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Home >>Social Structure >>Minahasa Traditional Food

Minahasa Traditional Food and Beverages


In the past people always thought twice before moving their legs towards a Manadonese food stall or restaurant. The first reason was the fear to make the wrong choice of food because the names of the dishes were not familiar and the second reason was the fear of the the hot spices.

In villages food is cooked on a traditional fire place
© Jennifer Munger

It is known that almost all the food of the Minahasa people is hot, from their soup to their main meals. In almost all dishes they use cabai rawit (hot chili peppers), often called rica anjing (dog's hot spice.).
Cabai rawit is called rica anjing because the Manadonese people, already from the old days, when they cook dogs meat, called RW -pronounced Erway- (Rintek Wuuk in the Tombulu language, meaning fine hairs) always use this cabai rawit; so that term was fitting and became popular.
But this fear for eating in a Manadonese restaurant in the long run has disappeared. On the other side Minahasa dishes are sought after by fans of “wagging tongues”.

Today many people start to get to know that this food is really healthy and good because most Manado restaurants do not sell dogs meat and pigs meat (this mainly applies in Indonesia, outside the Minahasa, because for the greater part it is a muslim country. The Minahasa people are mainly Christians). This strategy is based on the thought, that if dishes are prepared according to taste, then the market segment is sure to become larger.
Other than that the Manadonese dishes usually are very seductive because they are served with fresh spices like daun kemang (basil leaves), daun jeruk (lemon leaves), daun sereh (lemon grass), bawang (onion), daun gedi (abelmoschus manihot), daun bulat (hopea latifolia), daun selasi, cengkeh (cloves), daun pandan (pandanus leaves), cabai (peppers), jeruk limo, jahe (ginger) and others.
Since the old days the Minahasa people generally cook traditional food. When preparing food they usually do not use basic sweetener additions to make the food tastier. When sweet spices are added then the taste and aroma will be different.


Saguer and Cap Tikus

Saguer collection from trees
© Remco Fortgens

Cap Tikus (Mouse Brand) is a potion with an average content of 40% acohol that is obtained through processing saguer (a local potent palm wine); the white fluid that is extracted from the enau (Arenga pinnata) tree, in the Minahasa language called pohon seho. The height of the alcohol content of Cap Tikus is determined by the quality of the process.

Saguer itself already contains alcohol since extracted from the enau tree. According to the farmers, the alcohol percentage contained in saguer also depends on the way it is extracted and the quality of the bamboo containers where the saguer is stored in the moment the saguer drips from the enau tree.

In order to get saguer as sweet as sugar, the bamboo containers which are hung on the tree where the white fluid is extracted (saguer), as well as the filter which is made from the fibres of the enau tree must be clean. The cleaner, the sweeter the saguer. And the sweeter the saguer, the higher quality the Cap Tikus made from it.

The alcohol content of Cap Tikus depends on the process technology. Until today the farmers use a traditional technique, the saguer is cooked and its steam is led through bamboo pipes to the container. Those drops are then known as the beverage Cap Tikus.

Cap Tikus is already known for a long time in The Minahasa. It is true that there is no written statement when Cap Tikus started to appear in the anals of the Minahasa culture. However, each Minahasa person who speaks of Cap Tikus will tell you that that drink was already known in the times of their nenek moyang (forefathers).

 Traditional distilling of Cap Tikus
© Remco Fortgens

It is, however, certain that the Cap Tikus beverage was already favored and popular with Minahaa farmers from the old days. Usually the Minahasa farmers drank one seloki (a little glass, the size of one mouthful) Cap Tikus before going to the fields. This drink, according to clergyman Dr. Richard A.D. Siwu, docent at the Fakultas Teologi Universitas Kristen Tomohon (Christian University Faculty of Theology), Ukit, in Tomohonis known to every Minahasa person as a drink that warms the body and awakens enthousiasm to work.

Be aware that Cap Tikus contains a high promilage of alcohol, already from the past the old people reminded others that you have to be able to control how much Cap Tikus you can drink. Also from the past the saying about Cap Tikus is known, drink one seloki Cap Tikus, it's enough to stimulate the blood, two seloki can get you into jail, and three seloki will get you to hell.

The farmer drinks Cap Tikus because indeed, with one seloki the enthousasm to work rises. For that reason drinking one seloki Cap Tikus is said to stimulate the blood and enthousiasm to work.

An direct warning is given after drinking one seloki, because if you add one more seloki you may go to jail. Meaning that with two seloki one may easily be enticed to overdo it because the alcohol content in ones body makes it easy to feel offended and extends to criminality.

This type of beverage is produced by the Minahasa people in the forests or fields next to the enau tree forests. The enau tree, or saguer in the daily language in Manado, is called saguer tree because this tree produces saguer or white fluid that tastes sweet with sour while containing about 5% alcohol.

The warung-warung makan (food stalls) in the Minahasa usually also sell saguer. And some village people, before having their meal, drink saguer first with the excuse that it stimulates their hunger.

The rest of the saguer that is not sold is then traditionally processed to become Cap Tikus. Its alcohol content, according to measures made by a few laboratories, goes up to approximately 40%. The better the process and the longer stored, the higher the Cap Tikus alcohol content. Regular drinkers say that the good Cap Tikus produces a blue flame when lit with a match stick.

Why the name Cap Tikus (Mouse Brand) ? There is no fixed answer. We suspect they use that name because it is made in the neighbourhood of trees where forest mice live.

If in the past especially farmers became enthousiastic workers through Cap Tikus, today it is entirely different with the young people. Cap Tikus has become something to run away with. Cap Tikus has become a drink for places where lust is exploited and become a way for drunken behaviour which then becomes a source of disaster.

Besides being able to drink Cap Tikus directly, it is also the source material for a number of wine producers in Manado and the Minahasa. With the nomenclature wine Cap Tikus is smuggled into the cities and to other islands.
Formally Cap Tikus is not allowed to be sold (note: RCW)

Source: www.sinarharapan.co.id and www.kompas.com / Translation: Roderick C. Wahr
Photos: Remco Fortgens and Jennifer Munger


2004 by Roderick. All rights reserved.write comments to: