With all that rice on Sulawesi you had to know that some of it would end up in sweet treats.
As we drove north from Makassar to Toraja we came, about two hours into the ride, across a strip of roadway lined with probably fifty or so stalls selling exactly the same thing: dange, a cake made from red rice and gula aren, or sugar made with sap from the cut flower stalk of the aren palm.
The dange are cooked in clay molds laid over a wood fire, their surfaces exposed to the heat and smoke.
When the cakes are done the vendor uses a knife to unmold them onto fresh banana leaves, where they're left steam and soak in a bit of scent from the banana leaf.
We ate them hot, one after the other. Dange are absolutely appealing in both texture -- crusty outside, tender within, pleasantly chewy -- and flavor. They're nutty from the rice, sweet but not tooth-achingly so, there's a hint of bitterness and lots of caramelization from the cooked gula, and it's all overlayed with an intriguing smokiness.
All this, from two ingredients: rice and sugar.
Talk about ingenuity.
Dange sellers, south Sulawesi. If you're driving north from Makassar you can't miss 'em.