Almost every nook and cranny of Jakarta’s streets is occupied by a pushcart-employing Gorengan (fritters) hawker. Now, Gorengan are very much people’s go-to choice for delicious and dirt-cheap snacks, and this is not surprising when you consider what you’re getting: a flavourful taste from every bite of Tahu Isi (stuffed fried tofu), Tempe Goreng (fried tempeh) and Bakwan (vegetable fritter). However, behind every Gorengan lies a dread-filled story.
There have been detailed reports on the news exposing the controversial process behind the making of Gorengan, including the practice of adding plastic into the oil used to fry the fritters in order to add more crispiness to the end product. Despite this already being general knowledge to the public, it has not deterred their consumption. While those who care for their well-being have wisely avoided these fried treats for the sake of their health, the magical attraction of Gorengan is still not lost for the majority of the country’s population – especially during Ramadan, when our fasting Muslim friends tend to break their fast by feasting on a Tahu Isi or Bakwan.
Even without the vile act of including plastic in their preparation method, many would agree that Gorengan are unhealthy – chiefly due to the repeat application of the same wok of frying oil to the point where its colour would turn almost black in colour.
Personally, I find this phenomenon to be very disconcerting. It would be nigh on impossible for one to recognise and differentiate between those who do add harmful substances into their Gorengan and those who don’t. One safety measure would be to purchase from a seller who does business in one’s neighbourhood so that you could observe closely while the purveyor cooks up his/her Gorengan. This approach, though, would still not guarantee that his/her hygienic standards are up to scratch.
One of the factors behind the continuous consumption of these deadly Gorengan – in spite of the realisation of the risks involved – could be the weak purchasing power of the public. Or could it simply be the fact that its deliciousness is worth jeopardising our own state of health for?