March 17, 2010 / 5:31 AM / 10 years ago

Indonesian village snacks on soil for better health

TUBAN, Indonesia (Reuters Life!) - In Indonesia, soil is not just a raw material for bricks and ceramics, it’s also a snack that one family has been making for generations.

Tuban, in East Java Province, is the only village that produces “ampo,” a snack made from clean, gravel-free dark earth collected from nearby paddy fields.

Although there is no medical evidence, villagers believe the soil snacks are an effective pain-killer and pregnant women are encouraged to eat them as it is believed to refine the skin of the unborn baby.

There is no real recipe: makers of the snack use a wooden stick to pound the soil into a hard, solid mass.

Rolls of dirt are then scraped off the with a bamboo dagger, baked and smoked in large clay pot for half and hour and then they’re ready to serve.

The better the quality of the soil, the better the taste of the snack, its creator, fifty-three year-old Rasima, says.

Rasima, who like many Indonesians only has one name, makes ampo everyday to sell at the local market, just like her ancestors.

She is the village’s only ampo producer, and can earn up to $2 a day to supplement her family’s income from farming.

“The ampo-making has become a family tradition in the village and I do not know exactly when it started,” she said.

“All I know is that it was made by my great-grandmother and it was continued by my grandmother then my mother and now I continue to make it.”

Rasima says her knack for finding good soil comes from her job as a field worker.

“I work in the paddy fields of others, looking for banana and teak leaves, so my job is always in touch with nature,” she says.

Fans say the soil snacks have a cool, creamy texture.

“I think the taste is nice and I usually eat this. It is nothing special, it feels cold in my stomach,” said Siti Qomariyah, who has been eating the snacks since she was a child.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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