Jan 07

Food Carts in BaliIn Bali, as in most parts of Indonesia and other asian countries as well, you have people who earn their living by selling food.

They push a small cart up and down the streets, selling everything from Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice), Bubur Ayam (Rice Porridge with Chicken), Bakso (Beef Ball Soup), Cendol (sweet jelly dessert on crushed ice), coconut drinks, jamuh (medicine drinks), cake, donuts, ice-cream and other delicate specialties.

They can cook or cool their dishes in these carts, and of course it pays to check the over-all-hygiene of those carts beforehand. :-)

The funny thing is, that every one of them makes some kind of noise or sound, when pushing their carts through the neighbourhood. Either with an intrument or just plain knocking on wood or metal. Mainly very loud and annoying sounds for western ears, but distinctive melodies for the ones who know. I was surprised, that there is actually a system behind it:

Kulture Kid of the Bali Advertizer had an explanation in its printed edition, although I can’t find the article for linking on their website. So here we go, it’s a short but nice read:

Food carts, known colloquially as kaki lima (Chris: that means actually ‘5 Legs’, due to the 3 stilts of the cart, and the 2 legs of the seller, cool right?), are a ubiquitous part of the scenery in everyday life in Indonesia. And Bali is no different.

Their owners have been selling food on the island for several decades now and their sounds are as familiar as the buzz of the incessant traffic or the characteristic chimes of the gamelan. When I say ‘the noises they make’ I don’t mean the patter of te sellers’ feet or the squeaking wheels of the tired carts, I’m talking about the ‘tek-teks’ or the ‘ding-a-lings’ they produce as they amble past your front gate. These noises in fact mean something.

They let ‘hungry-you’ know what local snack is coming up your street.

What they all mean:

  1. The ‘tek-tek’ sound. This is produced by the seller who hits a stick on a hollow bamboo tube as he pushes the cart. He sells chicken noodle soup (mie ayam). Locals call this ‘mie tektek’.
  2. The ‘ting’ sound. Perhaps the most popular of of all food-cart fodder, the meatball soup (Bakso) man taps a spoon on a bowl.
  3. The ‘ding-a-ling’ sound. Listen out for this in the heat of the day. This guy’s pushing a cart packed full of brightly coloured coconut ice cream cones (es). He rings a wee bell as he passes by.
  4. The ‘ek-oh’ sound. Squeezing a small horn as he cycles, the rujak (spicy, sweet and sour fruit salad) seller normally rides a bicycle so you have to be fast to catch him!
  5. The ‘tooooot’ sound. You’ll know this one when you hear it, because it doesn’t stop until it’s out of ears’ reach. Typically out-and-about in the late afternoon, this guy sells steamed rice cakes called kue putu, which are made from rice flour, coconut and palm sugar.

There are others which play tunes and ones which produce such distinctive smells, they don’t need sound to let you know they’re there.

Bakso Cart - see, why it's called 'Kaki Lima'? ;-)If you eat from one of those stalls, the dish is prepared fresh over an open fire, you will get a plate and cutlery to eat in a civilized manner, or the food is packed in paper and plastic bag, if you want to eat it elsewhere. As a ‘buleh’ am naturally a bit more careful and sensitive of trying out the hot dishes, as MSG is usually used extensively as well (especially in Bakso).

The ones I mainly go for are the ‘Ice Man’ on their yellow bicycles. Around our house you can hear their ‘doo-dodadoo-dada-doo-dada-doo’ mainly around 2pm-3pm, they sell delicious Strawberry-Chocolate Ice-Cream for Rp 3.000 a pop, or Kacang Ice Cream (ice cream with red or green beans) for a bit less.

Strange flavour you say? Nahhhh! It’s really an acquired taste. ;-)

Ahhhhhh – schleck! There is nothing better than ice cream to cool your throat on a boiling-hot afternoon. Nothing, besides maybe a Beer Bintang or two…

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written by Chris

4 Responses to “Amazing Knowledge: Why do food carts in Bali make different noises? ;-)”

  1. blogx » Blog Archive » More Stormy Weather UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Had an interesting contact from one of the on-line communities, interesting in that the name of the web site is similar to one of my nicknames – “nomad”. Don’t know if he’s lived in quite as many places as I have in North America, appears to be matching my chart, but in Asia. Have a look at some of posts, his writing is easy to read and you’ll find out things like how the food carts in Indonesia make different sounds depending on what they are selling. […]

  2. Living the Good Life in Bali - a Wrap up after 2 Years | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] it offers an abundance of Indonesian and Balinese Warungs, Restaurants, Food Carts and Food Places – it’s the international food options where Bali really shines and offers the […]

  3. ryan ZoupNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    haha is original indo,and why you always know about this noise is lovely that you know life INDO-bali love it your blog this one ;-)

  4. AlbertusNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Great article on kaki lima sound! It will greatly help me explaining thing to my lecturer. Thanks!

    I also want to give some additional info on the sounds, tough they may only available in Jakarta:
    – Old supra motorcycle sound mean they sell chicken porridge
    Annoying record that plays over and over mean they sell bread or meat bun (usually)
    – “Tick-tick” sound mean they sold siomay – you can pick and mix between fish cake, steamed potato, bitter vegetables called “pare”, and steamed roll cabbage. After you done picking, the seller will add peanut dressing, sweet soy sauce, and a little bit of lime juice. They also sell “batagor” or fried siomay. Looks disgusting, but actually delicious! Pict: http://iendaw.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/siomay21.jpg
    And last but not least, the sound of beating can plate (I think it’s “tung-tung”?) means they sell “Kembang Tahu” (Literal translation: Tofu Flower), a very soft food made from soy that even more soft than Japanese tofu with sweet and warm soup made mainly from ginger juice and java sugar. Pict:http://mahkotadewa.co.id/herbalshop/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/kembang-tahu.jpg

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