Most expats, and even tourists, are familiar with Indonesian drinks such as jamu (traditional health potions) and arak (white rice wine). Not many realize, however, that there are plenty of other beverages out there that are specific to Indonesia or Bali. Loloh cemcem is just one of such traditional thirst-quenchers.
While jamu is known for its strong and bitter taste, loloh cemcem is more gentle on the pallet. The refreshing potion combines a blend of sour, salty, spicy and sweet flavors, and is surprisingly tasty. As the name suggests, the main ingredient of the beverage is cemcem (or hog plum leaves), which are often blended with jarak and betel leaves, as well as a variety of fruit and spices. In fact, according to the “Ethnobotanical Study of Loloh: Traditional Herbal Drinks from Bali,” a total of 51 plants have been documented for their use in loloh recipes.
Prepared in a manner passed down generations, loloh cemcem contains no preservatives, and as such can only be kept in the fridge for two or three days. Firstly, the ingredients are boiled or mashed in warm water, and then filtered using cloth. The broth is then packaged in plastic bottles for sale. In addition to quenching thirst, the concoction is popular for its therapeutic properties such as lowering blood pressure and improving digestion. It is also highly recommended for breastfeeding mothers and those suffering from a sore throat.
Unlike jamu, which is enjoyed all over the archipelago, loloh is drank exclusively in Bali. In fact, the best place to taste loloh cemcem is Penglipuran Village, where the drink is said to have originated. The village, located in the Bangli district, around 45 kilometers northwest of Denpasar, has been welcoming guests since 1992 to showcase Balinese culture and traditions. Not surprisingly, many Penglipuran households still produce and sell their own loloh cemcem.
Loloh cemcem is not as ubiquitous as its Indonesian counterpart jamu, but luckily you do not need to travel as far as Penglipuran Village for a taste of the potion. Look out for plastic bottles with a green concoction at your local warungs, markets and stalls. While not many restaurants and cafes across the island serve loloh cemcem, the curious can sample the green elixir at Kunyit Restaurant at the ANVAYA Beach Resort. Along Indonesian and Balinese cuisine, and Megibung feasts, Kunyit also serves loloh cemcem with asam gelugur and brown sugar.
Some Balinese loloh potions come without cemcem leaves, making them very similar to jamu. As such, they are easier to find in restaurants and cafes across the island. Kayun Resto in Mas, just outside Ubud, offers a taste of traditional Balinese fare made from organic produce in an open air pavilion, along with a menu of healthy beverages. Try loloh kayun turmeric with turmeric, tamarind, orange, lime, natural salt and honey or opt for loloh kayun saraswati, a concoction of apple, lime, ginger, cucumber, celery and parsley. More off of the beaten path, Bali Asli is nestled in the foothills of Mount Agung in Gelumpang Village in Karangasem, around 30 minutes from Candidasa and Amed. The restaurant offers loloh kunyit, a refreshing drink containing turmeric to alleviate stomach problems and loloh don kayu minis, with a sweet wood leaf used to reduce the symptoms of flu and soothe sore throats.
For an all together different take on loloh, Alila Ubud offers organic mixology workshops inspired by the island’s abundance of fresh organic produce. Handpick ingredients from Alila’s organic garden before creating three of the resort’s signature cocktails, one being the venue’ take on loloh – a concoction made with kemangi (lemon basil) leaves, mint leaves, turmeric, rosemary, lemongrass and gin. Those wishing to combine loloh with a spa treatment can do so at Vinesa Spa, which features a Loloh Bar where guests can taste freshly-brewed health elixirs aimed at cleansing the body, boosting energy, reducing inflammation and promoting weight loss.
Other Notable Indonesian Drinks
Popular across Indonesia, es cincau consists of grass jelly made from the leaves of the mesona plant. The leaves are soaked in hot water before being strained. The creamy liquid is then placed in the refrigerator for three to four hours to solidify. The resulting jelly is then cut up and placed in a glass with coconut milk, water, condensed milk, pandan leaves and ice. Es Cincau is credited with lowering fever, reducing hypertension and alleviating constipation. A similar concoction, es daluman is a blend of grass jelly, sago pearls and coconut milk or cream. The curious can try es daluman at the Art Cafe Bumbu Bali in Nusa Dua.
Also popular in other Southeast Asian countries, the most characteristic ingredient of es cendol is green jelly made from rice flour. The jelly is usually served with coconut milk, diced jack fruit, palm sugar and ice. Those interested can get their hands on es cendol at Murni’s Warung, an Ubud eatery that dates back to 1974.
Indonesia’s take on a carbonated drink, Sari Temulawak was popular in the 1980s before American soft drinks became the norm across the archipelago. The bottled drink is made from Java ginger, known around the archipelago for its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. Usually served with ice, the sweet drink can be found in many local warungs across the island.
Kunyit Restaurant : www.theanvayabali.com
Kayun : kayunresto.com/
Bali Asli : www.baliasli.com.au/
Alila Ubud : www.alilahotels.com/ubud
Vinesa Spa : visesahealingspa.com/
Murni’s Warung : www.murnis.com/
Art Cafe Bumbu Bali : www.artcafebumbubali.com/
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