Jamu For Men: A Pea-Green Memory Game

Except for the green liquid, the day after drinking jamu will be totally unlike a celebrated St. Paddy’s Day, unless of course it falls on that commemorated day. If you were not told to expect streaming green the morning after, enjoy a sudden, pea-green memory game. The first time I tried to enjoy this Javanese oddity was on a stool in a carnival-like, wooden stall along Jalan Karet Pedurinan, or rubber farm road, in Kunningan, South Jakarta. Now a sprawl of accommodation with many, spinning rubber tires, residents here wish they could say the area rests in the shade of Sudirman’s skyscrapers without being lebai, or about 2.3 kilometers hopeful.

Duck-egg and herbal powder on the left, citrus on the right, with a candy and a green pill centerpiece.

Duck-egg and herbal powder on the left, hot orange juice on the right, a candy and a green pill, centerpiece.

My hairstylist (long story), legally named Edi Murpi after his family’s favorite comedian, introduced me to many local goings-on: midnight satanic ritual in Arabic verse conjuring Genies in a forested cemetery, pilfering and invisible baby tuyul whom his salon’s customers bought for just $400 per immaterial, winged infant, dangdut keliling musical troops bombarding the neighborhood with generator, taking requests for cheap wine or gasoline, his five wives and innumerable children, and the culminating experience of a four-part beverage: roadside jamu, frothed up with duck egg, finished off with an aesthetic green pill.

The shadow puppet on the right is beating the one on the right over the head with a symbol that represents the power of nature. Far out.

The shadow puppet on the right is beating the one on the left with a symbol for the power of nature. Yes, that strong!

A jamu stall is usually painted like an Easter egg and contains a wood-and-Plexiglas display case loaded with card-sized sachets of mysterious powder. Dutifully attending to whomever takes a plastic stool, the proprietor is almost always an older Muslim man, with facial hair and a single, long fingernail, who will likely ask your preference. Your choice of sachets may include the illusive obat gantang handsome medicine – a little something spicy and herbal to foster good looks. Though fatigue, dizziness, and tension have the same, mildly bitter, herbal tang, I usually stick with something for general male health, accepting the implications and side-effects, opting for a syrupy anggur merah red wine finish. Yes, despite having the largest Muslim population in the world, alcohol – defined as any drink that makes you happily haphazard – is readily available anywhere in Indonesia, though moderates and progressives only consider it haram if it hasn’t already been street-side for hundreds of years, like a bad habit needs to ferment and become halal, or deserving Allah’s approval.

It will make you feel like your muscles are this big.

It will make you feel like your muscles are this big and rubbery. ‘Obat Kuat dan Tahan Lama’, literally: strong medicine and long endurance.

When finished our spicy, frothed-up drinks in orange plastic glasses served hot with something clear and citrus-flavored, Edi Murpi swallowed the green pill resting alone in its own tiny, orange dish. This time, I decided to ask first what the pill was, and was told that it would make me very, very strong (a clenched fist with the other hand wrapping around at the wrist usually accompanies this statement). As no one told me the next morning I’d be seeing pea-green, a new Google inquiry was born. Jamu not found in the results, I eventually grinned in recollection of the green pill, a more mischievous expression having flinched on the face of Murpi. How many restaurants say their cuisine is unforgettable? Why not leave patrons a colorful reminder?

Durian-flavored condoms for her pleasure, a little presumptuously.

These durian-flavored condoms are a little presumptuously for her pleasure.


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