Torch Ginger, Wild Ginger (Kecombrang)

Torch Ginger or Wild Ginger (Etlingera elatior) is another valuable plant to be used in Indonesian Cooking. Not only the flower and young shoot/bud, the fruit is added an exotic flavour into some Indonesian foods. With many different dialects in the country, Torch Ginger has many different names. The common Indonesian name is Kecombrang when you add Bunga at the front of Kecombrang the translation will be Torch Ginger Flower.

Other Names of Kecombrang:
– kala (Aceh) – bungong kala for the flower and bak kala for the stalk
– rias (Mandailing/North Sumatra)
– kencong or kincung (Medan/North Sumatra)
– kincuang and sambuang (Minangkabau/West Sumatra)
– kecombrang (Java)
– honje (Sunda/West Java)
– bongkot (Bali)

In Malaysia and Singapore, torch ginger is known as bunga kantan and also popular to be added in laksa. Beside called as torch ginger, wild ginger and many other names above, Etlingera elatior is also known as Ginger Flower, Red Ginger Lily, Torch Lily, Indonesian Tall Ginger, Bunga Siantan, Philippine Wax Flower, Xiang Bao Jiaing, , Boca de Dragón, Rose de Porcelaine, and Porcelain Rose.

Back to the story what Indonesians use for this Etlingera elation plant. In West Java, the buds are used for salad or boiled to be eaten with sambal. The isolated fishing village at the south coast of West Java in the Sukabumi Regency also has a story about Ginger Torch. The fruit and inside parts of the buds are often mixed with chili for sambal and enjoy it with grilled fish.

Still in Java island but we move to the Central area where Pecel is one of popular salads with peanut sauce. Different regions have a different style of pecel. In Banyumas (Central Java), steamed torch ginger flowers are often added with other vegetables. There is another style of salad with grated coconut dressing which is called megana. In Pekalongan (Central Java), the megana is not only completed with young jackfruit as the common ingredient but finely sliced of ginger torch flowers.

Kecombrang, Rias,

Kecombrang, Rias Stalk

After talking the use of Kecombrang in Java, we move to two other islands in Indonesia, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Ginger Torch Flowers are essential ingredients to make arsik (stewed spiced fish) in North Sumatra. Still in North Sumatra, among the sub-ethnic group of Karo, the flowers and young fruits are added into Gule Kuta-Kuta (Karonese Chicken Curry). While in Karo the Ginger Torch Fruits are known as asam cekala, in South Sulawesi they are known as asam patikala. Asam Patikala is an important ingredient to make Kapurung (Fish Soup dish)

Asam Cekala or Asam Patikala was shot at Pasar Senen

While I was in Indonesia, I had a chance to take some shots of Ginger Torch at Pasar Senen, Jakarta.  Not to mention about learning many other herbs at that market from the sellers.  When I was back in the evening to the apartment where we stayed in Jakarta, I figured out Lisa from Azanaya had sent me some asam cekala or asam patikala to the apartment.  Then I brought those goodies with me when I flew back to Sidoarjo (East Java) where my family’s house is and had another shot.  For those who haven’t heard about Azanaya you should check out the website.  Once you are in Jakarta and interested to indulge Indonesian heritage foods, Azanaya has Underground Secret Dining events.

Here is the individually shot of asam cekala (asam patikala) that was taken at my family’s front yard.

Wait for my next post where I made Gule Kuta-Kuta (Chicken Curry Karo Style) in Winnipeg. I was able to bring back some of asam cekala/asam patikala as well as kecombrang home.

About the Author

An Indonesian-born who lived in Winnipeg, Canada for more than a decade prior to move to Edmonton in 2017. Indonesia Eats is a memoir of her homeland.