Malang, the second-largest city in East Java after Surabaya, has long been known as a city with an old-world charm due to its colonial architecture.
In the colonial era, this charming old town was famous for being the place for the Dutch to unwind, due to its cool climate.
Further back the city also officially became part of the all-encompassing Javanese Mataram kingdom in the 17th century, which by that time was already controlled by the Dutch imperialists.
Malang is therefore rich in history and culture.
Aware of that, Hotel Tugu, owned by a well-known antiques collector, has a mission to bring back art from the past; the old romance of Indonesia’s bygone era.
Famous for being a museum-like hotel displaying many antiques and artifacts, Tugu will be presenting an Indonesian Cultural-Dining Series every Wednesday starting from Oct. 15 that aims to introduce a myriad of classical dances from Malang to foreign tourists while reminding local people of almost forgotten local art.
The first in this series of unique dining experiences was the masked-dance drama titled “Dewi Sekartadji”. The story is about a love triangle between Prabu Klana Sewandana, Raden Panji Asmorobangun and the beautiful Dewi Sekartadji. All dancers wore painted wooden masks.
Dating back through history, Malang’s Mask Dance is an ancient dance that may be older than the city itself. It is reported that reference to it was found in an ancient inscription from the Mataram kingdom.
While being entertained by the music and the dance steps, the astonishing exotic atmosphere in the Tirta Tangga Room, where the event was held, also spoiled guests. Surrounded by the richly colored wall and antique furniture, Tirta Gangga is the epitome of the elegant, east-meets-west, classical interior that brings the glorious past to life.
Lastly, a cultural dining experience would not be complete without presenting authentic local food.
During the Mask Dance event, a local dish with the long, exotic name of “nasi pesanggrahann gartitawati” was served. The dish is basically deep-fried nila fish served with fresh garden vegetables and “sambal” (chili paste). It also comes with an array of local condiments such as “lodeh” (vegetable stew and soya bean cake in coconut milk), “urapan sayur” (a local salad of mixed vegetables with grated coconut), turmeric pickle, dry soya bean cake in sweet and sour chili and peanut crackers.
Next up was a bowl of warm “soto ayam lengkuas” (chicken soup with galangal). Guests could choose between fragrant pandan rice and turmeric rice to complete this authentic local dish.
“Es paling seger” (refreshing ice), which contains fresh coconut water with young coconut flesh, pamelo, traditional green-grass jelly, “kolang kaling” (fruit of the sugar palm) and local fruit was served for dessert. The names do not do justice to the taste.
The dance shows and the feasts may end as the music stops, but the spirit of recreating almost-forgotten precious local art forms and culture will continue.