Best Eats: Labuan Bajo Celebrity Foodie Recommendations

Best Eats: Labuan Bajo Celebrity Foodie Recommendations

A sought after destination for honeymooners, Labuan Bajo is also a delicious getaway destination for your taste buds.

The quaint fishing town of Labuan Bajo is located in the island of Flores, home to the colorful Manggarai tribe. With pristine waters and scenic landscapes, the up and coming destination is also home to the Bajo sea gypsies, who are known for their spiritual connection with nature. 

Getting to Labuan Bajo’s Komodo International Airport from Jakarta takes around 4 hours by flight. From there, it only takes 20 minutes to get to the central part of town where you can start your culinary journey.

Labuan Bajo is a paradise on earth for adventure lovers and with its wonderful cuisine, it's an undisputed Best Ever Eats destination. Soak in the wonderful flavors of its delights with these recommendations by your favorite AFN foodies. 

Ili Sulaiman, Chef & TV Host

Recommendation: Ikan Kuah Asam

Fall in love with the warm and comforting flavors of Ikan Kuah Asam

Popular around the island of Flores, Ikan Kuah Asam is an iconic dish that’s loved throughout the region. This vibrant dish is a soury, soupy sensation that juxtaposes the fresh flavors of the fish. With bright colors and a wholesome taste, there’s no doubt that every dish is cooked with a whole lot of love. 

Making the dish requires you to saute garlic and shallots until fragrant, adding in kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass for aromatics and mixing in the sour by pouring in tamarind water, a splash of lime and sweet basil leaves. The key to creating the dish is getting the right amount of sourness and of course, using freshly caught fish. 

While you can get a sour fish dish just about anywhere in Indonesia, there’s nothing like Ikan Kuah Asam in Labuan Bajo. Many say it’s because of the special Bajo touch, as the fish used to prepare is typically caught by hand. Due to their special connection with the sea, legend has it that these Bajo fishermen are actually fish whisperers, as they can call the fish just with a few knocks on their boat.

William Wongso, Culinary Expert

Recommendation: Nasi Jagung

Nasi jagung isn’t your run of the mill rice dish and ubiquitously found in Flores

For many Indonesians, rice is life and a meal without rice is simply not considered a meal. In Labuan Bajo, nasi jagung is a nutritious, savory spinoff of the typical bowl of rice. As corn was a staple crop that harvested bountifully in the dry lands of Labuan Bajo, the dish was introduced after rice became a mandatory crop and the locals began to mix the two together. 

With mild flavors that complement the intense, flavorful dishes of the region, making this dish requires 4 simple ingredients: mashed yellow white corn, a splash of coconut milk, grated coconut and rice. Mix it all together and steam it away, and let the fragrance of the rice tantalize your taste buds. 

Yuda Bustara, Chef & Culinary Diplomat

Recommendation: Rumpu Rampe

Colorful, nourishing and heavily rooted in tradition, rumpu rampe is a dish that heals all wounds.

As connecting to nature is an important value for the people of Labuan Bajo, Rumpu Rampe is a dish that celebrates that. It’s a healthy, nourishing dish that’s close to heart for the local tribe and believed to be a culinary reset from modern eating habits. 

Made from an eclectic mix of tropical plants like cassava and papaya leaves, rumpu rampe traditionally uses vegetables and heritage crops that are in season, and harvesting for them requires the cooks to forage for the plants with their bare feet touching the ground. 

Preparing this dish calls for a herbaceous paste made from shallots, garlic, chili, salam leaves, pepper lime leaves, and adding a dash of salted anchovies and raw grated coconut for a savory crunch. Keep the dish in tradition by boiling the ingredient separately to respect the doneness timing of each ingredient. 

What makes people fall in love with rumpu rampe is its complex flavors, with notes of bitterness, spiciness and savoriness all in one. Hitting the right amount of balance is key in this dish, so if you find one that sparks your tastebuds, you know you caught a rumpu rampe jackpot! 

However, finding this dish can get hard as it is reserved for weddings and other special gatherings. In other words, follow what William Wongso said and crash a wedding to get a taste, if you dare!

Health & safety protocols to note

When you’re traveling around Indonesia, don’t forget that health and safety protocols are still strictly enforced. Major tourist destinations will have temperature checks and won’t let you enter without your masks. Vaccine certificates are also required upon entry across all establishments, so have it ready from your PeduliLindungi app. 

Certain international travelers are allowed to enter Indonesia with strict regulations, so be sure to keep checking before you book your tickets and start packing. Domestic travel across the archipelago is open for vaccinated travelers, but remember to remain safe and be responsible for yourself and others.

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