Ketan Hitam

Ark of taste
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Ketan hitam, which means “black sticky rice” in Indonesian, is a glutinous variety of japonica rice (Oryza sativa) that has played an important role in the food cultures of Java, Bali, Sumatra (where it is known as pulut hitam), and other parts of Indonesia for centuries, largely because of its many health benefits. This variety’s dark color—which is actually purple, not black—is due to the presence of anthocyanins, the same antioxidant compounds that give blueberries and many other purple and red fruits and vegetables their color. It is rich in dietary fiber, protein, vitamin E, and iron, and was used traditionally as a medicinal food to treat such ailments as anemia.

Ketan hitam is highly aromatic, and has a pleasantly chewy texture and nutty flavor. It is the primary ingredient in a number of sweet dishes, such as bubur ketan hitam (known in Bali as bubur injun), a porridge made with coconut milk and sugar; and is also used to make lemang (glutinous rice cooked inside a bamboo tube lined with banana leaf) and tape ketan hitam (fermented sticky rice).

In recent decades, thanks to ever-growing demands for cheap rice and a decreasing availability of agricultural land due to urban development, many farmers have abandoned ketan hitam in favor of improved white rice varieties that are higher yielding and can be harvested multiple times each year. While ketan hitam has, over the past few years, started to gain popularity among health-conscious consumers, the average Indonesian often finds it too costly and views it as a specialty food, rather than as a staple. It is important to promote ketan hitam, not only as a luxury item, but also as a household ingredient that can contribute to a balanced and fulfilling diet. If consumers are willing to pay the higher prices for it, farmers will have an incentive to keep growing ketan hitam, which has been an important functional food and delicacy in Indonesia for generations.

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Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Helianti Hilman