Spice merchant Heri Setiawan wraps blended spices for his customer at the Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

This Market Merchant is Ready to Spice Up Your Cooking

BY :YUDHA BASKORO

MARCH 05, 2021

Jakarta. What better way to spice up your cooking than with Indonesia’s traditional spices. 

For many years, Indonesian spices are best known for their strong flavor and fragrance. Traders —especially from Europe and East Asia— have sailed across the seas to bring these aromatic seasonings to the kitchens across the globe. Lemongrass, galangal, and nutmegs are among the few of Indonesia's many spices. Not only do they excite the palate, these spices are also nutritious.  

Nowadays, knowledge on essential cooking spices commonly gets passed down through generations. But that is not the case for Heri Setiawan, a 51-year-old man selling blended spices at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta.

As a Javanese, young Heri did not learn the ins-and-outs of spices from his parents. It was a Minangnese trader at a Mampang traditional market who had taught him the art of spices back in 1988. 

“I was born in Banjarnegara, a small town in Central Java. Three decades ago, I came to  Jakarta. Since then, I have been selling blended spices," Heri said.

Every morning, Heri goes to the Tebet traditional market to sell spices — starting from ginger, turmeric, garlic, shallots to chillies.

Spice mixes for specific traditional dishes are also for sale. This includes spices for soto, the world-famous beef rendang, and chicken-curry with coconut milk or opor ayam. Heri also blends spices for other recipes from West Sumatra, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Bali, and North Sulawesi.

Heri will blend the spices with a modern grinding machine to create a smooth paste and texture. Each blend can consist of up to 20 spices.

Heri's loyal customers are the owners of Padang restaurants around the capital. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it is the online delivery drivers who frequent his market stall. Heri has to help these drivers as they do not understand spices like he does. 

Heri usually compares his stall sales to the season. “During the rainy season, our sale rate is hot and cold. Today’s income is uncertain, but I can feed my children,” Heri said while wrapping fried shallots in a small plastic bag.

A worker peels a coconut before grind and mix it with various types of herbs and plants to make a blended spices at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A worker peels a coconut before grinding and mix it with other herbs for a blended spice at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb. 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Heri serves his customer at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. He sells blended spices since 1988. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Heri carefully wraps a customer's order in a plastic bag. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Blended spices are seen at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Blended spices are seen at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb. 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A customer brings a to buy list at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A customer's grocery list. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Blended red chilies, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, galangal, turmeric, candlenut, ginger are seen at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Blended red chilies, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, galangal, turmeric, candlenut, ginger for sale. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Bumbu soto is seen inside a plastic wrap is seen at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. Heri uses a modern blender to make a spice mixtures. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A perfectly wrapped and blended spice mix for soto. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Bumbu opor is seen inside a plastic wrap is seen at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. Opor is chicken cooked in coconut milk, a favorit dish for Idul Fitri. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Blended spices for opor ayam, an Indonesian chicken-curry with coconut milk and a staple dish during Eid.  (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Bumbu rendang is seen inside a plastic wrap is seen at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. Heri has blended spices for all Indonesian cuisine especialy Javanese (Central and East Java) and Padang. He also serve blended spices for Sundanese, Batak and Manado cuisines. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A spice mix for rendang made with love. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Heri Setiawan, 51, poses for the Jakarta Globe at his stall at Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb, 8, 2021. 33 years ago, he came to Jakarta from Banjarnegara in Central Java and learned all of the knowledge about blended spices from a Minang trader in Mampang traditional market. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Heri Setiawan, 51, poses for the Jakarta Globe at his stall at the Tebet traditional market in South Jakarta on Feb. 8, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

 

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