It is our family tradition to enjoy yellow rice 'tumpeng' on somebody's birthday. This tradition started from very long time ago, when I was young. My late maternal grandmother used to take in tumpeng orders - be it for birthday, anniversary, wedding, baby shower or other 'selamatan' - from friends and relatives. I still remember how busy my grandmother was when she take in order. Everyone in the family would help out in the process, some would be busy making the decoration, some with the side dishes etc. It was a family affair and I thoroughly enjoyed the the social engagement that was part and parcel of making tumpeng at that time. I was too young to be able to lend a hand so I would just play with my siblings and cousins, all around the same age, as our parents were busy helping out in the kitchen! Lovely memory.
During my grandmother's time, the tumpeng decoration and its side dishes were pretty simple. The side dishes usually consisted of fried chicken or fried fish, potato and meat 'perkedel', shredded egg-omelette, stir-fried corn and french bean or chicken meat, spicy beef liver and potato dish, and 'urap' salad as its vegetables. Sometimes grandmother also prepared bubur merah-putih or rice congee as the dessert, half portion was sweetened with palm sugar, and the remaining half was in salty or savoury flavour, to create harmony or balance, like Yin and Yang.
As decoration, she created flowers from red chillies, carrots, cucumber and tomatoes. She used celery leaves and long beans as parts of decoration. Banana leaves was folded in such a way to create a pretty huge plate as the base for the tumpeng. It was not used in the pictures below as I was time pressed during the making. On any other occasions, I would try to follow the tradition :)
Now that I have my own family, I try to preserve the tradition of making tumpeng to celebrate birthday of my family members. The latest one was my husband's. My tumpeng is definitely a lot less elaborate than the tumpeng that my late grandmother used to make but it does taste equally delicious, I think. Hehehe.
If you were wondering what was the cute purplish flower in the picture above made from, well...it was made from a big red onion. I recently learned how to make one from this wonderful youtube channel managed by a Thai lady. I know i know...not exactly traditional Indonesian tumpeng eh? Well...let's call it a fusion tumpeng then. By the way, do check out the link to the food art channel above, it is really a great site with beautiful video and very clear step-by-step explanation on how to make so many types of edible food art!
Oh and how do you make the tumpeng? you asked me. First of all, you need a cone-shape tumpeng mold. I found mine at a shop run by an Indonesian couple in Little India, just opposite Tekka market. The shop is called Pasar Baru (it means: new market in Indonesian) :) haaa. I warned you though, the price is SGD standard, so it is a lot cheaper to buy the mold in Indonesia but then again, if you use it often or for business, I think it is worth buying here :) My recipe for making tumpeng can be found here.