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.


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