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Title: Tumpeng  
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Subject: Javanese cuisine, Nasi kuning, Nasi campur, Javanese culture, Urap
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Tumpeng, the cone shaped rice surrounded by assorted Indonesian dishes.
Course main course
Place of origin Indonesia
Region or state Nationwide in Indonesia, but most prevalent in Java
Creator Javanese cuisine
Serving temperature hot or room temperature
Main ingredients Cone shaped rice, urab (vegetables in shredded coconut), fried chicken, fried tempeh, boiled marble egg, shredded omelette, salted anchovy and peanuts
Variations tumpeng robyong, tumpeng putih, tumpeng nasi uduk, tumpeng slametan (nasi kuning)

Tumpeng is a cone-shaped rice dish like mountain with its side dishes (vegetables and meat). Traditionally featured in the slamatan ceremony, the cone shape of rice is made by using cone-shaped woven bamboo container. The rice itself could be plain steamed rice, uduk rice (cooked with coconut milk), or yellow rice (uduk rice colored with kunyit (turmeric)).[1]

The cone shaped rice erected on tampah (rounded woven bamboo container) covered with banana leaf, and surrounded by assorted of Indonesian dishes. In 2013, Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy promoted tumpeng as one among 30 Indonesian culinary icons,[2] and finally elevate its status as the official national dish of Indonesia in 2014, describe it as "the dish that binds the diversity of Indonesian various culinary traditions."[3]

History and tradition

People in Java, Bali and Madura usually make Tumpeng to celebrate important event. However, all Indonesians are familiar with Tumpeng. The philosophy of Tumpeng is related to the geographical condition of Indonesia, especially Java as fertile island with numerous mountains and volcanos. Tumpeng dated back to ancient Indonesian tradition that revered mountains as the abode of hyangs, the spirit of ancestors and gods. The cone-shaped rice meant to mimics the holy mountain. The feast served as somekind of thanks giving for the abundance of harvest or any other blessings.

Tumpeng is a symbol of gratitude,[1] in gratitude ceremony (syukuran or slametan), after the people pray, the top of tumpeng is cut and delivered to the most important person. He or she may be the group leader, the oldest person, or the beloved one. Then, all people in the ceremony enjoy the tumpeng together. With tumpeng, people express the gratitude to God and appreciate togetherness and harmony. An annual ceremony involving tumpeng is commonly called 'tumpengan'.

In modern times, the top of the tumpeng is given to an honoured guest in social events, ceremonies or awards. Many Indonesian cities, such as Yogyakarta, a tradition has been developed, the tumpengan ceremony the eve of 17 August, which is Indonesian independence day. The event is meant to pray for safety and welfare of the nation.

Surrounding dishes

The cone shaped rice surrounded by assorted of Indonesian dishes, such as urap vegetables, ayam goreng (fried chicken), ayam bakar (grilled chicken), empal gepuk (sweet and spicy fried beef), abon sapi (beef floss), semur (beef stew in sweet soy sauce), teri kacang (anchovy with peanuts), fried prawn, telur pindang (boiled marble egg), shredded omelette, tempe orek (sweet and dry fried tempeh), perkedel kentang (mashed potato fritters), perkedel jagung (corn fritters), sambal goreng ati (liver in chilli sauce), and many other things.

Traditionally there should be a balance between vegetables, egg, meat and seafood. The composition of a traditional Javanese tumpeng is more complex because the elements must balance one another according to the Javanese belief. Traditional Javanese tumpeng usually involves urap vegetables, tempeh, ayam goreng, teri kacang, fried shrimp, telur pindang, empal gepuk and sambal. After the adoption of tumpeng as Indonesian national dish, tumpeng is expected as a dish that might binds Indonesia's various cooking traditions, and its side dishes might served popular Indonesian dishes, such as gado-gado, satay and rendang. Today the dishes which accompany tumpeng can be of the host discretion, it can be vegetarian, to barbecued seafood.

Philosophical meaning

There is a philosophical meaning on every part of traditional tumpeng. According to a folklore that spread in Java and Bali, the cone-shaped tumpeng is a mystic symbol of life and ecosystems and it also symbolizes the glory of God as the Creator of nature, and various side dishes and vegetables represent the life and harmony of the nature. The authentic and complete tumpeng dishes should contains at least one animal meat to represent a land animal, fish to represent sea creatures, and egg to represent winged beast, there is also vegetables that represent a food stock that provided by the plant kingdom. Usually tumpeng is served with spinach as spinach is a traditional symbol of prosperity in Javanese agricultural society.[4]


Several nasi kuning tumpengs served during a feast.

There are several variants of tumpeng, differentiated according to the ceremonies.[1]

  • Tumpeng Robyong - This kind of tumpeng usually served in traditional Javanese siraman (bridal shower) ceremony in Javanese wedding ceremony. Tumpeng is placed on bakul bamboo rice container, on top of tumpeng placed egg, shrimp paste, shallots and red chilli.
  • Tumpeng Nujuh Bulan - This kind of tumpeng is served in the seventh month of pregnancy prenatal ceremony. Tumpeng is made of plain white rice. A main tumpeng is surrounded by six smaller tumpeng, create total seven tumpengs all erected on tampah covered with banana leaf.
  • Tumpeng Pungkur - Used in the ceremony for the death of a virgin or unmarried male or female. It is made from white rice surrounded only with vegetables dishes. The tumpeng later must be cut vertical in to two parts evenly and placed one against another.
  • Tumpeng Putih - White tumpeng, uses white rice since white color symbolize holiness in Javanese culture. This kind of tumpeng employed in sacred ceremonies.
  • Tumpeng Nasi Kuning - Yellow tumpeng, the color yellow represents heapful of gold, wealth, abundance and high moral. This kind of tumpeng is employed in cheerful and happy festivities and celebrations, such as celebration of birth, engagement, marriage, Eid, Christmas etc.
  • Tumpeng Nasi Uduk - Also called tumpeng tasyakuran. The uduk rice (rice cooked in coconut milk) employed in Maulud Nabi ceremony, a ceremony celebrating the birthday of prophet Muhammad.
  • Tumpeng Seremonial/Modifikasi - This contemporary tumpeng is relatively more open for modifications and adaptations, it depends on the taste and request of the host.

Contemporary tradition

Today, most of Indonesians serving tumpeng as a special dish to celebrate a special occasion; such as a birthday party, arisan, family or neighborhood gathering, farewell party, celebrations, recitals, and many others joyous events.[5] Because of its festivities and celebrative value, up until now tumpeng sometimes used as Indonesian counterpart of birthday cake.[6] Tumpeng contests are sometimes held to commemorate Indonesian Independence day in August 17th, or to commemorate women emancipation day, the Kartini day in April 21st. The tumpengs in this contest are judged by its decoration and taste.

In 2009 Garuda Indonesia started offering Mini Nasi Tumpeng Nusantara as part of its new concept to highlight Indonesia's hospitality.[7]

Tumpeng is also offered in various Indonesian restaurants abroad, such as in neighboring Singapore,[8] and the Netherlands.[9]

The building of Suharto's Purna Bhakti Pertiwi Museum in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Jakarta, took shape of tumpeng.[10]

External links

  • (Indonesian) Resep Nasi Tumpeng
  • (Indonesian) Tips Nasi Tumpeng dari Nasi Kentjana Online
  • (English) Nasi Tumpeng - Its Meaning and Function
  • (English) Philosophical meaning of tumpeng

See also


  1. ^ a b c Riyan (8 April 2013). "The Rice Cone or “Nasi Tumpeng”, Traditional Rice Cone, the Pride of Indonesia". Describe Indonesia. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Tumpeng, Ikon Kuliner Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Travel 22 April 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Nadya Natahadibrata (10 February 2014). "Celebratory rice cone dish to represent the archipelago". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  4. ^ Folklore, Javanese. "What Tumpeng Means for us Indonesian". Indonesiapa Webzine. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Meir, Arisca. "Tumpeng, Special Dish For Special Ceremony". Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  6. ^ McAuliffe, Annelise. "A Look at Birthday Cakes from Around the World". Honest Cooking, Gastronomy and Travel. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Garuda Indonesia Experience - Penerbangan yang Mencerminkan Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Yellow Rice Singapore – Nasi Tumpeng". IndoChili Indonesian Restaurant. 
  9. ^ "Dewi Sri Restaurant". Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Tripadvisor. 
  10. ^ "Museum Purna Bhakti Pertiwi". touristlink. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
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