The Sounds of Indonesia

Every night Indonesia’s street vendors trudge down rutted roads and little known backstreets pushing their small portable kitchens in front of them. These wooden carts, barely bigger than a cupboard, are all they need to prepare their single dish. A green gas canister attached to a single hob serves as the stove, with a cutting board and a knife they have a kitchen.

The street vendors serve the original fast food of the Orient. Meals prepared in a minute for hungry workers and lazy cooks. Spicy fried rice cooked over a flickering blue flame, steaming chicken soup kept warm in large metal pots and sweet ginger and coconut deserts that keep those with a sweet tooth satisfied. Never taking the same road twice in a week, it is pot luck just what will come down your road, but there are signs for those with sharp hearing.

Each class of food vendor walks to his own beat. For local Indonesians these sounds are readily identifiable; the soft tinkling of chopsticks against a bowl means the person is selling chicken soup, the sharp shrill blast that sounds like the whistle of a steam train is corn soup. Mixed in with the traditional sounds of age old Indonesian dishes are newer imports, like the bread salesman who cycles along to an electronic eighties beat.

Whatever food the vendors happen to be selling, there will always be someone happy to see them. Tonight I’m waiting for my mystery dish to appear. I’m not sure what will appear on my doorstep, but one thing is for sure, whatever it happens to be I’m going to eat it.