Betawinese Bir Pletok: “Beer” That is Beneficial for Your Health

Most beers are alcoholic and may contribute adverse effect for health. There is, however, one beer that is beneficial for health. It can be found in Jakarta, Indonesia. Bir pletok, an authentic Betawinese beverage made from spices, with ginger as the main ingredient.

The existence of bir pletok was an answer of the Dutch colonialism that came with all of their customs (including their habit to take a beer while having spare times either at noon or night). The local people of Betawi created their own home-made beer and surely it wasn’t an alcohol based drink since most of Betawi people were known as a loyal Moslem.

The Betawinese named it bir after seeing the Dutch drink real beer. The typical way to serve it is by shaking it until foam like that of beer is formed before it's poured into a serving glass. A bamboo tube was the original packaging of bir pletok. As the liquid stored in the tube and some ice cubes mixed with the liquid, the bamboo is shaken for 1-2 minutes, producing the repetitive sounds of “pletak-pletok”. That is why this beverage is known as bir pletok.

Bir pletok has various health benefits; it is useful to improve blood flow, treat stomach pain, decreasing light flu and cough symptoms, and heal arthritis. Bir pletok can also be used to treat nausea on account of its main ingredient, ginger. Betawi people used to drink this beverage in the night to warm their bodies. Its brownish red color looks very attractive. Its taste is unique; it is sweet, warm and a bit spicy with aromatic scent.

Today, bir pletok is a rare beverage. It is difficult for us to find people who sell this beverage. If you want to taste it, you can try to make it your own:

  • 1,500 ml water
  • 150 gram ginger, roasted and bruised
  • 150 gram granulated sugar
  • 50 gram palm sugar
  • 4 cm cinnamon
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 gram sappanwood
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, leave out the midrib
  • 3 pandan leaves
  • 1/4 whole nutmeg, bruised
  • 2 star anise

  1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil and then let it simmer with minimum heat until the aroma of the spices emerges.
  2. Turn off the heat and leave out the spices.
  3. Serve warm or cold with ice cubes.

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