My Favourite Indonesian Elixer

When asked recently, what are some things I miss most about living abroad, it got me thinking…

One of my favourite things about living abroad is being able to adopt and become a part of the unique aspects of a different culture.

I was lucky enough to call Indonesia home for  7 years. A country made up of over 17,000 islands is not surprisingly vast in culture, and varying dramatically from one island to the next. Of all the things I miss, I chose to share with you one that I adopted after the first time I tried it.

Dating back over a thousand years, Indonesians have been brewing and drinking a natural “elixir” called Jamu. Originating on the island of Java, this herbal concoction has made its way cross country and even worldwide as a natural remedy for specific ailments, and a daily supplement to good health. Traditionally made and sold by Indonesian women who carry large baskets on their backs filled with many bottles of their own “brews”. Recipes can vary from one person to the next, one island to the next, and often depend on the desired effect.

Made from different types of roots, bark, flowers, seeds, leaves, and fruits, Jamu is usually drank cold or at room temperature. It can be brewed to aid in digestion, increase appetite, moderate menstrual discomfort, and boost overall immunity. There are many other uses and benefits that Indonesian people have and believe to come from drinking Jamu regularly.

The most-used ingredients include turmeric and ginger (ideally fresh root), fresh lime, and palm sugar or honey. A sprinkle of salt may be added for taste, and/or a pinch of pepper to help one’s body absorb the curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric that is believed to have potential health benefits and antioxidant effects).

Drank daily by many people, this traditional Indonesian medicine not only has an appealing bright yellow color, intensely strong yet uniquely refreshing flavor, but might just be the next acquired taste you add to your list of natural remedies to try.

Take some time to learn more about the health benefits of turmeric and if you would like to make your own Jamu at home, try this recipe for a simple version that many people drink to boost their immunity:

• 125g fresh turmeric root
• 20 g fresh ginger root
• 2-4 tbsp fresh lime juice
• 1-2 tbsp honey or palm sugar
• A pinch of pepper

Peel turmeric and ginger to remove skin. Slice and place in a blender with 4 cups of water. Blend until smooth. (Optional: pour mixture into saucepan and simmer for 20 mins. Remove from heat and let cool.) Strain through a fine sieve and pour into a glass or bowl. Add lime juice, honey/palm sugar and pepper. Stir/whisk gently to mix and refrigerate.

— If you are feeling adventurous, try my favourite version and leave out the sweetener 😉