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Life

Unearthing curious culinary secrets of Java

Indonesia's most populous island boasts a vibrant but underrated food culture

Nasi pecel, a traditional Javanese salad with peanut sauce. (All photos by Ian Neubauer)

SURABAYA, Indonesia -- From the steamy "sois," or backstreets, of Bangkok to the cobblestone alleyways of Hanoi and the hawker centers of Singapore, Southeast Asia boasts some of the most famous street food on the planet. Abounding with flavor and improbably cheap, the meals are steeped in stories of trade, migration and changing identities.

As one of Southeast Asia's most populous and multicultural regions, the central Indonesian island of Java boasts the most expansive and diverse street food -- together with a booming food tourism industry. The striking feature is that the foodie "tourists" appear to be mainly Javanese who travel around the island exploring its cuisine.

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