In the early 1990s, Indonesia's society was divided into numerous ethnic groups and minorities. The largest group were the Javanese at 45 percent of the total population. Sundanese made up 14 percent, followed by Madurese, 7.5 percent, and coastal Malays, 7.5 percent. As a sign of its diverse population, fully 26 percent of the population in 1992 consisted of numerous small ethnic groups or minorities. The extent of this diversity is unknown, however, since Indonesian censuses do not collect data on ethnicity.

As this increasingly mobile, multiethnic nation moved into its fifth decade of independence, Indonesians were made aware--through education, television, cinema, print media, and national parks--of the diversity of their own society. When Indonesians talk about their cultural differences with one another, one of the first words they use is adat (custom or tradition). This term adat is roughly translated as "custom" or "tradition," but its meaning has undergone a number of transformations in Indonesia. In some circumstances, for instance, adat has a kind of legal status--certain adat laws (hukum adat) are recognized by the government as legitimate. These ancestral customs may pertain to a wide range of activities: agricultural production, religious practices, marriage arrangements, legal practices, political succession, or artistic expressions.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of Indonesians are Muslim, they maintain very different social identifications. For example, when Javanese try to explain the behavior of a Sundanese or a Balinese counterpart, they might say "because it is his adat." Differences in the ways ethnic groups practice Islam are often ascribed to adat. Each group may have slightly different patterns of observing religious holidays, attending the mosque, expressing respect, or burying the dead.

Although adat in the sense of "custom" is often viewed as one of the deepest--even sacred--sources of consensus within an ethnic group, the word itself is actually of foreign derivation-- originally from the Arabic. Through centuries of contact with outsiders, Indonesians have a long history of contrasting themselves and their traditions with those of others, and their notions of who they are as a people have been shaped in integral ways by these encounters. On the more isolated islands in eastern Indonesia, for instance, one finds ethnic groups that have no word for adat because they have had very little contact with outsiders.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the notion of adat came to take on a national significance in touristic settings such as Balinese artistic performances and in museum displays. Taman Mini, a kind of ethnographic theme park located on the outskirts of Jakarta, seeks to display and interpret the cultural variation of Indonesia. From its groundbreaking in 1971 and continuing after its completion in 1975, the park was surrounded in controversy, not least because its construction displaced hundreds of villagers whose land was seized in order to finish the job. Nonetheless, a 100-hectare park was landscaped to look like the archipelago of Indonesia in miniature when viewed from an overhead tramway. There was a house for each province to represent the vernacular architecture of the region. Distinctive local hand weapons, textiles, and books explaining the customs of the region were sold. The powerful message of the park was that adat is contained in objective, material culture, that it is aesthetically pleasing and indeed marketable, but that it is more or less distinct from everyday social life. Furthermore, the exhibits conveyed the impression that ethnicity is a relatively simple aesthetic matter of regional and spatial variations rather than a matter of deep emotional or political attachments. However, the park provided visitors with a vivid and attractive (if not always convincing) model for how the Indonesian national motto-- Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, a Javanese motto dating to the fifteenth century Kingdom of Majapahit)--might be understood.

When Indonesians talk about their society in inclusive terms, they are more likely to use a word like budaya (culture) than adat. One speaks of kebudayaan Indonesia, the "culture of Indonesia," as something grand, and refers to traditions of refinement and high civilization. The Hinduized dances, music, and literature of Java and Bali and the great monuments associated with their religion are often described as examples of "culture" or "civilization" but not "custom." However, as the following descriptions show, the wide variety of sources of local identification underscore the diversity rather than the unity of the Indonesian population


Directions Bring water and vinegar to a boil in a saucepan, then add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool and use as a dipping sauce for vegetables. Keeps refrigerated up to 10 days.


* 2 cups (500ml) water

* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (275ml) rice vinegar

* 10 tablespoons (150g) sugar

* 2 teaspoons salt

Chocolate Cherry Cake

This is a cake recipe adapted from one Tupperware consultants have passed around for years to make in the microwave. I don't like it that way, but baked in the oven it makes an excellent special occasion cake. The key is to use cheap ingredients. Generic branded pie filling and cake mix seem to work best.

1 (18 ounce) box chocolate cake mix
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 (20 ounce) can cherry pie filling
2 (16 ounce) containers supreme coconut frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine cake ingredients (mix, eggs, water, oil, and pie filling) using the muffin method (dry on bottom and folding in wet.

3. Put into 9 inch cake pans and bake 40-45 minutes until toothpick or knife exits cleanly. Cake will be very wet, still.
Cool on a cake rack and frost when cool.

Banana-Chocolate Cupcakes

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 small bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
vegetable oil cooking spray

1.Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, banana, and vanilla, beating until blended.

2.Stir together flour, soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to banana mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in morsels.

3.Place paper baking cups in muffin pans, and coat with cooking spray; spoon batter into pans, filling cups two-thirds full.
Bake at 350° for 17 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans immediately, and cool on wire racks. Spread with frosting, if desired.


Balinese Fried Chicken


4 Chicken portions
1 Onion
2 Garlic cloves
4 Kemiri nuts
2½ cm fresh Ginger
250 ml Coconut milk
1 tbs Kecap Manis
2 tsp Sambal Ulek
1 tsp soft brown sugar


Puree the Onions, Garlic, Ginger, Kemiri and Sambal Ulek in a blender or pestle.
Heat some oil in a large, deep frying pan and brown the chicken on all sides for about 10 mins. Remove chicken and set aside.
Stir-fry the puree for 5 min. in the same frying pan. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Add the chicken and simmer for 30 min. until tender. Serve hot.


Besengek Daging
Spicy Beef dish cooked in coconut milk.
Use a lean, whole cut of beef like "topside" or "silverside".


500 gr Beef.
1 onion.
1 teaspoon trassi.
1 red chilli pepper.
½ teaspoon black pepper.
1 teaspoon coriander (ground).
½ teaspoon turmeric.
30 ml tamarind water.
250 ml beef stock.
500 ml coconut milk.
2 teaspoons sugar.
salt to taste.
oil for frying.


Place the beef in enough water to cover the joint and boil until tender (about 1 hour). Remove from stock and slice after cooling. Chop the onions and fry with the trassi in the oil until soft. Add chilli, pepper, coriander, turmeric, tamarind, sugar and salt. saute for a further ½ minute then add the beef and stock. Cover pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Uncover pan and add the coconut milk. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens.
Can be served on its own with rice or as part of a "rijsttafel".


This is a fabulous treat for summer barbecue's with a fresh salad and French bread or even a quick supper with Indonesian fried rice.

For the Sate's:

500 gr. of Beef, Pork or Chicken

For the marinade:

1 Onion
1 Garlic clove
30 ml Kecap Manis
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Cummin powder
1 stalk Lemon Grass (crushed)
1 teaspoon Sambal Ulek
1 glass red wine (optional)
30 ml water

Dice the meat in to 2 cm square cubes and put onto bamboo skewers(about 4 per stick).
Combine all the marinade ingredients , except the lemon grass, into a food processor and make into a smooth paste. Poor this over the prepared sate's, add the lemon grass, and leave to marinade for at least 2 hours.
Cook the sate's on the barbecue or under the grill for 5 -10 min. until done and serve with Sate dip or hot Peanut Sauce.

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