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Bumbu is the Indonesian word for a blend of spices and for pastes made from these blends, and it commonly appears in the names of spice mixtures, sauces and seasoning pastes. The official Indonesian language dictionary describes bumbu as "various types of herbs and plants that have a pleasant aroma and flavour — such as ginger, turmeric, galangal, nutmeg and pepper — used to enhance the flavour of the food."
It is a characteristic of Indonesian cuisine and its regional variants such as Balinese, Javanese, Sundanese, Padang, Batak and Manado cuisines. It is used with various meats, seafood and vegetables in stews, soups, barbecue, sotos, gulai, and also as an addition to Indonesian-style instant noodles.
Indonesians have developed original gastronomic themes with lemongrass and galangal, cardamom and chilies, tamarind and turmeric.
Unlike Indian cooking tradition that favours dried spice powder mix, Indonesian cuisine is more akin to Thai, which favours the use of fresh ingredients. Traditionally, this mixture of spices and other aromatic ingredients is freshly ground into a moist paste using a mortar and pestle.
The spice mixture is commonly made by slicing, chopping, grinding, beating, bruising, or sometimes dryroasting the spices, using traditional cooking tools such as stone mortar and pestle, or a modern blender or food processor. The bumbu mixture is usually stir-fried in hot cooking oil first to release its aroma, prior to adding the main ingredient (usually meats, poultry, or fish).
The equivalent in the Malaysian cuisine is rempah.
The main function of bumbu is to add flavour and aroma, but prior to the invention of refrigeration technology, spices were used as preservatives. Garlic, shallots, ginger and galangal have antimicrobial properties and serve as natural organic preservatives.
Known as the "Spice Islands", the Indonesian islands of Maluku contributed to the introduction of its native spices to world cuisine. Spices such as pala (nutmeg/mace), cengkih (clove), daun pandan (Pandan leaves), kemiri (candlenut), keluak (Pangium edule) and lengkuas (galangal) are native to Indonesia. It is likely that lada hitam (black pepper), kunyit (turmeric), serai (lemongrass), daun kari (curry leaf), bawang merah (shallot), kayu manis (cinnamon), ketumbar (coriander), jahe (ginger) and asam jawa (tamarind) were introduced from India or mainland Southeast Asia, while daun bawang (scallions) and bawang putih (garlic) were introduced from China. Those spices from mainland Asia were introduced early, in ancient times, thus they became integral ingredients in Indonesian cuisine. While the New World spices such as chili pepper and tomato were introduced by Portuguese and Spanish traders during the age of exploration in the 16th century. List of spices used in bumbu are:
Indonesian cuisine also recognize various types of sauces, condiments and seasonings, some are basic seasonings, some are indigenously developed, while another was influenced by Indian, Chinese and European sauces, such as:
Recently there are some additional foreign sauces and seasonings that has been included into Indonesian kitchen and sometimes used as condiment, such as:
In Indonesian cuisine there are many variations of bumbu spice mixtures, varying based on individual recipes and regional cuisine traditions. For example, Balinese cuisine includes basa genep bumbu, while Minang cuisine includes pemasak bumbu. However, there are four generic basic bumbu generally recognized in broader Indonesian cuisine and identified by color. These generally consist of a mixture of spices stir-fried in coconut oil, which can be used fresh or stored under refrigeration for later use.