Krupuk, palm sugar, coconuts and a market
Published/Last edited or updated: 27th January, 2018
In the small villages around Pangandaran many people eke out a living producing traditional wares in their homes and an interesting half day tour can be made checking them out.
Set aside a lazy day and you can visit a krupuk factory—a traditional fish and tapioca flour based snack; a palm sugar producer and coconut industries where among other things, doormats are manufactured. Add in a stop at the local markets to round off the day.
If you’d had Chinese takeaway, you’ve probably tried a soggy prawn cracker. Krupuk is the generic onomatopoeic name in Indonesian for crackers of this type, but covers a vast range of snacks. The local version in Pangandaran is a flat round cracker about ten centimetres in diameter and two centimetres thick that looks like it’s made of a filigree of noodles. They are generally white or yellow and made from a mix of tapioca flour, fish and spices—turmeric adding the bright yellow colour. This light, crunchy, tasty snack is a far cry from the Chinese takeaway version and is a popular accompaniment to most meals here.
Padasuka, a small home factory about five kilometres west of Pangandaran, produces about 500 kilograms per day, that’s a lot of krupuk considering they only weigh a few grams each. Operations are mostly in the morning when you can see huge vats of fish being boiled and mixed with the other ingredients, forced through a machine that produces a three dimensional spirograph of noodles much smaller than the finished product. These are then steamed to yield a translucent, almost plastic-like appearance, then dried in the sun for a day before they are dropped into woks of boiling coconut oil when they magically expand to almost three time their original size. Drop in and be sure to buy a packet of the tasty, slightly salty, slightly sweet, hardy fishy at all, snacks—you won’t taste fresher. It’s hard to stop at one.
Coconuts are big business around Pangandaran, and every bit of the versatile tree is used for something. One important traditional cottage industry is the production of gula merah or palm sugar, deliciously caramel flavoured fudge-like brown cakes of sweetness ubiquitously used in local cuisine.
Young men are well practiced in the art of scaling coconut trees, and will climb as many as 60 trees a day, to harvest the sap in bamboo (and these days, plastic) containers collected from the flowers of the plant. The nectar is then boiled in large woks over open coconut husk fires, in what would seem to most Westerners very primitive kitchens. It takes around six hours of constant stirring for the clear liquid to turn a golden brown and thicken. The viscous syrup is then poured into bamboo moulds and quickly cools and hardens into the toffee-like block. Once cooled, disks are packed in coconut leaf containers for sale.
You will be offered samples of the sweet palm nectar and the finished product to try. Tourists can purchase a packet for 10,000 rupiah (although it’s somewhat cheaper for locals). Other than the palm sugar you will see piles of mature coconuts being de-husked. The coconut meat is sold for copra and the husks are shredded and cleaned to be used as upholstery padding in spring mattresses and coir doormats.
The owners of the plantations make their money from the copra, and the workers who remove the husks don’t earn a salary, but get to keep the husks and sell them. Additionally you may see villagers weaving the palm leafs for roofing or mats and the spines of the leaf fashioned into traditional brooms. Palm sugar processing can be seen in the village behind Pak Agus’ wayang golek workshop, and several coir processing industries are along the coast road between Pangandaran and Batu Karas.
Hold your nose as you enter Pasar Panajung, Pangandaran’s bustling traditional market, as it’s near the sea the specialty here is dried and salted fish, and lots of it! Besides the smelly sea creatures, a cornucopia of colourful fruits and veggies are on display as well as snacks, clothing and household goods. Vegetarians may want to avoid the meat section.
Friendly folk often offer samples of their produce to try as you wander around and most are happy to be photographed if you ask first. Visiting with an English speaking guide can enhance the experience as they will be able to explain the more unusual items. The market is situated next to the bus terminal about one kilometre from West Beach. Open daily 05:00—20:00 with most of the activity in the mornings.
Cottage Industry Tours, which would also include a visit to Pak Agus’ wayang golek workshop, are usually offered as a daytrip in combination with a visit to Green Canyon. Cost is around 300,000 rupiah per person which includes the boat tip at the canyon. A minimum of two people are required by motorbike and a minimum of four if you wish to use a car.
While many tour operators offer these trips, you can easily rock up yourself with an ojek or taxi driver who knows the way, although you’ll get better explanations from a guide.
Padasuka Krupuk Factory: Jalan Raya Sidamulih (north off Jalan Raya Cilulang near Al Istikmal Mosque)
Pasar Panajung: Jalan Cijulang, Pananjung, Pangandaran
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.