Emil Caniago and Andi Emizon Caniago love traveling. Just like many other people with disposable income, they religiously mark their calendar for long weekends and try to get flight deals for holidays.
However, while some people enjoy traveling light, carrying only the most essential items in their backpacks, Emil and Andi are among those who have to carry special fixings to make their journey more enjoyable.
“We bring our tiny rice cooker wherever we go,” Emil told The Parrot, explaining that he can not consume just “any rice”, because sometimes it tastes “different” to him.
Emil and Andi are from Pariaman, a coastal city located in West Sumatra province. Like some fellow Pariamans who have moved to Jakarta and other big cities, Emil arranges rice from his hometown to be delivered to Jakarta each month.
Many West Sumatran people don’t like their rice sticky.
“We also bring our own rendang and other dishes we like when we travel, because we know we can’t always get special dishes in places we visit,” Andi said, laughing.
Rendang is a spicy meat dish originating from West Sumatra. In 2011 CNN International readers ranked rendang at the top of its “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods” in an online poll.
The dish is so loved that you can find it almost anywhere in the vast archipelago. But even so, Emil and Andi say that they can’t eat just any rendang they find, “because it sometimes tastes funny”, they said.
So while some travellers bring basic necessities, the two squeeze a tiny rice cooker, some rice, rendang, sambal (spicy chili paste) and other dishes they can take while on the go.
But why all the trouble? Isn’t the idea of travelling to get lost and expose ourselves to new experience, including food?
“During our trip to Yogyakarta recently, we tried the famous gudeg dish, and we just could not swallow it. It’s too sweet for our taste,” Andi said. Gudeg is a traditional Javanese dish originally from Yogyakarta. It is made from raw jackfruit boiled for several hours with palm sugar and coconut milk.
“We just couldn’t eat it,” he said.
Even food considered to be practical and affordable such as salads, hamburgers and french fries taste “strange” to the duo.
The men are not the only ones who can’t part ways with their favourite local foods while away from home.
During his hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, 60-year old Supoyo Rahardjo and his wife bought along with him some Indonesian delicacies, in case he can’t eat Middle Eastern or international food.
“I brought rendang, kering tempe (fried tempeh) and some sambal with me, just in case I am bored with local food. I know I can’t eat salad and fast food,” he told The Parrot.
Is it worth all the trouble and extra baggage? We asked.
“Well, would you rather go hungry?” he asked rhetorically.