What is Jamu? And a Jamu recipe

As you might have guessed from the number of blog posts that are already piled up here about Bali, I absolutely love it. A LOT. And for many reasons. The one I’ll be discussing today is Jamu, this traditional Indonesian medicinal drink that looks a bit like mango juice and that you might have seen popping up on several warung menus or in baskets on the head of the Jamu Gendong, these women roaming the streets selling their precious potions to the locals every morning.

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So what is Indonesian Jamu juice and how do I make a Jamu drink?

jamu juice

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Jamu simply means medicine in Balinese and there is a Jamu drink for pretty much any ailment, all of them made with only plants, herbs and nuts. Every Gendong has got their own spin on the recipes, adding spices and herbs as they see fit. Balinese drink their Jamu daily as a health tonic, and let me tell you right now that it can be very strong tasting. I personally like it a lot! This comes from someone who loves wheatgrass and durian though, so buyer beware. The Jamu drink most widely available (to tourists at least) is the bright orange one made of turmeric, ginger and tamarind. It’s the only one I have tasted, but I thought Jamu was such a wonderful tradition – and I am such a strong believer in food and plant healing that I wanted to find out more.

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BENEFITS OF TURMERIC & GINGER

I used turmeric before as an anti-inflammatory to help heal sports injuries. It’s also a strong antioxidant, liver detoxifier and kidney cleanser, may prevent cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, and help with symptoms of depression. Plus, it tastes amazing. The recipe I got calls for fresh turmeric root (which looks very similar to ginger), but I realize that this might be difficult to find in some parts of the world. It might be worth asking your local Asian store for fresh or frozen turmeric, but if all else fails, powdered turmeric will do just fine. The other main ingredient in this Jamu recipe is ginger, a root that is well known for its soothing effects on various stomach issues and a powerful pain reliever. It’s easy to see how Balinese people are so fond of their Jamu – it is truly a little miracle worker!

While the jamu was boilig, we prepared the boreh by pounding rice with various spices.
While the Jamu was boilig, we prepared the boreh by pounding rice with various spices.
The boreh was applied as a scrub/massage and left on as a warming poultice on the shoulders and on pressure points. Boreh was traditionally used to cure the rice field workers' aching  muscles.
The boreh was applied as a scrub/massage and left on as a warming poultice on the shoulders and on pressure points. Boreh was traditionally used to cure the rice field workers’ aching muscles.

ANGELO’S JAMU RECIPE

While busy discovering all the Ubud sights, I took a fascinating health and beauty workshop at Angelo Store where I learned how to make Jamu, Boreh (a spicy body scrub/poultice), fresh facial and body masks and a hair tonic oil – all with plants. Angelo is a little family business and all of their recipes were passed on by their grandpa who was a healer. Do check out their store whilst in Ubud, they have a fantastic range of natural cosmetic products as well as vanilla beans, herbal teas, coconut oil and obviously Jamu! Here’s my interpretation of their Jamu drink recipe (I left the exotic leaves and nuts out cause you ain’t gonna find those at Tesco’s). Let me know if you try it / have tried it before and what you thought!

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INGREDIENTS
– 1 cup fresh turmeric root (or 1/2 cup turmeric powder)
– ¼ cup fresh ginger
– ¼ cup tamarind paste (or the juice of 3 to 4 limes)
– ¼ cup of sweetener (coconut sugar, maple syrup or agave)
– 5 cups water or coconut water or a mix of both
– pinch of sea salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Peel and slice the turmeric and ginger and pulse it in the blender with two cups of water until smooth
2. Pour the turmeric/ginger juice in a heavy bottom pan with the remaining ingredients and bring to a very slow roll for 20 minutes
3. Let cool and strain into a glass bottle or mason jar (a cheesecloth/nut milk bag works great)
4. Refrigerate and drink a small glass every morning as a health tonic

Cheers!

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