Ingredients are critical to any dish. Some of the most expensive, out-of-this-world dishes come from valuable and rare elements.
Caviar, saffron, and truffle are some examples of the world’s finer ingredients known to some people. For others, they are just ingredients. Those finer ingredients make for exquisite foods that many people have never even heard of before.
Indonesia, a country rich in spices, also has rare ingredients that are valuable in other countries. Those seven ingredients are Bamboo lobsters, Cemani chickens, Civet coffee, Nutmeg maces, Pelawan mushrooms, Ruby Snapper, and Southern Bluefin tunas.
Indonesia’s Valuable Ingredients
Why These Ingredients Are Expensive
The rarity of these ingredients is not the only thing that makes them an expensive and valuable purchase. People are often intrigued by rare foods, so demand certainly plays a part in the high price. Not only are these ingredients pricey to non-Indonesians but also to the natives.
Whether it be the common or rare ingredients, people can find them on different sides of Indonesia. Bamboo lobsters, Cemani chickens, Civet coffee, Nutmeg maces, Pelawan mushrooms, Ruby Snapper, and Southern Bluefin tunas come from various regions and have complex processes. The hard work of the people who handle these ingredients and how they can have them are also things to consider in the price.
Unique characteristics and nutrients in these ingredients are also significant reasons why they’re uncommon and valuable. Each component brings a new flavor to the plate. Cemani chickens are not like any other chicken because they are all black. The all-black Cemani chickens and Pelawan mushrooms are protein-rich, while others provide beneficial nutrients.
Bamboo lobsters (Panulirus Versicolor)
If Cemani chickens are black, Bamboo lobsters are green, also called green lobsters. While green is their body color, their antenna is pink. They also have black spots, white stripes, and black walking legs. Bamboo lobsters can be as giant as about 30 cm. They are nocturnal animals, passive in the daytime and actively seeking food at night.
You might not find Bamboo lobsters in parts of the sea that are more open. They are most definitely located in coral areas because they usually crawl between the corals. They eat small fish and live about 10 to 15 meters down the water. People can find these lobsters not only in Indonesia but also in some parts of the world.
Waters in Aceh, West Sumatra, some parts of Sulawesi, and even West Java are where people can find these lobsters. Outside of Indonesia, these lobsters are also in the Indo-Pacific region, from Japan to South Africa. Bamboo lobsters are one of the fishery products with high prices, ranging from IDR 300.000 to 1.2 million per kilogram.
Chickens vary in color, but Cemani chickens are all black. This Indonesian chicken’s internal organs are also black, making them a rare breed. The color black comes from hyperpigmentation, a condition of extra melanin that makes animals and humans have darker skins or spots. Although Cemani chickens are known as jet-black chickens, their eggs are white.
Cemani chickens have the same compound found in other chickens that form their eggshells. Because of that compound, the mutation process of hyperpigmentation in Cemani chickens’ cells doesn’t transfer to their eggshells. The Cemani hens lay approximately 20 to 30 eggs every three to six months. Therefore, the egg production of Cemani chickens is about 60 to 100 eggs per year
Indonesia’s Cemani chickens are specifically from a region called Kedu, Temanggung regency, in Central Java. There aren’t a lot of Cemani chickens in Indonesia, let alone countries abroad. Only thousands of them live around the world. Even so, people are looking for them and their nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and high protein.
If you plan to buy a Cemani chicken, the price starts at IDR 100.000 for the chicks or eggs. The older Cemani chickens are at IDR 25 million. Besides Indonesia, the tender and juicy Cemani chicken meat is also on the market in China, the U.S., and a few European countries like the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, with higher price ranges.
Civet coffee is a uniquely processed coffee drink involving Asian civets. It starts with coffee cherries eaten by the civets. After being digested and defecated by them, the farmers then collected the partially digested cherries back to process them further. It is believed that with civets’ great sense of smell, they pick the best cherries and perfect it through fermentation.
The process of collecting the cherries isn’t an easy one. Sometimes, the farmers even have to capture the civets in cages and make them eat the cherries. Therefore, Civet coffee is a unique, different form of coffee processing. The type of coffee beans for Civet coffee is coffee arabica, mostly lightly roasted to maintain the flavor.
In Indonesia, Civet coffee has been around since the Dutch colonization. The plantation started in Java and Sumatra islands, but Sulawesi and Bali islands do now produce Civet coffee. Civet coffee is a safer alternative for the stomach, but it also protects from cancer, one of them being colon cancer. It also contains antioxidants.
The price for Civet coffee beans or coffee grounds ranges from IDR 400.000 to millions. The starting price is at least IDR 100.000 when served in a cup. Being one of the most expensive coffee in Indonesia and the world, people enjoy Civet coffee as gourmet coffee. Besides Indonesia, many countries produce Civet coffee, including neighboring countries like Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Nutmeg maces, or simply maces, are spices derived from nutmeg seeds. Both maces and nutmeg seeds come from the nutmeg trees. Maces are simply the covering shell of nutmeg seeds. Typically sold as a whole, you can also find maces in ground form. Maces vary in color, with the original color being pinkish-red. The longer the mace dries, the yellowish and brown it gets.
People use maces in many foods, notably Indian and generally Asian food. With their more delicate flavor, maces are one of the spices for meats, vegetables, and baked goods. Just like nutmegs, maces are also fragrant. Other than foods, some people also utilize maces as a medicine concoction for some illnesses, such as dysentery, feeling bloated, and rheumatic.
Indonesia is the native producer country for nutmeg trees. Originally from Maluku Island, we can now find maces all over Indonesia. Other Indonesian regions contributing to mace production include West Papua, North and Central Sulawesi, Aceh, and West Java. In Indonesia, maces sell for at least IDR 200.000 and can be as high as tens of dollars abroad.
Heimioporus sp., Kulat Pelawan, or Pelawan mushrooms are local Indonesian mushrooms that attach themselves to or grow near the Pelawan tree. With their blushing pink color, Pelawan mushrooms are about 5 cm in size. They also have a red “hood.” These mushrooms are one of the rarest mushrooms in Indonesia and the world.
Lightning is said to play a part in Pelawan mushrooms’ existence. Many say these mushrooms grow and live once the lightning strikes and rains afterward. The natural phenomenon and rain combination are essential for the mushrooms. These mushrooms also have their season, which is two times a year. They are known as Indonesia’s truffles.
These particular mushrooms live on the islands of Bangka and Belitung. Although some say they also live in Sumatra and Borneo, people know that these are native to Bangka and Belitung. Before they go to the market, the farmers usually dry them out. A kilogram of dried, in-season Pelawan mushrooms is at one to two million Rupiah, while the off-season price can be as high as five to six million Rupiah.
Regarded as one of the main saltwater fishes, the Ruby Snapper or Longtail Red Snapper is red all over its upper part and white on the lower or belly part. The Ruby Snapper can be a big fish, with 20 kg in weight. Its length can also be up to one meter. When fishermen go deep-water fishing, the Ruby Snapper is sometimes a catch.
The Ruby Snapper feeds on other fishes and even squids. It lives hundreds of meters down the surface, with the closest being 90 meters, and around rocks or reefs. Its body is long, but its head is pretty smallish with a big pair of eyes. Although the Ruby Snapper doesn’t fall under the threatened category, there is a report that its number is declining.
While some Indonesians know the Ruby Snapper as Manadonese fish, you can also find this fish in Biak Island, Papua. The fish lives in the Indo-Pacific region, spreading throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans, from New Zealand to Hawaii. The starting price for the Ruby Snapper is IDR 700.000.
Southern Bluefin tunas
Southern Bluefin tunas are one of the most significant types of this saltwater fish. They are big and can be mighty heavy at about 140 kg and up to 250 kg. They are black and blueish on the upper part and silvery white on the belly part. Their fins are bright yellow, short, and slim. Their body length can reach up to 250 meters. Like other tunas, Southern Bluefin tunas can endure low temperatures too.
This particular species feeds on different types of fish and other sea animals. They are currently considered endangered animals, and their status is also threatened mainly because of human consumption. As a gourmet food, bluefin tunas are high in demand and typically caught by anglers. Far-reaching hunting for the Southern Bluefin tunas can interrupt the marine ecosystem.
Indonesia is one of the countries of the Southern Bluefin tunas habitats. They live in Papua Island, Bali, and Lombok waters. They essentially live in the world’s Southern Hemisphere. Some of the world’s countries have formed together conservation of the Southern Bluefin tunas with limited fishing. The fish has a fantastic selling price, with at least one billion Rupiah to 40 billion Rupiah. In Japan specifically, the price is higher.