Ambon, City with the Best Seafood

Maluku or the Moluccas is the name of the Indonesian province, an area that includes Ambon, Ceram and Buru, then Halmahera and its tiny neighbours Ternate and Tidore, the minute Banda Islands, and so on and on – the Tanimbars, the Aru Islands, the Kei, Bacan, Morotai… nearly a thousand of them, some so tiny and remote that even imagination can scarcely reach so far.

The Maluku islands are blessed with natural richness. Most of the area is covered by thick primary tropical forests. Various commodities like cloves and nutmeg grow in abundance there. With more than 90% of the area comprised of water, it offers vast marine richness. One of the biggest islands is Ambon Island which is divided into two: Lei Hitu on the west of the island and Lei Timur on the east. The two are separated by Ambon bay.

Ambon city, the capital of Maluku province and one of the economic centers in East Indonesia, is a silent witness to the past glory of this region.

The history of Ambon, has much to do with the arrivals of Europeans who come to the East to find spices. At that time the Portuguese were the first to reach Maluku  and control the trade of valuable crops. They later built the Kota Laha fortress, also called Ferangi, at Honipopu Beach, Lei Timur in 1575. Beside being utilized as a defense center, it also served as a place to store crops. Gradually various groups of people settled near the fortress to facilitate trade activities. The group comprising people of different ethnicities later become one to form a settlement that developed into the city of Ambon. After the Dutch conquered the Portuguese easly in 17th century, they seized the fortress and renamed it Niew Victoria, a name that is still used today.

Why Ambon?

Ambon  is known as the city of the best seafood. It is also one of the most desired destinations for those looking for fame and riches back in the 15th century, is home to centuries-old customs that are still practiced to this day.

One of those customs is makan patita from central Maluku. Not only in small villages but also in larger towns, this joyful event is still very popular and brings together families and friends.

Makan Patita or literally translated as ‘Feasting Together or Potluck’ is a tradition of the people of Maluku celebrates special occasions such as, weddings, between villages’ ceremonies, birthdays, etc. The usual place to have it is on the beach.

To properly serve a ‘makan patita’, numerous coconut leaves are neatly arranged on an open space, which could be in the garden of a house or the plaza in front of a church. Banana leaves are used to form a second layer. This will be done after a special ceremony is conducted by the village elder or the reigning raja, because according to the people there old houses are the dwelling places of the souls of ancestors who still guide the village.

On SAIL BANDA 2010, Sunday the 1st of August, the committee put together “Makan Patita” for the public. It was done to break a national record (MURI) for the most variety of fish dishes presented in one day and they did it. Groups of women from different suburbs in the city of Ambon participated in the event. The ladies from “Karang Panjang Hills” won the first price. With only Rp200,000 (equal to US $ 22) per area, these ladies sure put a great presentation.

Dishes from “Ikan bakar” (B-B-Q fish), Kohu-kohu (Ambonese version of fresh salad), “Ikan kuah kuning,” (Fish with yellowish soup), “Ikan Kanari” (Fish with walnuts), and many more. All presented in two rows of long tables, about 200 meters in length, closing one of the major streets of the city.

One of the most popular fish dish is ‘Ikan Bakar Colo Colo’ or Grilled Fish with Basil and Tomato Sambal.


  • 1 whole fresh fish about 1kg or 700 g fish steaks
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large banana leaf or aluminium foil, for wrapping

Colo Colo Sambal

  • 3 to 4 red finger-length chilies or bird’s eye chilies, deseeded and sliced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 spring Asian basil, minced
  • 4 tablespoons sweet Indonesian soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

Cooking Directions:

  • If using whole fish, scale, gut and clean the fish, then make several shallow diagonal slits on each side.
  • Season the fish with the salt and lime or lemon juice, then brush it with the oil. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Make the Colo Colo Sambal by combining all the ingredients in abowl and mixing well
  • Scald the banana leaf in a basin by pouring boiling water over it, then wipe it dry.
  • Wrap the seasoned fish in the banana leaf or aluminium foil.
  • Cook the fish parcel over hot charcoal or under a preheated broiler until the banana leaf is evenly browned and the fish is done, 10 to 15 minutes on each side.
  • Unwrap the fish parcel and spoon the sambal over it. Serve immediately. Alternatively serve the Colo Colo Sambal in a small bowl on the side. 


  • Jakarta Post
  • Authentic Recipes From Indonesia by Heinz van Helzen and Lother Arsana
  • Sri Owen Website
  • Ambon JazzPlus Festival
  • Voorale News Desk

2 responses to “Ambon, City with the Best Seafood

  1. nice photos.. wish to go Ambon , loved the place:)

  2. Halo. Education Services Australia (ESA) sedang dalam proses berkembang pusat portal sumber daya pendidikan untuk pelajaran bahasa Indonesia di Australia.
    Kami tertarik dengan bahan-bahan Anda yang hak cipta dan kami ingin termasuk bahan-bahan Anda dalam portal sumber daya pendidikan di situs ESA.
    Tolong dihubungi secepatnya.

    Terima kasih banyak.

    Salam hormat,

    Copyright Officer

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