Papeda is one of the staple foods in Indonesian cuisine and it is usually eaten for breakfast; papeda porridges, also known as sago congee and bubur sagu, take the place of rice in daily meals in the Maluku Islands in Eastern Indonesia and in Papua New Guinea, regions where rice is not readily cultivated or available. Instead of growing rice, the people in these parts cultivate sago palm trees; the trees are felled when they are about five years old and the tree trunks are cut into half lengthwise to get the pulp present in the interior of the trunks. This pulpy trunk portion is scraped out and beaten with a conical instrument, the sago beater, to obtain the sago flour. Until it is needed for making papeda, the sago flour is traditionally stored in containers called tumang; the tumang containers are made of woven palm leaf.
The sago flour can be purchased at many supermarkets; in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, it is often sold by door to door food vendors. The process of making papeda is quite simple, and only involves mixing the sago flour with water and heating the mixture until it boils; it is necessary to keep stirring the mixture as it cooks. Some salt, sugar or pepper may be added to the mixture to give it taste. After a while, as it starts to boil, the mixture begins to coagulate and turn viscous. When the mixture has turned thick and sticky, the papeda is ready.
The papeda is generally is not eaten on its own, but, like rice, along with a variety of side dishes. It is commonly eaten with a soup or a sauce made from tuna or any other locally available fish. It may also be eaten with a baked fish dish called kohu-kohu. The soup, sauce and baked fish are usually cooked with salt, turmeric, spices, soybeans, onions, lime, and coconut. Soy and chili sauce may also be served with the papeda.
Eating papeda on its own would not make for a particularly nutritious meal as sago, while rich in carbohydrates, is known to be quite low in protein, vitamins and minerals; in comparison, rice, wheat and corn have a much higher level of protein, vitamin and mineral content. The porridges are almost always eaten with of variety of nutritious vegetables, fish and meats, and so consuming it on a regular basis is not a matter of concern and does not bring about any kind of health issues.