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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

How to cook Rete, a traditional chicken dish in Langa:

Basic ingredients:

  • 1 Chicken (live) – Ekor Ayam
  • 1 Coconut – Buhir Kerapa
  • Lots of Chiles – Cabe Rawit
  • 1 kg White Rice – Nasi Putih
  • 2 bunches Pumpkin Leaves – Sayor Pucub Labu
  • 0.5 kg Black Beans – Sobho
  • Tons of Garlic – Bawang Putih
  • Even more Shallots – Bawang Merah
  • 3 Tomatoes – Tomat

*All instructions are based on actual actions taken by your children*

Basic Steps:

  1. Head to the nearest traditional outdoor market, which may mean traveling farther than you might think. You can expect the traditional market to resemble a farmers’ market in America. At the market, or “pasar” in Indonesian, you will find yourself amongst tables filled with the most colorful fruits and vegetables you have ever seen.
  2. Bargain with the sellers at the “pasar.” In Indonesia, bargaining is quite a common practice. We learned that a good rule of thumb for bargaining is to offer 20,000 Rupiah less than the initial price and continue to increase that number until a price can be agreed upon.
  3. After buying all the necessary dry ingredients, pick out a live chicken (which will later become your meal). Make sure to leave time to buy extra fruit for the ride home – we recommend the dragon fruit. Holding your chicken by the legs, head back to the village to begin cooking.
  4. Before you begin your adventure into cooking your meal, you must leave time to have a cup of coffee, which will most likely be your third cup of the day provided to you by your family who always insists you “minum” or drink before all else.
  5. Mentally prepare yourself to witness or deliver the final blow to your live chicken to become the meat for dinner. Step just outside your house to quickly and humanly as possible saw the chicken’s head off with a small knife that resembles a dull steak knife. (Yes, some students did actually kill the chicken.)
  6. Soak the chicken’s body in hot water to begin the cleaning process.
  7. Place the chicken in the fire until charred in order to burn the feathers. Carefully pluck the feathers from the chicken, and with the watchful eye of your “Bapak,” or father, use a large machete to cut the meat into small pieces to be cooked (organs included).
  8. Use the concrete steps outside of your house to break open your coconut. Make sure to pass the coconut around so all members of the group may have a chance to sip the fresh juice from its source. Using a traditional cooking tool, shave the coconut and then proceed to fry the shavings.
  9. Peel and slice the garlic and shallots.
  10. Slice the chilis into minuscule pieces (Warning: do NOT touch your eyes after this step…)
  11. Mix the coconut shavings, shallots, garlic, and chilis. Sprinkle this mixture over the chicken as it cooks.
  12. Mix the cooked rice and beans in a bowl large enough to feed a small village since that is how much rice you are expected to eat at each meal.
  13. Cook the water spinach last as it will need to the least amount of time to be prepared.
  14. Gather your family and friends to enjoy an almost purely farm-to-table meal. Be prepared to be “gently coerced” into eating more than you can handle!!