Rice Cakes Never Tasted Like This

After our return to our hotel from Borobodor and a sumptuous breakfast buffet, we put all our things on the bus and drove a short distance to a small village where we climbed into open-air horse carts, two passengers per cart, and rode on small paved lanes through the village of Wanurejo, observing daily village life. Roosters walking on the sides of the road, crowing, big piles of rock and sand waiting for construction projects. Many small homes advertising home stays. Rice drying on blankets on the ground. Homes of bricks and bamboo. Small children running out, “Hallo!” People smiling at our “Selamat Siang.” Good late morning to you. A beautiful young man on a scooter with his eight-month old baby riding in front—the youngest child I’ve seen on a scooter so far.

We stopped at two small local businesses, both run by women. A small craft making shop where I bought pencils with faces and clothes for my granddaughter and a small wooden horse for my youngest grandson. And then we stopped at a rice cracker factory—a local, small home business run by Bu Yatin, a widow who began this business to become self-supporting after her husband died fifteen to twenty years ago. Her business is unusual—one in that she’s a woman, and secondly, because almost everyone who lives in proximity to Borobodur works in tourism. Bu Yatin is self-starting entrepreneur who has created a product that has nothing to do with tourism. She sells mostly to locals—and wholesales to people who export her rice crackers to eager customers in Malaysia and the Middle East.

After we walked into her sweet, simple factory, Roy explained the whole process of making rice cakes. We even got to try our hand at molding them into shape—it was a lot harder than it looked!

Here are the steps to making Bu Yatin’s rice cakes, which were far, far superior to the dry cardboard things they pass off as rice cakes in the United States. They were so delicious. I bought a double package and couldn’t stop eating them.

Here’s the whole process:

1. Buy sticky rice. This rice costs 1.5 times the amount of the daily life that is so much a staple of every meal in Indonesia.

2. Soak in water for three hours.

3. Steam it until it gets soft.

4. Add grated garlic and salt for the spicy variety and a little sugar for the sweet variety.

5. Steam again quickly to integrate the flavors.

6. Mold into the right shape.

7. Dry in the sun for 2-3 days, depending on the weather.

8. Fry quickly.

9. Package and sell.

10. Eat. Yum.

Take a look at this workplace and the wonderful people who work in this business. Check out the photos below. It’s unlike any factory you’ve ever seen before.

Bu Yatin, rice cake entrepreneur.

Assembly line.

Practiced hands.

Ready for drying.

Full tray.

This was hard! And the rice was hot.

Evelyn Hall giving it a try.

Wood fire to steam rice cakes.

Drying rack.

Happy welcoming proprietor.

Roy with the workers.

The store was in the adjacent room. I liked the sweet ones best.

The benefits of one woman entrepreneur.

What a sweet way to tour a village!

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