Prambanan, located just a few miles outside the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. Built in the ninth century by the Hindu dynasty that ruled Java at the time, it consists of a large compound that centers on three shrines dedicated to the deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. At its height, the elaborate complex included hundreds of temples and residences to accomodate the throng of priests, scholars and disciples who worked there. The buildings are covered with intricate carvings portraying stories from Hindu mythology and scenes from the great epic Ramayana.
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and dynastic wars led to the gradual collapse and abandonment of Prambanan by the fifteenth century. As the Javanese converted to Islam much of the religious significance of the temple ruins was forgotten, to be replaced by legends about an army of demons who had conjured up the buildings. It was only in the twentieth century that efforts were begun to painstakingly repair and rebuild these great temples.
Today Prambanan is one of Indonesia’s biggest tourist attractions, with its main temples restored to the glorious state they were in a millennium ago. The ruins of the smaller temples that once surrounded this core still lie on the ground, giving you an idea of the massive extent of the ancient site and reconstruction efforts. In the evening, on a nearby open air stage, actors perform a ballet that recounts the tales of the Ramayana using Javanese dance and music styles accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. For Indian visitors like us, it was a moving experience to hear stories that are such an essential part of our lives, recounted in such beautiful, exotic surroundings.
To explore the temples of Prambanan, base yourself in the nearby bustling city of Yogyakarta. In between marveling at nearby epic historic sights, you can also shop here for handmade batiks, local spices and handicrafts or visit the fresh market, brimming with just picked fruit and vegetables or catch a riveting ballet performance of the Ramayana.
Yogyakarta is well known for it’s distinctive dishes that are sweetened with local Gula Jawa (palm sugar). Warungs or family owned roadside eateries are very popular and a great way to experience local flavour. The food here is always freshly prepared and is never expensive! Sit alongside families of regulars in a shaded veranda overlooking rice fields and enjoy dishes like sambal grilled fish, sate babi (pork satay), gado gado (salad with peanut sauce) and lumpia (crisp spring rolls), all served with generous helpings of nasi goreng (fried rice)!
Nasi Goreng accompanies many of the dishes served in Indonesia and is simple to make at home. Its characteristic feature is the slightly sweet taste and rich dark colour from Ketjap manis, the traditional sweet soy sauce. Feel free to add more vegetables of your choice or sauteed chicken and shrimp and top it all with a runny fried egg for extra decadence! You can also pair it with Swordfish Satay Skewers or Lamb Satay Skewers for a delicious meal.
Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
2 eggs, beaten
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh hot red chilies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) or use
2 tbsp dark soy + 1 tbsp brown sugar
4 cups loosely packed cooked rice, preferably chilled
2 tbsp rice vinegar or fresh lime juice
4 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped/crushed roasted peanuts, optional
Sliced cucumber and tomatoes for garnish
Heat 1 tbsp oil in frying pan over medium high heat. Add eggs, make an omelet. Sliver omelet, reserve.
Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large non stick skillet over high heat, then add onions and sweet red pepper, stir-fry 3 - 4 minutes, until lightly softened. Add garlic and chilies and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir-fry until rice is heated through and lightly fried, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ketjap manis or soy and sugar as well as rice vinegar or lime juice, reserved omelet, scallions and coriander until combined well and heated through. Sprinkle peanuts over top (if using) and serve garnished with cucumber and tomato slices and a wedge of lime.