Bandarharjo Fish-Smoking Center in Semarang, Indonesia


bandarharjo-smokehousesThe fish-smoking district in Bandarharjo, on the bank of Semarang River (stock photo).

By Alifia Afflatus, 13, homeschooler from Indonesia

Indonesia is a wonderful country. If one of your homeschool projects is learning and exploring knowledge by traveling and doing outdoor activities, you can visit Indonesia to learn about its various cultures, traditions, interesting history, and many entertainments. Try to make a schedule to visit Semarang, the capital city of Indonesia. It’s actually my hometown. Many things we can learn by digging into the knowledges over here by visiting the sites: natural, historical, and cultural.

One of the aspects that you can learn about, is the smoked fish. In Indonesia, people commonly consume fish after they fry it, or cook it with soup. But apparently there’s another way to consume it, so that the fish would have a longer resistance to micro-organisms which can make it become foul faster. Plus, if you’re a survivor and loving outdoor adventures – like in the forest or hills – this kind of fish is the alternative menu for you. Yes, it’s smoked fish.

In Semarang, smoked fish is popular with the name “mangut.” Many people don’t know where the center of mangut-proccessing is, even the local dwellers. And yesterday, I luckily had an opportunity to report on this fish-smoking center in Semarang city.

Bandarharjo, the fish-smoking center, is located in the north of Semarang. To access this slum area, I used to go thru Artery Street of Tanjung Mas harbor. Or, you may try moving through Mpu Tantular Street. Even though the environment is dirty, the road is decent enough to go on because it has been overlayed with paving. Basically, it’s not too popular in Semarang. Therefore, I try to recommend the public to dig up unique information here.

Entering the fish-smoking area, tourists would be directly confronted with smoke over the roofs, blowing up from the abundant chimneys. Cats with fat bodies are everywhere, going to and fro, using their sense to smell the fish aromas which spread with the smoke. In the part of slums that I assumed as the veranda, mounds of fish are waiting to be smoked inside.

Bandarharjo-fishWhat I have seen first was the local woman who pierced the fishes with some sticks. “Supaya ikannya tidak robek ketika diasap – so the fishes won’t be torn when smoked,” she explained.

Next, those fishes are ready to be smoked, for less than thirty minutes. Without any additive ingredients, these fishes won’t be foul for two days. In fact, thirty minutes of smoking is still leaving humidity and fluid around and in the fish bodies. I just remembered that once I was in a camp and enjoying the mirth of tasting smoked fish; me and my fellows used to smoke it overnight. It left no fluid. A little bit scorched. But the resistance of weather and micro-organism is much longer. We can still consume it after five days until a week for survival and travels.

Those fish-smoking workers explained to me once I questioned them more about this proccess. In a day, Bandarharjo can proccess up to 500-700 kilograms of fishes. Distributed to the traditional markets at night – with the price Rp. 25.000 – Rp. 50.000 for each kilogram (consisting of approximately twelve pieces of fish) – these workers process three kinds of fish: mackerel tuna, ariidae, and stingray. Generally, the stringray reaches the highest price, compared to the other two fishes. In fact, workers embark on their fish-smoking activity at 2 am. Seems to be so exhausting! Even more exhausting, the working revenue they receive per day or per week, is a small number.

Visiting this site, travelers won’t be only learning about smoked fish and its “life,” but also blending themselves momentarily with the workers which is literally like having a different way of life. Despite some sorts of differences in culture, tradition or practice, perhaps bigger economical life-challenge, you can enjoy chuckling with them in their simple jokes, amongst the togetherness. Really heart-softening. Moreover, listening to the life stories around here is also interesting, many points to learn. And what I never want to refuse to tell you is, that a journey would have more meaning if we just meet new people, new faces, with various backgrounds. So wonderful!

About the Author: “I’m a 13th homeschooler (9th grader), I’ve been homeschooled for 2 years, from Semarang, Indonesia.* I’m a blogger in and a monthly contributor in homeschool site I enjoy writing about homeschool and home education, education system, children, teens, history, nature, politics, religion, social and travel.” *Note: My friends, if you are interested in visiting Semarang or any town and regencies in Central Java, Indonesia when you have a chance someday – you’ll be able to contact me at alifia.afflatus@ I’ll be pleased to receive and treat some foreign guests.

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