For hundreds of years, ilabulo has been known as a royal treat of Gorontalese kings of olden times. Now, it is ubiquitous and loved by many. Follow me as I discovered why this treat is a must try while you are in Gorontalo.
It is commonplace to find delicacies encased with banana leaves in many regions of Indonesia. From sweets, snacks, steamed or grilled seafood, and many more; this country is in dire and constant need of banana leaves every single day.
Visiting Gorontalo was a personal eye-opening experience. Exactly in the heart of the province’s capital, pushcarts are competing against each other in this snack-wrapped-with-banana-leaves business. Initially I thought it would be another lontong or something else familiar, but apparently, Gorontalo has a history with this one.
This treat is called ilabulo and for hundreds of years, it was appropriated only as snacks for the royal families. Time passes by and like anywhere in the world, people are now in possession of prized delicacies which were once belong only for the haves.
Intrigued, I asked to be taken to the place where they sell the best ilabulo in town and the one in Jalan Panigoro was the one referred by many.
Just a couple of blocks from the town center, Jalan Panigoro is a street where you would find the gems of Gorontalo City cuisines. From Rumah Makan Diva as the successor of Middle East heritage cuisine of this province with its famous nasi kebuli to Warung Makan Menanti with its nasi kuning, lamb satay, and tendon soup, a visit Jalan Panigoro should top your priority list while in Gorontalo.
And now here’s Ilabulo Panigoro. The street vendor is located not far from the aforementioned restaurants and conveniently located in an intersection. It is easy to actually detect where it is from the smoke that it produced – which can be seen from 50-100 meters ahead.
So what is so special about the ilabulo here?
First of all, ilabulo is made from sago flour which makes the whole texture mildly chewy. The delicate filling is what that makes ilabulo deserved to be called as the kingly snack. There’s a mixture of finely chopped chicken’s gizzard, hard-boiled egg, and boldly combined ingredients such as garlic, ginger, pepper, with bird-eye chilies. Santan, of course, plays an important role as well here.
After all of the ingredients were mixed together, the ilabulo is then wrapped with leaves, and grilled by using coconut shells. This one vendor in Jalan Panigoro can deal with hundreds of orders every day (or even thousands at times!) and the crews are grilling tens of ilabulo at a time, thus explaining why the smokes can be seen from afar!
When the grilling is done, it is highly recommended to start digging right away. After you peel the leaves off; you will swiftly trace a very inviting, smoky scent out of the ilabulo. The sago flour has turned darker and a bit firmer but as I took my first bite, it was unlike anything I have ever tasted before.
There’s a strange sensation coming from the unusual texture for a Sundanese like me who is too familiar with rice or expecting another lontong-like experience from this. The filling was tremendously powerful. It was a blend of spiciness and pure pleasure coming from the umami.
The combination of the gizzards and the hard-boiled egg was a successful one here. This time, I fell in love with the gizzard, since it is something that I cannot normally enjoy on other dishes.
It was simply memorable. Ilabulo quickly refutes the assumption that Gorontalese people are only known best with seafood. No, they can also create great dishes from other ingredients as well. This one little treat here is a masterpiece like no other.
Unsuitable for vegetarians
Jalan Panigoro (right on the intersection, look for the smokes), Gorontalo City – Gorontalo, Indonesia
Daily, 3pm – 10pm
Spend: IDR 4,000 / ilabulo
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Aug 2015 edition
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