An artisan revival
The beef dry-ageing tradition is making a comeback in several establishments, as Eve Tedja discovers in Bali and Jakarta.
Dry-ageing is nothing new in the tradition of butchery. In the olden days, this particular method of preservation was called the hanging of meat. Simply put, meat was hung by a hook and stored in a low humidity and near freezing environment, allowing the meat to mature so that it undergoes a transformation. The meat (quite often beef), would shrink and dehydrate, allowing the enzymes to break down the muscle tissue – this coaxes out the best flavour. This method was in practice until the 70s, when vacuum technology was invented to enable a faster maturing process and less weight loss. The latter is known as the wet-ageing, a preservation technique still commonly used in the present day.
Lucky for us, butchers and chefs are reviving the traditional pursuit of dry-ageing beef. The current food scene is all about the artisanal approach, supported by meat connoisseurs who are demanding the best flavour from their steaks, although the method is neither practical nor efficient. The steaks take a minimum of 14 days to achieve any change in tenderness and at least 28 days to develop their flavours. Apart from a reduction in size as the meats lose their water content, butchers and chefs also have to deal with wasted trimmings, as the completely dried exterior is not to be consumed. The meats gradually lose around 25 percent of their weight when the time-consuming process is over. On top of that, the dry-ageing process has to be carefully monitored. It is a constant battle against humidity and heat, two things that Indonesia has in abundance. This is not a business model for the faint-hearted restaurateur.