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7 Exotic and Tasty Papuan Local Cuisines

by Vina Krisna Yanti
Sago Worm Satay

As a province that is located on the easthernmost of Indonesia, Papua is blessed with beautiful natural scenery and gold mining. The marine tourism is one that stands out the most.

It is the home of the prominent Raja Ampat. And if you’re wondering why Raja Ampat is famous, then you definitely need to see it by yourself.

Aside from the exotic natural attractions, Papua is also has distinctive way of life and local cuisines that are also incredibly exotic which might be considered super unique or even extreme by foreigners.

The Papuans are always accustomed to live in the nature, so they have quite a list of local cuisines that you might not be able to find in other places in Indonesia.

If you are a culinary traveller who like to challenge yourself and try unique cuisines from all over the world, then you definitely need to try these 7 exotic and tasty Papuan local cuisines.

1. Sago Worm Satay

Sago Worm Satay

Well, if you never seen this before, you might not want to continue reading the rest of the list. But trust me, this cuisine is bomb! Since Papuans are so used to live in the nature, they also eat nutritious foods provided by the nature. Different from how terrifying it might look like, sago worm satay actually tastes pretty good.

The worms are derived from old sago tree trunk. They can be cooked in many ways, as stir-fried sago worms, the protein in vegetable dish, or fried sago worms. The Papuans can even eat the sago worms alive. But of course the most popular way to enjoy them is by cooked them into satay.

There is no special way in cooking the sago worms. The worms are skewered and then grilled until they fully cooked and ready to be served with satay sambal or sauce.

The locals believe that sago worms contain high protein with low colesterol which is great for their vitality and stamina. That’s why this local cuisine is popular.

You can easily find some food vendors selling this exotic cuisine around Wamena, the capital toen of Jayawijaya Regency, Papua. The price starts from IDR25,000 per serving. Trying this cuisine would surely be something fun!

2. Papeda


Most of the people in other regions of Indonesia eat rice as their stapple food. But Papuans and most of the people in eastern Indonesia, have starchy food like sago as their staple food. Papeda is a cuisine made from sago flour that is often used in replace of rice. It has sticky like glue texture and is bland.

It is typically eaten with yellow fish soup, grilled fish, and an additional complement of dabu-dabu and rica sambal. As a pro tip, you can just swallow papeda when eating it since it’s sticky and chewing it will only makes it sticks to your teeth. When being eaten with the yellow soup, papeda taste wonderfully delicious as the spices in the soup gives savory taste to the bland papeda.

The sago flour that is used to make papeda is derived from scrapping the inner parts of sago barks that are cut in half. The choice of this papeda as the stapple food of Papuans is based on the fact that they are really blessed with natural resources and most of them work as traditional farmers and fishermen.

Since papeda is also known as a local cuisine in eastern regions of Indonesia, like Maluku, you can also check the tasty Maluku foods to take a look if there are other similar cuisines.

3. Sea Worm

Sea Worm

Well, after having a shock to have sago worm satay as your first cuisine on the list, this one might give you another thing. This sea worm is far from the definition of dirty, the first word that might come to your mind. It is actually white in color and is 30-40 centimeter long.

The reason why it is dark in color in the picture above is because the sea worm goes under a process called asar where it is grilled with coconut shell until it’s fully cooked and is brownish in color. Before grilled, the sea worm is cleaned to remove the sand in its body.

The texture is chewy and a bit tough like grilled octopus. Sea worm can be served in many ways, you can have it stir-fried with rica sambal which makes it taste super delicious, have it served with vegetables to make it even healthier, or have it grilled longer until it becomes crispy.

If you are not told that it is actually sea worm, you would definitely enjoy having this cuisine like it’s just a normal delicious food since the taste is really great. You can have this cuisine with around IDR10,000 to IDR20,000.

4. Aunu Sanebre

Aunu Senebre

This cuisine is a local Papuans cuisine that can only be found in Papua. It has simple and traditional look with savory taste.

It is made from fried anchovy and rice that are mixed with taro leaves and grated coconut which are then steamed. The use of rice and grated coconut in this cuisine often make people recognize it as coconut rice.

Some people might find the texture of the cuisine to be a bit dry, but still, the taste is great and simple. You can get the food around Papua with accompaniment of papeda. It is served in many restaurants around Papua and you can get it by paying around IDR25,000.

5. Aunuve Habre

Aunuve Habre

Aunuve Habre is a Papuan local food that is made from tuna fish and wrapped in taro leaves before finally steamed in a skillet that is filled with salt water.

Aunuve Habre tastes delicious despite the simple spices used in cooking it. This is a popular local cuisine that you can easily find in Papua by paying around IDR20,000 per serving.

6. Sagu Lempeng

Sagu Lempeng

Sagu Lempeng is another cuisine that is made from sago that is shaped into plaques. This cuisine can also be found in other eastern area of Indonesia, such as Maluku, Riau, and Kalimantan. Sagu lempeng is typically eaten in family by family members, so it might be a bit hard to find it in a restaurant.

The original sagu lempeng is bland, but as time went by, there are variations of taste made for this cuisine. Sugar is added to the dough, creating sweet and simple taste. The texture is hard so you can enjoy it by having a company of a cup of tea or coffee. You can dip it into your drink and enjoy the melting texture.

Even though it is rarely served in local restaurants, you can still buy one from souvenir shops by paying around IDR15,000 per pack.

7. Sarang Semut

Sarang Semut

Sarang semut which literally means anthill, is a local cuisine of Papuans that is named for its appearance that really resembles the anthill that you can find among groups of rocks when it is cut into pieces. Unlike its appearance, sarang semut is sweet and soft.

The sweetness doesn’t only come from sugar but also from the addition of cinnamon and clove. This cake is typically sold as food souvenirs that could remind you about your exotic culinary experience in Papua. It is sold around IDR30,000.

Well, the Papuans local cuisines really resemble their way of life and their exotic natural resources and attractions. If you are really devoted to have a culinary experience, make sure to try the cuisines on this list. SO, which one do you want to start with?

Also, for another round of culinary journey, you can try local foods in Medan, local cuisines of South Sulawesi, and North Sumatran foods. Have a fun culinary trip!

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