Tuesday, November 20, 2012

babat hitam, a cringeworthy deliciousness

Bali telor
Its raw form resembles a rug, with a broad leafy pile, it's soppy, almost like a wet towel. The base, where the leafy pile is fastened, is white in colour, thick and chewy in texture. The pile is made of thin and leaf-like sheets with pimply surface, that break easily when pulled from its base, these leaves are dark brown / black in colour.

In Indonesia it goes by the name of babat hitam. In english speaking world, owing to its appearance, it is commonly known as bible tripe, book tripe or leaf tripe interchageably, and is taken from the cow's third stomach. Tripe is considered somewhat a delicacy in the first world, something unusual, a novelty food, reserved for older generation europeans and asian dim sums. In Indonesia, babat is merely another food item, eaten by people from all walks of life, young and old, and is almost always ordered as a side dish alongside soto (tumeric spiced chicken or beef soup) or rawon (beef soup spiced with keluak).

Babat rawis - Rp 18,000
Babat is one of those food item you either hate or love, particularly if you're not brought up eating it. But if you're curious, I would thoroughly recommend a crowded but small restaurant in Malang, East Java, it is the place to go for the most delicious babat. This particular shop is famous not only because it was visited by current indonesian president affectionately abbreviated as SBY, but because it dishes out reliably exceptional food that frequently runs out before the shop's closing time. It was well-known even before the said president's visit. My suggestion would be to go early or be left wanting.

Depot Soto Rampal is a family owned and run restaurant since the 1960s (for my explanation of the term depot, read here), and it felt like there is only women in this family. The cooks, the ingredient preppers, the servers, the cashier are all female, no males in sight. The servers are moving back and forth from the restaurant at the front to the dry kitchen just behind it, placing various dishes on tables, taking orders. The dry kitchen is where finished ingredients are cut into serving-size pieces and dishes are plated, but no cooking takes place.

In the wet kitchens, the cooks are busily stirring away pots upon pots of various curries, soups and stews, cooking rice in a wok(!!). Various energy sources are employed, from pots heated slowly by red charcoal embers, to LPG powered stoves, woks and kettles.

Outside, shaded by the roof awnings, sits three to four women of varying ages, deftly unstemming chillies, chopping vegetables and peeling large trays of shallots, fresh tumeric and ginger. All while gossiping and laughing and teasing each other, making it such a happy, friendly place to visit.

All these culminate in notably delicious dishes, like the nasi campur, empal and bali telor. The nasi campur comes with beef or chicken, I had mine with chicken that is so tender, it only needs a gentle prod with a fork for the meat to surrender willingly from the bone. Same goes with the empal, the beef chunks are slightly sweet with meltingly tender meat and sticky gellatinous muscles I cannot stop eating. Bali telor is a dish with steamed rice, topped with a boiled egg that has been spiced with spicy sambal sauce and accompanied with some abon (beef floss) and thinly sliced fried tempe.

Nasi campur (ayam) - Rp 17,000

Empal - Rp 18,000
The babat here is called babat rawis, and it is nothing like the cream coloured tripe typically served in dim sum places all around the world. The babat here (and in other traditional indonesian restaurants) is black in colour. The tripe's natural colour comes in varying hues from black to dark brown and dark dark green, but never cream or white. To get the creamy colour, tripe has to be bleached first, a step that is purposely omitted here.

What I like most about babat is its white thick base, chewy and meaty. But here the spices and seasonings render the babat with a savoury but sweet taste, making all of its parts enjoyable to eat. Delicious enough to have as a takeaway to eat at home.

Depot Soto Rampal
Jalan Panglima Sudirman 71A
Open 7 days 7am-2pm

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