Extreme eating in Jakarta: Kambing soup with brains, eyes and ears finds new fans in the age of social media
JAKARTA: As soon as a group of customers walked in, Mr Boy Alfian, 55, swiftly lifted a piece of red cloth covering two large metal bowls at his open-air stall in South Jakarta.
Inside one bowl were small cuts of pre-cooked goat meat, tripe and liver, popular among the majority of the customers.
But those who are more adventurous and intrepid, as well as regulars who have developed the taste, make a beeline for the second bowl. It contained parts of the animal that many might find off-putting, such as goat eyes, ears, brains and sometimes, the coveted goat testicles.
This stall is known for serving an authentic Jakartan dish called “sop kaki kambing”.
While the name is translated as goat leg soup, the countless street-side vendors, shops and restaurants selling the dish across the Indonesian capital offer all parts of the animal.
Mr Alfian explained that the name of the dish is derived from stewing the goat legs (hoof and all) as the soup stock.
“The legs are the most active part of a goat. That’s why the legs pack a lot of flavours,” he told CNA.
The legs are braised for three to five hours in a pot filled with water and coconut milk, or full cream milk in some restaurants.
Once the legs are fully cooked, herbs and spices like lemongrass, ginger, turmeric and galangal are added into the soup. The result is a rich and creamy broth, accented by the tangy flavour of freshly sliced tomato.
Those who prefer an extra creamy soup can add clarified butter to their taste. Some prefer to stir the butter into the broth, while most simply let the butter melt by the warmth of the soup.
Mr Alfian said Mr Irwan, the stall’s owner, insists on only using goats below nine months old.
“Older goats would have tougher meat and the flavour is too gamey and strong for many people.
“The younger goats are also healthier. But of course, the younger the goats, the more expensive their meat gets,” Mr Alfian explained.
And this is the secret of Sop Kaki Kambing Irwan, which has thrived in the busy Melawai area of South Jakarta since it first opened in 1969.
Fifty years later, the humble food stall has amassed a steady stream of regulars, including ministers and celebrities. They mostly come after dark, slurping the creamy, comforting soup in the chilly night.
APPRECIATION FOR ANIMAL ORGANS
The culture of eating animal organs dates back to the Dutch colonial era, when Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies and Jakarta was called Batavia.
Back then, the natives could only afford to eat what their masters would not.
And today, animal organs continue to appeal to local foodies.
“I’ve had customers ordering a bowl of nothing but eyes,” Mr Alfian shared. “People, young and old, appreciate the taste of the organs and some become fast fans. You can find liver or brain in some other dishes in Indonesia, but never eye or ear.”
Mr Alfian professed that younger goat’s organs taste better. “Older organs taste bitterer. They can be a lot tougher too.”
The eyeball, after hours of stewing, has lost its baleful stare. It is protected by an outer shell, but inside, the gelatinous, almost fat-like substance has a melt-in-the-mouth consistency.
The goat’s outer ear is tough and chewy, while the ear canal soft and squishy.
As for the brain, its mushy and spongy texture is reminiscent of a runny pudding. It is bitter and pungent, an acquired taste indeed.
During CNA’s visit, the goat’s testicles, which are colloquially called the “torpedo” in Indonesia, were not available at Sop Kaki Kambing Irwan.
“We struggle to find a male goat. Goat breeders wouldn’t typically slay a male goat as young as we would have liked, preferring to let it mature to impregnate the does,” he said.
Another sop kaki kambing stall at the edge of the parking lot of an East Jakarta traditional market shed light on why it is not selling goat testicles, once believed to be an aphrodisiac.
“People are becoming more educated now. They stopped believing that the torpedo is good for their sex life,” the vendor, Mr Bona Darius told CNA inside his canvas tent stall.
“At least here in my shop, people simply don’t look for torpedoes any more. Less and less vendors are selling torpedoes,” he added.
An air-conditioned restaurant in South Jakarta, which is part of a growing sop kaki kambing food chain, also did not have goat testicles in their menu.
“Torpedoes are becoming rarer and rarer these days. So are people who come and look for them,” said the restaurant’s cook, Mr Elvian Nur Rahman.
KAMBING SOUP GAINING POPULARITY
The plethora of Indonesian and international food bloggers and vloggers challenging each other to savour the goat organs has only increased the popularity of the soup.
This has piqued the interests of many and secured the dish’s spot on the culinary map of Indonesia.
A foodie duo who chronicled their gastronomic adventures on Instagram account Eatandcouple, gave the soup a try in June. Their video has been viewed more than 140,000 times.
“I’ll have one mixed bowl. Make sure it has all the head organs,” the man, known as Mr Oliver, told a sop kaki kambing seller.
“They put an eye in there. Wow, that’s quite extreme.”
There are also people who would only try the organs once, just so to earn bragging rights for having tasted the unusual food.
“I had the eye once out of curiosity, but the idea of putting an animal’s organ into my mouth scares me,” said Ms Lestari Suwondo at Sop Kaki Kambing Irwan over a bowl of goat meat and trotters.
“The taste (of the eye) is quite okay as long you don’t think too much about what you are actually eating,” she added.
And then of course there are those who would prefer to stick to the ordinary choices. Mr Bondan Pratama, for one, said he would never try the organs.
“No thanks. Not even if you pay me to,” he said, shaking his head, as he devoured his bowl of goat meat and tripe.