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Preserving Indonesia’s Culinary Heritage Through ‘Mustika Rasa’

Preserving Indonesia’s Culinary Heritage Through ‘Mustika Rasa’

Monika Febriana
24 August 2023


Mustika Rasa stands as a cookbook of Indonesia's gastronomic wealth. Within the pages of this book penned by Ir. Soekarno, is a complete compendium of information on Nusantara dishes.


On our fertile land we are actually prosperous,” – Ir. Soekarno at Mustika Rasa Cookbook.

With these words resonating from the very first page of Mustika Rasa, a profound appreciation for the meticulous process of cooking awakens. Intrigued, I found myself engrossed in every page of the book. Little did I anticipate that Indonesia possessed a culinary scripture of such stature.

For those of you who are curious, the cookbook “Mustika Rasa” was penned by Indonesia’s first president, Ir. Soekarno. As an ardent lover of Indonesian cuisine, Ir Soekarno believed in preserving and passing down the culinary heritage of the nation, so that future generations could relish and cherish the flavors of Indonesia.

The book’s genesis was also a response to prevailing reports spotlighting hunger across different regions of Indonesia. Thus, the project was initiated in 1961, with Harsono Hardjohutomo at its helm, tasked with compiling recipes from all corners of the nation. In 1967, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, this culinary masterpiece was unveiled.

Setting itself apart from other cookbooks, Mustika Rasa provides a comprehensive A-to-Z guide to Indonesian cuisine. Within its 1.123 pages, you will discover a treasure trove of knowledge about Nusantara’s culinary richness. It encompasses explanations of ingredients, methods of preparation, and the nutritional profiles of each component.

In addition, Mustika Rasa serves as a historical witness that reminds us of Indonesia’s indigenous cuisine and culture. This cookbook reminds us of the diversity of Indonesia’s staple food, which is not only rice. In ancient times, Indonesians ate other carbohydrates such as sago, cassava, yam, and others.

This book is also equipped with picture illustrations that make it easier for you to understand how to cook or process an ingredient. With over 1,600 recipes spanning snacks, main courses, a plethora of sambals, and diverse beverages, Mustika Rasa serves as a culinary tour of Indonesia’s diverse regions. Presented in old Indonesian spelling, some words differ from contemporary usage.

After reading this book, it dawned on me how rich Indonesian cuisine truly is. This book goes beyond mere recipes; it delves into the culture of Indonesia. Ir. Soekarno held a visionary outlook on the future, especially regarding culinary culture. He contemplated various aspects of food that remain relevant today and can be passed down to the next generations. The book serves as a reminder for a young generation like me to uphold and preserve our cultural heritage continuously.

I’ve chosen the Pepes Ikan (Fish Pepes) from Tegal among the recipes featured in this book. This recipe brings back memories of my grandmother’s cooking from Tegal – an authentic taste of homemade dishes often enjoyed during lunchtime in my hometown.

Pepes Ikan from Tegal

– 1 kg Fish
– 2 cups thick coconut milk
– Banana leaves

– 10 shallots
– 3 cloves of garlic
– 5 red chili peppers (Lombok)
– 10 candlenuts
– 1 segment of turmeric
– 1 piece of galangal
– 1 tablespoon tamarind juice
– 1 teaspoon palm sugar
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 1 teaspoon shrimp paste 

Cooking Method:

  1. Clean the fish.
  2. Grind the spices and combine them with the coconut milk.
  3. Marinate the fish with the mixture and wrap it in banana leaves, securing it with toothpicks.
  4. Steam the fish.
  5. Once cooked, grill the Pepes for added flavor and aroma.

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