Category Archives: Gorontalo

Street Food: Ilabulo Panigoro

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

Opening hours:
Daily, 3pm – 10pm

Spend: IDR 4,000 / ilabulo



Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Aug 2015 edition

Download it for free here via SCOOP!

Dish That I Crave: Nasi Kebuli of RM Diva, Gorontalo

Ada satu hal yang sebetulnya menggantung di pikiran saya ketika bertandang pertama kalinya ke Sulawesi. Begitu banyak pengaruh budaya ke arah Indonesia timur dari berbagai peradaban namun saya sempat berpikir bahwasanya peradaban Timur Tengah-lah yang paling kurang melakukan penetrasi ke arah ini.

Buktinya memang banyak wilayah Indonesia timur yang memeluk agama selain Islam tapi setelah saya sedikit banyak mengkaji ulang, ternyata peninggalan kebudayaan Islam cukup melekat di beberapa daerah seperti Maluku ataupun Sulawesi Selatan yang terkenal dengan legenda para sultannya.

Tapi setidaknya di wilayah Sulawesi bagian utara yang kebudayaaannya didominasi orang Manado selama ini, saya dahulunya sempat berpikir bahwasanya di bagian ini ternyata agama Islam tidaklah dominan.

Rupanya dugaan tersebut salah, terlebih setelah provinsi Gorontalo muncul ke permukaan setidaknya dalam 15 tahun terakhir. Provinsi yang berpenduduk kurang lebih satu juta orang ini ternyata bermayoritas Muslim dan lebih dari itu, ternyata saya menemukan adanya jejak-jejak pengaruh Arab di sini – tentunya dari segi kuliner.

Maka diajaklah kami pada suatu malam yang cerah di Kota Gorontalo untuk bersantap di Rumah Makan Diva.

Tuan rumah yang menyambut kami adalah para keturunan Arab setelah sekian generasi dan bagi para pewaris ini, tentu apa yang diusungnya dari segi kuliner tidaklah jauh dari kelezatan serta wanginya nasi kebuli dan kambing.

Nasi kebuli
Nasi kebuli

Cukup lezat rupanya dan saya memang selalu suka dengan hidangan nasi berempah apalagi bila ditambah daging kambing balanga. Adanya kehadiran acar juga turut memeriahkan kenikmatan yang telah ditemukan dari hidangan ini.

Tidak lama sayangnya kami bertandang ke sini, tentunya karena kami hendak melanjutkan bersantap di tempat lain. Beberapa pengalaman Gorontalo saya tentunya telah dituliskan dalam beberapa artikel di blog dan di berbagai media lainnya. Kunjungan ke RM Diva rupanya saya khusus tuliskan saja di sini.

Analisis kehadiran kebudayaan Arab di Gorontalo telah dituliskan teman bertualang saya Sutiono Gunadi Kompasiana pada link berikut ini.

Dinantikan kehadirannya di Gorontalo!



Unsuitable for vegetarians

Jalan Panigoro, Kota Gorontalo – Gorontalo, Indonesia

Opening hours:
Daily, TBA

Spend: IDR 25,000 – IDR 50,000 / person

PLAY: Foodie in Gorontalo (JAX, July 2015)

An account of a foodie who searches for savory goodness in Indonesia’s youngest province.

To the north, Gorontalo has the beautiful small islands off coast to the Celebes Sea. Back to the inland, the province has a series of green hills and the lowlands where the seat of government resides in Gorontalo City. From the hustle bustle of the capital of the province to the pristine beaches in the northern regency, there’s always space for anyone seeking for a fun adventure. However for a traveler like me, it involves a lot of food in-between.

Sampling around the archetype Gorontalese recipes is without doubt an experience of its own.

As a tribute to this country’s enormous beauty and hospitality, I dedicated some time to create a mini guide of where to eat in Gorontalo City. From breakfast dishes, the seafood and the traditional cuisines, here is the lineup for you to try while in the capital.

Processed with VSCOcam
Processed with VSCOcam

The iconic yellow rice

With its striking yellow color coming from the turmeric, that type of rice can be richly combined with a plethora of assortments. Indeed, this particular dish remains the best choice for a very Indonesian breakfast on a par with nasi uduk or nasi ulam.

There are two breakfast joints well-known for the nasi kuning, each coming up with a combination that is rarely seen in Java.

Spoil your mouth with the well-known Yellow Rice with its savoury taste.
Steaming hot Tendon Soup will seduce you to eat more of it’s tastiness.

Since 1958, Nasi Kuning Hola pairs its yellow rice with shredded omelets and the savory fish floss. That might sound familiar but Nasi Kuning Hola has breakfast set that includes nasi kuning with a bowl of chicken soup, vermicelli, and a hardboiled egg. That’s already a champion breakfast for you!

Meanwhile at Warung Makan Menanti, the breakfast combination is somewhat more “extreme” but in a very good way. The nasi kuning may only come with a bit of vermicelli on top but it is paired with beef or lamb satay and a huge bowl of beef tendon soup for the whole family! If you are a fan of full of beef tendon mie kocok, then this is right place to have your power breakfast.

Seafood at its best!

Seafood dominates the largest part of Gorontalese diet and that’s why the people here do it best either with traditional grilling or when utilized with traditional recipes.

If you are looking for the former, then stop by after the long flight to have a very fulfilling lunch at Rumah Makan Melki Brazil. Grilling is the restaurant’s specialty and you can sample the freshest snapper, trevally, or garoupa here. The grilled fish is usually combined with Gorontalese stir-fried water spinach and the famous sambal dabu-dabu. Enjoy the super fresh seafood with a view off to the estuary and as far as the open sea, and a calming sea breeze to accompany your lunch; this is no ordinary seafood shack experience that you often encounter in other places.

It’s like a never ending seafood festival, only in Gorontalo.
If you like seafoods and you probably should if you haven’t, you gotta taste the fascinating Tuna Jaw. It’s nothing ordinary.
If you like seafoods and you probably should if you haven’t, you gotta taste the fascinating Tuna Jaw. It’s nothing ordinary.

Feels like having everything tuna for dinner? Then you should come by to Rumah Makan Raja Tuna. True to its name, this “King of Tuna” restaurant serves every part of tuna for its customers. The must-have would be the exotic tuna jaw and sashimi. Yes, you heard that right – tuna jaw and sashimi.
Among the must-not miss from this restaurant are the fried tuna belly, tuna eggs and tuna satays. Be sure to enjoy it with the super fiery sambal. It is, subjectively, the most memorable dinner I ever had in Gorontalo.

Hunting for true local fare

Sampling around the archetype Gorontalese recipes is without doubt an experience of its own. There are a lot of recipes with foreign names and here are among those that represent Gorontalo best.

Firstly, the ilabulo shack on Jalan Pangeran Diponegoro. It’s easy to this place on the side of the street since you can view the smoke from a hundred meters away. The indirectly grilled banana leaves wrapped sago filled with eggs, chicken and spices were once the luxurious treat for Gorontalese royals in the past. It might remind you of lontong at some point, but notice how the sago texture actually works better when combined with this rich filling. It’s a treat for royalty, indeed.

Ilabulo, don’t be fooled by the name because it tastes like the best morning sandwich, only better.
Bilenthango, this food’s name seemed confusing but no it’s just a fish with dressings that tastes really good.

Aside from ilabulo, there’s also Warung Kita’s bilenthango or the grilled tilapia topped with tomatoes, chilies and paired with poki-poki or the eggplants with santan. Last but not least, the binthe biluhuta from RM Syakinah puts the icing on the top of your adventure cake in Gorontalo.

Binthe biluhuta or the santan soup filled with milu pulo or the waxy corn and vegetables is a one big, proud Gorontalese dish and best when in an accompaniment of fried fish over sambal dabu-dabu. There’s no need to add rice. It’s already as good as it looks!


Restaurant addresses:

  1. Nasi Kuning Hola
    Jalan Sutoyo no. 31, Gorontalo City
    +62 435 821 206
  2. Nasi Kuning Warung Makan Menanti
    Jalan Pangeran Diponegoro, Gorontalo City
  3. RM Melki Brazil
    Jalan Yos Sudarso (nearby the harbor), Gorontalo City
    +62 852 5623 3696
  4. RM Raja Tuna
    Pantai Indah Tangga 2000, Gorontalo City
    +62 813 4065 7191
  5. Ilabulo Panigoro
    Jalan Pangeran Diponegoro, Gorontalo City
    +62 852 5644 3879
  6. RM Warung Kita
    Jalan Raya Eyato no. 136, Gorontalo City
    +62 435 826 821
  7. RM Syakinah
    Jalan Abdul Gandhi Payuhi no. 224, Desa Tuladenggi (outskirts of Gorontalo City)
    +62 812 4494 6262


Original link:

Dish That I Crave: All About Tuna at RM Raja Tuna, Gorontalo

If there’s one thing that I miss most among other beautiful things from my trip to Gorontalo was the dinner at RM Raja Tuna. This seafood shack presents everything about tuna!

I can talk to the furthest length when it comes to my trip here but let me highlight the wonders we had during the dinner here.

Firstly, we had the tuna jaw and then the fried tuna belly. Afterwards, we had the tuna satay and all combined with a very fiery sambal and stir-fried water spinach. I swear that if we ordered more for everyone, I’d be the one who will be the last to leave the dinner table.

Oh, please bring me back there. Please!



Unsuitable for vegetarians

Komp. Pantai Indah Tangga 2000, Gorontalo City – Gorontalo, Indonesia
T: +62.852.5644.3879

Opening hours:
Everyday, TBA

Spend: IDR 50,000 – IDR 75,000 / person

Gorontalo, the Ultimate Test of a Food Tour (via Omar Niode Foundation)

It was exactly one year ago that I wrote a 45-page research paper themed Gorontalo as a Food Tourism Destination to earn a Certified Culinary Travel Professional certificate from the World Food Travel Association. The Association also runs a webinar on Starting and Running a Culinary Tour Business.

Since then, as a non-profit organization, the Omar Niode Foundation has arranged a number of events using the research paper as a reference, with some experience posted on this website. A small booklet, Gorontalo, the Charms of Fauna, Flora and Food Travel was an attempt to interest foodies to visit the area.

Gorontalo is not yet famous as foodie destination. It is getting attention for diving spots and is known as the ancestral land of famous Indonesians including the third Indonesian president, a national hero, singers and business moguls. Those who have visited Gorontalo, however, realize that the city has potentials to attract foodies.

The main challenge, as often raised by the World Food Travel Association is whether people would want to travel far to a place to experience the food and drink it has to offer. The city of Gorontalo is 3 hours flying time from Jakarta with a transit in Makassar.

The ultimate test to see the pull of Gorontalo as foodie destination was the Gorontalo Food Tour organized by Arie Parikesit of Kelana Rasa on 8-10 May 2015.

Noor Sitoresmi, Omar Niode Foundation’s chief representative in Gorontalo communicated intensively with Arie, a seasoned culinary guide who has guided dozens of culinary journeys at home and abroad. They worked closely for more than three months for an itinerary that Arie considered fit to be marketed, armed with a clause: “schedule may change, adapted to conditions on the ground.”

It was touch and go for a while because the trip could not go on if there were less than 15 people listed. Finally at 6.00 AM on Friday May 8 we, a group of travelers, assembled at Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta for a food tour to Gorontalo, a city that is celebrating its 287th birthday.


The Kelana Rasa group arrived in Gorontalo, population 180 000, past lunchtime under sunny sky and transported by a mini bus straight to Bantayo Poboide, a traditional house in the center Limboto sub-district. Literally “bantayo” means building and “poboide” means a meeting place. Bantayo Poboide is taken apart as a symbol of Gorontalo culture and also has a function as a place for arts and cultures activities.

In contrast, not far from Bantayo Poboide stands Menara Keagungan, the Majestic Tower, a 65-meter Eiffel like structure built in 2001 but has since lost its luster.

On the way to lunch, Noor distributed bottles of cold mineral water and warm lalampa, sticky rice filled with spicy tuna, wrapped in banana leaves. Passing hills, rice fields and the city center, Arief Ismail a school teacher taught the group some Gorontalo words. If someone asked you: wololo habari? (how are you?) answer with: piyo piyohu (fine).

Seafood galore

Starving we arrived at RM Melky Brazil, a simple eatery overlooking Gorontalo Bay. Nevertheless, the lunch spread was not simple at all, as we enjoyed super fresh seafood like goropa bakar (grilled grouper), ikan goreng kakap merah (fried red snapper), kuah asam ikan batu (sour stone fish soup) and the legendary wokured snapper. Woku is a gravy dish made from15 herbs and spices including ginger, turmeric, lemon grass, lemon leaves, and candle nut.

Melky also served tilumiti lo kando (sauteed water spinach) accompanied by very hot dabu-dabu, a salsa like condiment but tastier due to several spoonful of home made coconut oil and a taste of lime juice. The group was impressed with the cooking method where in some cases, except for woku, Melky does not need extra herbs and spices due to the fish freshness.

There is no better way to cool off in the 30 degree Celcius temperature than Regina Bakery & Café, a trendy hang out place. It sells fruit salads, some Chinese food, toasted sandwiches and juices. Our aim however was its es cukur, shaved ice desserts, specifically Es Meralda, a bowl full of shaved ice, durian, red bean and chocolate syrup that give unique flavor combination.

Thirst quenched, our next visit was to Olivia Resto owned by Ester Kalangi, to watch pia pastry making and to savor a selection of crusty chocolate, cheese and mung bean pia, fresh from the oven. Pia by carts left the shop as well-liked goodies from Gorontalo.

Sweet tooth satisfied, we headed to Jalan Panigoro. From afar it looked like there were some houses caught on fire, it turned out that street vendors were grilling ilabulo (chicken, egg and sago wrap in banana leaves) on coconut shells. Ilabulo was a favorite snack of Gorontalo kings in the bygone era and is now a popular street food, Warm, chewy, spicy characters are powerful combination for ilabulo assault, as some of us gobbled three to four packs of this delight.

Close to dusk it was time to have a short break and the group checked in at New Melati Hotel located in the city center facing Taruna Remaja Square. The square is popular among locals and can be distinguished for its iconic statue of Gorontalo national hero Nani Wartabone, and often packed with communities organizing gatherings and those taking part in outdoor exercises.

Cultural heritage

New Melati is a modern expansion of Hotel Velberg, the first hotel in Gorontalo built by Hendrik Velberg, a Dutch shahbandar (port master) more than a century ago. The Velberg family still owns and manages the hotel, listed in Lonely Planet Guidebook as a meeting point and an accommodation of choice for divers heading to the Togean Islands.

 Photo: KITLV

Back in the 16th century, Gorontalo was the center of Islamic teaching in the eastern part of Indonesia and a well-known port for traders from China and Saudi Arabia. We can still trace the Arabic culinary influence in RM Diva. Owned by Hamid Basalamah and Munifah, Diva is famous for its sate kambing garo balanga (cubes of grilled lamb dish) and nasi kebuli (fragrant lamb rice). Hamid revealed the secret of his small business. It serves dishes made of free-range mountain lamb that he termed fitness lamb. He swears that the taste would be different if the main ingredient is not free range.

All things tuna

Reminded that the Diva trip is only for food tasting the group held its appetite intact and headed to Tangga 2000, a spot overlooking Gorontalo Bay, to enjoy jagung putungo, spicy roasted corns with grated coconut and slices of banana blossom, grilled on candlenut shells.

Raja Tuna, The King of Tuna was our next destination where we had all things tuna dinner with tuna satay, rahang tuna (grilled tuna jaw), dada tuna (fried tuna breasts), and slices of raw fish “sashimi” Gorontalo style. The place was unbelievable packed with visitors, but fortunately Noor Sitoresmi had called days in advance with the menu order, even though not all had a chance to taste the grilled tuna jaw. As the food is prepared from scratch, sometimes it takes more than an hour until orders arrived especially for food.

It was a long first day as some members of the group left home around 5.00 AM for the early flight to Gorontalo, but most were enthusiastic awaiting the second day.

The members of Kelana Rasa Group for the Gorontalo Food Tour come from different backgrounds encompassing IT professional, environmentalists, journalists, bankers, consultants, traders, event organizers, home makers and retirees. Such variety makes good conversations especially since most are food enthusiasts.


The second day began with a 6.00 AM breakfast at RM Sabar Menanti. As an old eatery, its popularity is high. It offers a variety of dishes including lontong sayur (rice cakes served with coconut milk curry & vegetables),nasi campur (rice with a number of side dishes), and nasi goreng (fried rice), but most people go there for the famous nasi kuning Hola (turmeric-based rice).

This common Indonesian dish is served with a twist. In this eatery, the nasi kuning is served with fish, a pleasurable clear soup and hard-boiled egg to go along with it. It also comes with deadly chili sauce. Flavorsome, inexpensive, and with fast service, this place even plane-packs the food for travelers to bring back home.

Cote D’azur of Gorontalo

Arie Parikesit said that Kelana Rasa often has surprises for its travelers, such as a vist to an eatery not on the agenda or an extra ice cream. After huddling with Noor Sitoresmi and rearranging some items on the itinerary for Arie’s approval, the surprise for the Gorontalo Food Tour was humongous, a trip to beautiful Saronde Island on Sulawesi Sea in North Gorontalo.

As this is a food tour, on the 90 minutes road trip to the Port of Kwandang and the 30 minutes boat ride to the island we snacked on apang bale (steamed cake made of rice flour filled with durian, palm sugar and young coconut), cucur (bowsprit cake with palm sugar), potato donut, and cara isi (savory custard cake), all made by Sartin Ishak in Talaga known as Ta Uchi.

Saronde Island maybe a match for Cote D’Azur, the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also known as the French Riviera for its white sandy beaches, and amazing blue and green hues of the sea. Noor arranged for two cooler boxes full of iced bottled water, and fruits to replenish the body minerals.

Walking along the beach, sleeping on soft white sands and swimming in the cool water made all of us hungry and patiently waited for ikan batu bakar (grilled stone fish), ikan batu bala rica (spicy split stone fish), ayam iloni (grilled chicken with coconut milk and 10 types of herbs and spices, including candlenut), tilumiti lo kando (sautéed water spinach), and dabu-dabu.

Binthe biluhuta and the forts

Two hours on the island was just not enough but we had a full program ahead of us, hence we reluctantly sailed back to the Port of Kwandang towards the city of Gorontalo.

Assisted by Omar Niode Foundation’s friends Budi Akantu and Rahman Dako, Arie Parikesit was scheduled to speak at RRI Gorontalo, a branch of the National Public Radio, to introduce Kelana Rasa, and the benefits local food travel. He did not want to miss a visit to RM Syakinah for binthe biluhuta, Gorontalo traditional corn soup, with milu pulo (waxy corn) and ikan oci bakar (grilled spicy mackerel). Ibu Sunarti, Syakinah mom entertained us all with binthe biluhuta cooking demo. The group was even allowed to visit the kitchen to see how the eatery produced home made coconut oil, an must ingredient for most of Gorontalo dishes.

A small eatery that provides a selection of Gorontalo foods was the next target for tasting bilenthango, fish split cooked with spices accompanied by pilitode lo poki-poki (eggplant cooked in coconut milk). In preparing bilenthango, one usually fries the fish with a small amount of oil on top of a layer of banana leaves. To keep the fish intact its scales should not be fully cleaned and the fish is only fried on one side with splash of hot oil to cook the spices on top of the fish.

Prior to a short break at the New Melati hotel the group visited the Otahana fort near Lake Limboto, 8 km from the city center. According to history, in 15th century, Portuguese sailors stopped in Gorontalo because of bad weather, pirate threat and lack of foods. They offered the then King of Gorontalo to build three forts on top of hills to protect the area. The uniqueness of the forts lies in the materials used to build them, which was a mixture of sand, plaster and the white part of the endemic Maleo bird (Macrocephalon maleo) eggs.

The panorama of Limboto Lake also can be seen clearly from the Fort of Otanaha that stands on the top of a highland. Adjacent to the Otanaha fort, there are two more forts: Otahiya and Ulupahu.

Mini food festival

The highlight of Kelana Rasa Gorontalo Food Tour was a Mini Food Festival in a century old heritage house not far from New Melati. It was a cozy gathering with local food experts, journalists and coffee farmers. Noor prepared walimah, a two-meter bamboo structure with decorated tiny poles full of traditional snacks.Walimah is usually consumed in Gorontalo on Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

The heritage house was decorated with a number of tables full of Gorontalo delicacies.

Snack table : Biyapo ayam (pao/steamed bun filled with chicken), biyapo unti (pao filled with shredded young coconut mixed in palm sugar wapili (waffle), popolulu (sweet potato, grated coconut and palm sugar),aliyadala (grated cassava, shredded coconut and palm sugar), dumalo (weaved sweet potato and palm sugar), curuti (crispy and sweet egg rolls) , kacang dan pisang (roasted peanuts and banana), milu pulo (waxy corn), pisang goroho (wild banana), and permen soba (palm sugar candy).

Main table : Abon ayam moronggi (slow cooked shredded chicken, with spices and coconut, cooked for 10 hours), kare ayam (chicken curry), sate balanga (marinated satay cooked in frying pan), sate sapi rica bawang(beef satay with chili and onion), sambal goreng daging ala Gorontralo (fried chopped beef, chili and dried vermicelli), sambal goreng putungo (banana blossom, chili and dried vermicelli), sop lo hulondhalo (traditional rich soup), pilitode lo paku (fern with coconut milk), fried payangga (endemic fish from Lake Limboto) and, tabu moyitomo (black soup with 30 herbs and spices) and nasi tumpeng Gorontalo (cone shaped turmeric rice with assorted side dishes).

Dessert table: Tobu’u (boat shaped cake in pandan leaves), gohu (semi ripe papaya with vinegar), omu(young coconut with palm sugar), es sirsak (iced soursop), and Kopi Pinogu, an organic coffee, a favorite of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (1880-1962).

While some in the group felt content and sleepy after consuming an assortment of food and took a five minutes walk to the hotel, the younger travelers chatted until midnight and as practiced in Gorontalo, scrambled for the traditional snacks in walimah.


On the last day, the group was ready for more trips as at noon they had to be ready at the airport. What a surprise to see that Taruna Remaja Square was full of street food vendors selling stuff not found in Java such as bubur ayam sagela (chicken porridge with garfish).

We only had a few minutes to take some shots before heading to Tempat Pelelangan Ikan, Gorontalo fish auction blocks. Shouts and screams of the fisher folks welcomed us offering tuna fish, crabs, squids and nike fish just harvested the night before.

Nike and Karawo

According to Syamsul Huda Syuhari, a journalist in Gorontalo, nike (gobies) surface in the waters of Gorontalo Bay once a month during the new moon. Although the nike fish is small, ranging from 2 to 8 centimeters long, Gorontalo fishers always welcome them, as the small fish is a high-priced delicacy.

Nasi kuning is a daily breakfast in Gorontalo while in Java it is only for special occasions. We traveled to Jalan Diponegoro near where the ilabulo vendors set up shop. The place is a simple residential house with no sign and only four communal tables in its living room. The food taste however is incomparable to any place that we have been. We ordered nasi kuning with vermicelli and skipjack on top, lamb satay, beef satay, and bone marrow soup. It was really a rich and sinfully delicious breakfast feared by many due to its cholesterol content.

Karawo is a traditional embroidered crafts from Gorontalo, the result of perseverance, hard work, and skill of artisans. The embroidery process itself is handmade and known as mokarawo, an art that has been handed down from generation to generation from the 17th century until today. We visited Cahaya Kerawang, an outlet for beautiful pieces of karawo and traditional hats made famous by Gus Dur, Indonesia’s fourth president,

Interestingly the motifs of karawo inspired bakers in the area to produce Karawo cookies, snacks presented at gatherings and popular as takeaways from Gorontalo. The best are cookies produced by Ms Telda Muli in Siendeng area, the southern part of the city. The cookies are too beautifully decorated to eat that we bought several jars for souvenirs.

We rushed back to New Melati to pack and laughed all the way to the airport as most have bulging luggage and extra carry-on bags.


Since it was lunch time, we stopped by Prima Rasa an eatery near the airport to pick up lunch boxes filled with iloni grilled chicken, ilabulo, some vegetables and peanuts. Duduli was the last Gorontalo delicacy relished by the group. Made from glutinous rice, coconut milk, palm sugar and crushed peanuts, duduli is a traditional welcome and farewell snack.

When it was time to board the flight back to Jakarta, some were not ready to leave the memory of Gorontalo Food Tour behind, making Noor Sitoresmi busy receiving orders of food to be sent to Jakarta.

Our experience emphasized what the World Tourism Organization has underscored: communication plays an important role in food tourism success. Destinations must articulate a credible and authentic narrative of their food tourism offerings.

Culinary champions

Travelers started their activities since the planning stage where they begin to be interested in an area, gather information, and try to get the best deal. The involvement with the destination may end when travelers share their positive and negative through social networks.

Gorontalo may not be ready for a prime tourism destination but Kelana Rasa has proven the city’s readiness for food travel destination, provided there are culinary champions like Noor Sitoresmi and her team who explore the culinary gems of Gorontalo and anticipate everything from arrival to departure of the travelers.

Noor’s tenacity is no wonder for some who have known her as she has worked on a national scale for many years in hospitality and entertainment industry. The highest appreciation however goes to the 16 travelers brave enough to venture into the unknown territory of foodie destination, tasted more than 70 local food items and hopefully rewarded by a memorable experience, the essence of food travel.


Text: Amanda Niode

Images: Donald Wahani, Omar Niode Foundation