    Cultural assimilation as an impact of colonialism and migration in terms of different ways of preparing, cooking, presenting, and consuming the food between the local people and the immigrants was something inevitably taking place [ 9 ]. In Indonesian culinary history, this is also the case, for example, the Indian influences can be seen mostly in Sumatran cuisine featuring curried meat and vegetables in which herbs such as cloves and nutmeg are used following the Indian traditions.

    In addition, the satay—the method of preparing pieces of meat lamb or goat on skewers—is considered as the most noticeable example of Arabic influence on Indonesian food culture; however, the marinades and peanut sauce with which satay is served originates from Java [ 32 ]. The European colonists contributed in bringing and introducing chillies to Indonesia, which became one of the key signature characteristics of Indonesian food.

    Tourism and Gastronomy Routledge Advances in Tourism 11

    They had, in turn, originally been brought by the Spanish and Portuguese from other colonies in South America [ 32 ]. Other vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, cauliflower, and carrots came from Europe too [ 31 ]. The influence of Chinese cuisine can be seen in hundreds of Indonesian dishes with Chinese origin, such as noodles, which have been adapted to the local taste, customs, and the available ingredients [ 7 ].

    Moreover, during trading periods, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and eventually Islam were brought to Indonesia, and as a consequence, the introduction of these religions to the local people had its own influence on the development of food culture. For example, nasi tumpeng kuning —a large cone-shaped steamed rice coloured yellow with turmeric and rich garnished—is traced back to ancient Hindu beliefs.

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    The shape symbolises that of the mythical Hindu mountain, Meru, whilst yellow, one of the four sacred colours for Hindus, is the colour of royalty as well as of worship [ 7 ]. Therefore, for most Indonesian people, rice is not only the most important basic food but it is also regarded as sacred and therefore has great symbolism in various rituals. Rice growing in turn often decides the rhythm of daily life; for example, weddings are often held after the harvest period. Until today, nasi tumpeng kuning is often served at special occasions and at opening ceremonies as a symbol of good fortune, wealth, and dignity.

    The most important person cuts the tip of the cone and serves it to an older person who is held in high regard [ 32 ] Fig. Nasi kuning tumpeng. Nasi tumpeng is a large cone-shaped yellow steamed rice dish with side dishes of vegetables and meat originating from Javanese cuisine of Indonesia. It is traditionally featured in a religious ceremony as a symbol of thanksgiving to gods of nature.

    Nasi tumpeng comes from an ancient Indonesian tradition that revers mountains as the abode of the ancestors and the gods. Rice cone is meant to symbolise the holy mountain. The feast served as some kind of thanksgiving for the abundance of harvest or any other blessings. Another evidence of the religious influence on Indonesian food culture can be seen from different meats used across the country.

    The majority of the Indonesian population is Moslem and as part of their religious beliefs, they are not allowed to eat pork. Consequently, chicken and beef are amongst the most common meats cooked in Indonesian cuisine. Instead, pork is often found in many Balinese traditional dishes [ 7 ]. Since then, hundreds of global food service brands have proliferated and in many ways have shaped local eating-out lifestyles.

    However, in the past few years, the government has taken an impressive initiative to promote Indonesian traditional culinary and re-appreciate the traditional food of the country. To do so, relevant stakeholders such as industry association, business practitioners, and educational institutions have been invited to step in to actualise and promote Indonesian culinary both to domestic and international markets.

    Indonesian cuisine has regained its popularity amongst Indonesian people: traditional food is not just sold at local food street hawkers called warung , but there are growing numbers of medium-large scale restaurants which specialise in traditional Indonesian food [ 39 ]. As abovementioned, Indonesian cuisine characteristics are heavily influenced by natural and cultural conditions. Basic ingredients of Indonesian cuisine consist of a variety of herbs, seasoning, and spices.

    Most Indonesian dishes use fresh herbs such as onion and garlic, spring onion, ginger roots, turmeric, galangal, candlenuts, lemon basil, lemon grass, and not to mention chilli [ 7 ]. In addition to these fresh herbs, the inclusion of spices is at the heart of almost every Indonesian dish. Known as islands of spices, the spices available range from seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance, and the most common include coriander seeds, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, and cloves.

    Either grated, chopped, or dried, these spices, together with other fresh ingredients, play a part as a seasoning for the purpose of flavouring the food in Indonesian language, it is called bumbu [ 32 ]. Besides for cooking, the spices are extensively used for other purposes such as to preserve the food, as a medicine, part of the rituals, and ingredients of cosmetics and perfumery [ 40 ] Fig.

    Authentic Indonesian spices and herbs. Indonesian cuisine is rich in herbs and spices.

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    Pala nutmeg , cengkih clove , daun pandan pandan leaves , keluak Pangium edule , and lengkuas galangal are considered as the native and authentic spices of Indonesia. Whilst some spices such as chilli, shallot, garlic, pepper, ginger, turmeric, and galangal can be found throughout the country, several spices are only found in a specific region. In regards to the cooking method, Indonesian food is prepared according to a variety of ways, being shallow or deep fried, grilled over hot coals, simmered, steamed and baked, and relatively speaking, does not require complex kitchen utensils [ 32 ].

    Its basic cooking utensils include mortar and pestle, chopping board, cleaver, wok wajan , spatula, ladle, and steamers, with wok and mortal-pestle considered as the most characteristic. Whilst the wok is used to fry the food, a flat saucer-shaped granite grinding stone together with a granite pestle is frequently used to grind or crush the fresh herbs and spices and make them into spice paste bumbu. Unlike neighbouring Malaysia and Thailand where the ingredients are pounded with a pestle inside a deep mortar, the Indonesian people rub or grind ingredients with a backwards and forwards motion across the granite [ 7 ].

    Also widely used in Indonesian cooking is the banana leaf, either for wrapping food for grilling, steaming, or placing directly onto hot coals. There are different ways of wrapping the food in banana leaf, depending on the contents and particular style of preparation [ 7 ] Fig. Pepes is a steamed fish dish with spices, wrapped in banana leaf as a food wrapping.

    The banana leaf package containing food is secured with lidi a small nail made from central rib of coconut leaf on the left and right sides of the wrap. The cooking method of pepes is steamed or grilled on charcoal. Such a cooking technique allows the rich spice mixture to be compressed against the main ingredients inside the individual banana leaf package whilst being cooked, and also adds a distinct aroma of cooked or burned banana leaf.

    Although being cooked simultaneously with food, the banana leaf is a non-edible material and is discarded after cooking. Nagasari is a traditional steamed cake and considered as a snack. It is made from rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar, filled with slices of banana. Instead, each dish is handed out collectively [ 41 ]. All food is served on the table, given the influence of Dutch culture—the r ijsttafel or rice table.

    Rice nasi is central to the lives of Indonesians [ 7 ]. It is considered as the most popular staple food for the majority of the population although in some regions, there are variations, for example, sago palm in Maluku islands and corn in Madura island and some eastern islands [ 40 ].


    The rice is eaten accompanied by one or two main savoury dishes consisting of meat such as chicken or beef, fish, and vegetables [ 32 ]. Besides the rice and side dishes, it is common to have condiments which include chilli-hot sambal as well as something to provide a crunchy contrast such as deep-fried tiny anchovies ikan teri , tapioca crackers krupuk , or deep-fried tempeh [ 7 ].

    Tempeh is an adaptation of tofu to the tropical climate of Indonesia. It is originally developed in Java since the s and made through a controlled fermentation process that binds soybean into a cake form. The fermented soybean holds more protein, dietary fibre, and vitamins than regular tofu, and it is widely consumed either as snack or part of meal across the country [ 42 ]. Having rice as the base of most Indonesian meals, the typical Indonesian menu is high in fibre, complex carbohydrates, and monounsaturated fatty acids.

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    Breakfasts consist of rice, noodles, or meat and vegetable soup, accompanied by Java coffee or tea to start the day. Lunch is the main meal of the day. The meal is prepared all in the morning and is served all at once. Dinner is often eaten after the workday has ended. Lunch and dinner normally contain staples, meat or fish, vegetables, and condiments [ 41 ].

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    The use the right hand is an acceptable custom since the left hand is considered unclean in Moslem religion beliefs. Eating with chopsticks is generally only found in food stalls or restaurants serving Indonesian adaptations of Chinese cuisine. Selamat makan is the polite Indonesian invitation before the meal consumption [ 7 ]. With its enormous geographic and cultural diversity, it is evident that Indonesian cuisine is rich in variety and taste.

    For example, in using fresh herbs and spices, each part of Indonesia develops its own combinations and intensities to produce a food taste that is either spicy, hot, strong, sweet, sour, or a mixture of these flavours [ 31 ].

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    • Basically, Indonesian cuisine can be classified based on six major islands across the country. Each has different food culture characteristics that are shaped by the natural conditions, history, and culture of the region. The food in Sumatra Island is much influenced by Indian and Chinese culture. As the western anchor of the archipelago, Sumatra was the first port of call for Indian and Arab traders, and the coastal Sumatrans heavily adopted their spices as well as stews, curries, and kebabs from these merchants [ 31 ].

      The most popular cuisine from the island is Padang West Sumatra food whose signature dish is rendang —a spicy stewed beef in coconut milk [ 43 ].