Going Bananas

This blog post is about all of the bananas that I’ve eaten in Indonesia. Ironically enough, I am eating a banana as I start this post to get into character and whatnot.

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Going Bananas. Day 1.

My first full day at site in Surabaya was on August 25th 2016. Since then, my life has unpeeled in a strange way.

On the evening of the 25th, I met my next door neighbor who is an 80-something-year-old grandmother. She is from Central Java and speaks a very different kind of Javanese than the other people in Surabaya. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying but she grabbed my wrist and invited me into her house. My other neighbor, Eva, who lives across the street from me and is my age joined too. Eva helped translate what this older woman was saying. Through Eva, the old woman told me I could call her “Nenek” which means grandmother. Nenek assured me the food she made was vegetarian and in true grandmother fashion, she stuffed me with food.  She gave me rice, tofu, sauteed eggplants and mini bananas. Eva told me that Nenek kept asking if I had pots, plates, pots, water, food, bed sheets and more for my house. She was offering to give me those things which was extremely nice! I respectfully declined but I couldn’t escape the bananas. 

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Pisang Mas
That night, Nenek sent me home with about 15-20 mini bananas. They’re called “pisang mas”. They are mini, golden bananas that are really sweet. I am a huge fan! But of course, this was the only food that I had in my fridge so I only ate bananas for the next few days.

Over the next day or two I had multiple conversations with neighbors that went something like this:

“Sudah makan?”  (“Have you eaten?”)

“Yes!”

“Makan apa?” (What did you eat?”)

“Pisang!” (“Bananas!”)

“Ohhh ahhhh laaaaa….” (“Oh…I see….”)

The neighbor(s) then gave me funny looks but still smiled. I’m pretty sure they were thinking, “Who the eff is this weird foreigner that looks Indian and doesn’t eat rice for every meal?”  Whomp. I didn’t understand until later that eating just fruit for breakfast, lunch, or dinner is practically taboo. It’s not a meal in Indonesia until you eat rice.

With my limited Bahasa Indonesia skills, I could explain to my neighbors that I don’t eat meat. This confused them. However, every time I talked to them or every time I saw them, I was eating bananas. My neighbors quickly concluded that I was addicted to bananas.

In Indonesian and Javanese culture, like many other cultures, sharing food is a sign of hospitality. My Javanese neighbors wanted to welcome me and show me that they cared…..this triggered the flood of bananas.

My neighbors were handing me bananas left and right. Eva’s family gave me more bananas when I went to their house. Then on another day, two other neighbor girls named Ida and Lucy invited me to their house. Their mom made me fried bananas. After this, I went home to find that Nenek left a bag of steamed bananas hanging on my fence for me.

Oh my god. I had so many bananas. What the heck did I do with them? I took them to school.

At school the next day, I literally had a pile of bananas on my desk. I didn’t want them to go bad so I sat there eating about 10-15 bananas in one day and my teacher Ibus and Bapaks at school were looking at me like “Wow! This girl must really love bananas!!!!”

They teachers also quickly learned about my vegetarian lifestyle because I refused almost all the food that I was handed. They were very confused by my eating habits.

“What do we feed her?” they thought.

–see pile of bananas on Krupa’s desk–

“BANANAS!” they thought at once. (or at least that’s how I imagine it in my head!)

BRING ON THE BANANAS.

I received more bananas. I was showered in bananas. If I had a jar of peanut butter for every banana I’ve been gifted, I’d have enough peanut butter to make lunch peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for every American child from grades k-12 for a whole year. I’m being a bit dramatic…but for real, I had a LOT of bananas. Unfortunately, I didn’t kept count.  

I’ve also had people leave various banana products on my desk. Yes, I had secret banana admirer who I now know as the notorious Boo Putri, the math teacher. She always leaves fried bananas on my desk!!!!! There are also random Ibus leaving bunches of bananas or other banana-related foods on my desk. Sometimes I know who put them there. Sometimes, I don’t know who put them there. When Dhrumit came to visit, he too was showered in all the banana-y goodness. Seven months into this grant, my teachers and neighbors are still giving me bunches and bunches of bananas. Some people have changed things up a bit and have started to leave things like dragon fruit, nasi pecel, cakes and more. I’m responding in the only way that I can. I eat random things I find on my desk! 

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A Giant Orange, Jeruk Bali, was left on my desk by a Pak

Summary, people gave me bananas. I ate the bananas. The only thing other people saw me eat were bananas. Then they gave me more bananas. I had to eat these bananas because they would go bad. More people saw me eat bananas. More people gave me bananas. It was a cycle.

Moral of the story is that I’ve eaten a lot of bananas here and my potassium levels are probably as high as my cholesterol (from eating all the fried stuff I eat here).

This story is bananas. I love it. It’s hilarious and sweet! The specific banana gifting situation that I’ve experienced is rare but what is not rare is the kindness of Indonesian people. My neighbors and teachers giving me bananas symbolizes the culture’s eagerness to share with strangers. It’s beautiful. I really enjoy it and I love my banana gift givers! I’m glad I have a funny banana story that I can take home and remember for the rest of my life.

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My neighbor Eva and her son Wafi gave me some bananas the other night

**note, I haven’t bought any bananas for myself in Indonesia. All bananas have been shared/given to me.

**another note, regardless of how many bananas I share with people, I seem to have an infinite supply of bananas


All Things Banana

Here are some of the types of bananas that I’ve tried or banana-related foods that have been left on my desk by mysterious-secret admirer-banana givers. We’ve got fried bananas, big banana, little bananas and more. Apparently Indonesia has 20 types of banana species!

Pisang Raja aka “King Bananas”- big bananas

Pisang Kepok – bananas used for baby food

Pisang Mas aka  “Golden Bananas” – mini cute baby bananas and the sweetest bananas out there

Pisang Susu aka “Milk Bananas”- slightly bigger than pisang mas but regular banana flavor

Pisang Raja Nangka aka “King, Jackfruit-esque Bananas” – used for

Pisang Ambon – Banana that looks like “King, Jackfruit-esque Banana but is sweeter and used for cakes or breads

Pisang Ijo aka “Green Bananas” – bananas that are green and more potato like than banana-y 

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Pisang Ijo..I think?

Pisang Goreng aka “Fried Bananas” – bananas deep fried in funnel cake-like batter then covered in chocolate, heavy condensed milk, sprinkles and cheese. Yes, cheese but a weird processed cheese that doesn’t melt. As a connoisseur of cheese, I refute the idea that processed cheese is cheese but this weird “cheese” works compliments the fried bananas. It looks pretty gross but the warm, fried crunchiness of the bananas and the sweetness of the chocolate and the slight saltiness of the cheese is wonderful. 

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Pisang Goreng

Pisang Bakar aka “Grilled Bananas” – bananas grilled then served with chocolate or heavy condensed milk

Pisang Rebus aka “Steamed Bananas” – unripe bananas steamed in the skin, generally thicker and more starchy than regular bananas

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Pisang Rebus

Sale Pisang – bananas cut into long slices then smothered in sugar and dried, sort of chewy

Kripik Pisang aka “Banana Chips” – unripe bananas sliced thin then fried and salted

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Kripik Pisang

Isi Pisang – banana wrapped in a spring roll wrapped with chocolate then fried

Pisang Molen aka “Cement-Mixer Truck Shaped Banana” – banana empanada-esque sorta thing wrapped in a dough then fried

Es Pisang Ijo or Es Palu Butung aka “Green Banana with Ice” – a banana dessert from Makassar, Sulawesi where a banana is boiled in a green pandan dough wrapper and chopped up then served with pink tapioca pearls, rice flour and banana custard, pink syrup, heavy condensed milk and coconut milk (recipes vary but the place I go to makes it like this) 

Nogosari – a sweet Javanese snack where a banana is embedded in rice flour batter then steamed within a banana leaf–BANANA INCEPTION

Kolak Pisang – a Javanese dessert soup with banana, sweet potato and cassava (sometimes jack fruit too) boiled in coconut milk with palm sugar but warning, it will make you feel like you ate 4 meals from one bowl!

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Kolak made by an Ibu at school

Botok –  Javanese dish made of shredded coconut, banana heart (the purple thing that grows on banana bunches), chilies, tofu, and tempe. Sometimes this is vegetarian but sometimes it contains teri which is a type of fish…this is how I ended up with a fish eyeball in my food -___-

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Botok sold by a vendor at school

Anyway, I’ve also had banana flavored candies, banana flavored milk and banana flavored cakes and have even eaten food on banana leaves. This stuff is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Ironic Banana Things:

Cooking Contest at Camp

I actually went camping with my students for a school field trip this weekend and there was a cooking contest. As I walked around looking at what the students were making, I saw fried bananas, grilled bananas, banana chocolate pancakes, banana dumplings, banana pancakes and more. It felt surreal. I felt like I was on a comedy show where everyone was playing a joke on me. All 200 plus students were definitely in on it. Turns out, the theme of the cooking contest was to cook foods with bananas, cassavas and potatoes. That’s why most students used bananas. Of course, they asked me to judge this!

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I’ve never eaten so much fried stuff in my life

Banana Paraphernalia

Even my students are taunting me with bananas. They also put me in a cottage called “Banana Cottage” during the field trip we took in December to Trawas. 

P.S. I had to throw this in here

Because what’s a blog post without my favorite bintang (star)? Shout out to Kelly!

Also, so you understand that severity of this banana thing–I was just offered a banana cake by a Pak as I was editing this piece. That’s all for now! Sending y’all lots of love and bananas!


Is banana the new orange? Ask Sally. 

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