‘Soto’ re­flects RI’s rich culi­nary cul­ture

The Jakarta Post - - ARCHIPELAGO - Bam­bang Muryanto

Where did soto (tra­di­tional In­done­sian soup) come from? And what makes a soto? There is no clear an­swer to those ques­tions even though In­done­sia is home to at least 75 dif­fer­ent vari­ants of soto, a fa­vorite lo­cal dish that has be­gun to at­tract global at­ten­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to one food ex­pert, soto has be­come a sym­bol of the coun­try’s na­tional motto, Bhineka Tung­gal Ika (Unity in Di­ver­sity). “Al­though the con­tents can dif­fer, ev­ery­one agrees to call [the dish] soto,” his­to­rian Fadly Rah­man of the Ban­dung Pad­ja­jaran Univer­sity (Un­pad) said at a sem­i­nar on soto.

The event was or­ga­nized by the Creative Econ­omy Agency (Bekraf ) and held dur­ing the In­done­sia Culi­nary Con­fer­ence and Creative Expo on Oct. 3 to 4 at Gad­jah Mada Univer­sity (UGM), Yogyakarta.

From 2013 to 2017, some vari­ants of In­done­sian soto were listed among the world’s top street dishes by the World Street Food Congress (WSFC). In 2013, Soto Ayam Am­ben­gan Pak Sadi in Cen­tral Jakarta was crowned the world’s best street food.

Fadly, who has stud­ied the his­tory of soto, said that the tra­di­tional cui­sine most prob­a­bly orig­i­nated from China. The word soto, he said, might come from the Chi­nese term cau du or shao du, which in Hokkien is pro­nounced “sio-to.”

“Shao means to cook, du is the cow’s in­ter­nal or­gans and cau refers to the spices used to cook the broth,” Fadly ex­plained.

He was re­fer­ring to a vari­ant of soto called soto ba­bat, which usu- ally con­tains beef tripe. He ar­gued that use of tripe in soto was in line with the cook­ing tra­di­tion of Can­tonese peo­ple who mi­grated to In­done­sia cen­turies ago. At that time, he said, beef was very ex­pen­sive and only con­sumed by the Dutch,

“Soto started gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the 19th Cen­tury in Se­marang [Cen­tral Java], which was a strong­hold of Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties. Then, it spread and be­came the food of the indige­nous peo­ple,” he said.

But soto ba­bat is just one of many types of soto in In­done­sia.

Food ex­pert and chef Wil­liam Wongso said soto was ba­si­cally a “murky” soup.

“Soup is clear, while soto is usu­ally murky be­cause of its ground sea­son­ing,” he said.

He added that there was no clear def­i­ni­tion of what con­sti­tutes as soto, but the ba­sic con­cept of the dish is that it is a stew con­tain­ing meat and veg­eta­bles, then cooked with ground sea­son­ing.

Re­searcher Mur­di­jati Gard­jito of UGM’s cen­ter of food and nu­tri­tion stud­ies said that she and her team had dis­cov­ered 75 dif­fer­ent takes on soto across In­done­sia. The team di­vided the coun­try into 34 culi­nary re­gions and soto was found in 22 of them.

These vari­ants in­cluded soto Aceh, soto Betawi, soto Teng­giri from Jambi and soto Grom­byan­gan from Peka­lon­gan, Cen­tral Java.

Each re­gion, she said, had its own vari­a­tion of in­gre­di­ents, but those that are com­monly used were chicken, bean sprouts, glass noo­dles and beef.

“Some [soto dishes] con­tain clear broth, oth­ers do not; the ma­jor­ity — or 64 per­cent — is yel­low [curry]. This is in line with the the­ory that soto might have come from In­dia,” Mur­di­jati said.

Con­sid­er­ing its ubiq­uity, Mur­di­jati con­cluded that soto was a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of In­done­sia’s culi­nary cul­ture.

The dish can mostly be found in Java and the Madura Is­lands in East Java, as well as in Su­ma­tra, West Nusa Teng­gara (NTB), Su­lawesi and Kal­i­man­tan. It can also be served and en­joyed on any oc­ca­sion, at any time of the day.

In Yogyakarta and in other cities in Java, soto is com­monly sold in the morn­ing as a break­fast dish at fine restau­rants, road­side stalls and by street ven­dors.

Bekraf direc­tor of creative econ­omy devel­op­ment and re­search, Wawan Rus­ti­awan, said that In­done­sia’s culi­nary sec­tor was part of its creative econ­omy, and was ex­pected to serve as the back­bone of the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Statis­tics Agency (BPS), the creative econ­omy con­trib­uted some Rp 852 tril­lion (US$614 bil­lion) to In­done­sia’s gross do­mes­tic in­come (GDI) in 2015. Rp 350 tril­lion, or 41 per­cent, of the fig­ure came from the culi­nary sec­tor.

“It em­ployed 7.4 mil­lion peo­ple in 2015, which has since in­creased to 7.9 mil­lion,” he said, adding that Bekraf aimed to pro­mote soto and cof­fee as the main culi­nary icons of the ar­chi­pel­ago.

JP/Bam­bang Muryanto

Stacks of bowls:

A woman serves soto kudus in bowls stacked on top of each other be­fore the cook­ing broth is poured on them. Soto Kudus is among the rich vari­ants of Soto in In­done­sia, hail­ing from Kudus in Cen­tral Java.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Indonesia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.