Military technology is prevalent in almost everything at your supermarket. The defense forces of the world have come a long way from frozen dinners, today's armies have designed high tech and efficient rations complete with local dishes to satisfy any national hero.
Field rations – meals ready to be eaten, made by the military – are known as reliable for two things, providing nourishment and sustenance for people in times of emergency and serving as an obsession for military paraphernalia enthusiasts and doomsday basement dwellers around the world.
In Indonesia, ration packs are bought by people looking for a cheap or are just lazy cooks. "Hikers, poor college kids, and lazy housewives who don't cook," are his usual customers said Sutorejo, who sells military surplus goods online.
I bought three types of military rations, each with a different packaging and preparation method. When I asked what the difference was between the pack types, he said it boils down to time of preparation needed.
One online vendor told me that most rations came from active service members who sold off their rations. Only active members of the military get fresh rations, so the ones you end up buying online are nearing their one-year expiration dates.
I bought rations T2P, T2SP, and T2PJ, eacch has three meals, a snack, and a set of instant drinks. The box came with no table of contents or nutritional facts. Brandished with the insignia of the Indonesian National Armed Forces and some vague fun facts on the sides informing that the food was Halal, MSG free, and GMO free. Surprisingly the Indonesian military really cares about GMOs.
Unlike Ikea furniture, these packs come with (almost) all the tools you need to put them together.
Similar to Calorie Mate in Japan, famous with lonely salarymen working late nights and gamers on 24-hour marathons, they taste a bit like solid protein shakes. These tough bars trick your mind into feeling full and energized by revving you full of sugar and putting a hard to digest brick in your gut. Enertabs are a symbol of the Indonesian Armed Forces; tough, unattractive, but gets the job done halfway by hiding the real problems.
Usually when deployed you have rare chances to find a hot meal, luckily the Indonesian Armed Forces has your back. All packs come with a foldable stove, matches, and fuel tablets, everything you need to heat up a meal.
The instant beverage selection was surprisingly wide given this was just for emergencies. Two instant packs of coffee are a good indication that the Indonesian military have their priorities straight. Sadly only the cereal drink had any resemblance of flavor besides sugar. The coffee was basically hot sugar water while the fruit juice tasted like cold sugar water. However, the cereal drink – despite tasting reminiscent of a real beverage – didn't mix well in any temperature.
The World's Greatest Spork
Sadly, overlooked by the many online reviews, is the spork. Probably competing with the Chinese WJQ-308 military shovel in sheer engineering, this spork is an innovative marvel. It can stab and scoop all forms of food – liquid and solid – with ease.
Menu: Nasi Ayam Jamur (Chicken with Mushroom and Rice), Nasi Daging Nusantara (Beef and Rice), Nasi Rendang Ikan (Fish Rendang with Rice)
Each meal came in vacuum-sealed plastic packs, there was no way to heat up the food with the build-it-yourself stove kit without melting the packaging. Because soldiers had no time to sauté it in a pan over medium heat, I did the same.
Everything on the menu was palatable when cold. Vacuum sealing is another byproduct of military-grade food preservation. The tradeoff for vacuum sealing the food meant the rice was somewhat hard and dry. This was acceptable since all of the protein was preserved in oil, which provided flavor and a little lubricant to slide down that Styrofoam-like rice.
Both Nasi Daging Nusantara and Nasi Rendang Ikan had a dominant caramelization of spice that resulted in a sweet and savory aroma of mostly chili and tomatoes. The Nasi Ayam Jamur had a more familiar umami tones you get from Chinese food, specifically street stall chicken noodles. The obvious winner in the bunch would be Nasi Daging Nustantara, for constantly surprising me with a wide selection of random meats, fish and the occasional potato in each bite.
6/10, Recommended for lazy housewives.
Menu: Nasi Kuning Ayam (Yellow Rice Chicken), Nasi Laksa Ikan (Fish Rice Curry), Nasi Kebuli Daging (Kebuli Beef with Rice), Sup Krim Jagung (Cream of Corn Soup).
It takes a certain kind of stupid to fuck up instant food, because all it takes it waiting. If you have the patience to heat up water and sit still for fifteen minutes, you have yourself a full-fledged meal. In addition to the light carrying weight, long shelf life, and small storage space, this package came with one extra meal for the same price as the other meals.
The packaging held out well in the hot water, I was able to hold it while cooking without burning myself. Each meal is a bit watery, but thats fine since this pack actually tasted like real food.
The Nasi Kuning Ayam and Sup Krim Jagung were as close to the real thing as you can get. Instant food has a special place in the hearts of hungry Indonesian people, and it was reassuring to know that the Indonesian Armed Forces has not let them down.
8/10, Recommended for poor college kids
Menu: Nasi Daging Lada Hitam (Black Pepper Beef Rice), Nasi Ayam Bumbu Rujak (Chicken in Rujak Sauce with Rice), Nasi Ikan Saus Tomat (Fish with Tomato Sauce and Rice).
Canned food has a reputation of false advertising, often containing a dull food nothing like the delicious picture on the tin. These cans come with a somewhat mysterious packaging, with nothing on the tin except for the emblem of the mighty Indonesian army. On the bright side, these metal cans heat up easily using the portable stove provided.
Instead of delicious MSG and preservatives, given the somewhat new age diet fad leaning of the military, the cans are packed with fats or shortening to provide flavor and perserve the food. A solid block of oil makes up around a third of the can contents, so if you don't like eating raw butter, this isn't for you.
There is a reason that canned food lost its general popularity after Momofuku Ando blessed us with instant ramen. Canning packs food full of fat and salt. All three items were slimy, even after being heated. Only eat this if you're forced to at gunpoint.
1/10, Not recommended for people.