'Paniki' panic: Manado restaurants in Indonesia take bat stew off menu amid coronavirus fears

In a photo taken on April 23, 2012, fruit bats for sale are packed into small cages on a street on the outskirts of Medan, Indonesia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Restaurants in Manado located in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province have put a temporary hold on selling bat dishes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"We haven't sold (bat dishes) for a week. We are worried because we've learnt that bats are carrying the virus," Mr Mereyke, who owns a restaurant near Tikala Manado street, said on Tuesday (Feb 4).

The virus originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month. Wuhan Institute of Virology found that the new coronavirus is more than 96 per cent genetically identical to a bat virus from the Yunnan province in the southern China, according to results published in the journal Nature on Monday.

Mr Mereyke said bat meat stewed in coconut milk had been one of his best sellers, along with other bat dish variations.

"There are a lot of people who love to eat bat dishes. The majority of them come from Minahasa," Mr Mereyke said.

Paniki (bat stew or curry), is well-loved among the Manadonese. It is often served at special occasions such as house parties or church events.

"Bat meat indeed tastes delicious. The cooking method and the spices used are no different than other dishes, only we add coconut milk and turmeric to it," said Mr Helpy Poluakan, a paniki enthusiast.

Ms Nicolina Pelealu, a restauranteur, took bat off the menu at all of her restaurants in Manado after learning that the animal carried the coronavirus.

Ms Nicolina, who manages Minahasa's famous Tanta Ola Restaurant, said she did not want to risk her business by selling paniki.

"Virus issues aside, we are afraid that people will spread rumours to put us down if we're still selling paniki. So I have decided to take it off the menu at my restaurant," she said.

"Although we have temporarily stopped selling bat dishes at the restaurant, I will still cook for personal orders, especially the ones coming from my regulars," she added.

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