Reliving Indonesia’s Cultural Ingredient Through Jengkol
Ask Indonesians what is their favorite traditional cuisine and they may have to think hard just to answer one. They would probably mention Rendang (claimed as the best food in the world in 2011 by CNN), or Nasi Goreng (fried rice) oftentimes. Jengkol, on the other hand, would be the last thing or even never check out their list. For some who actually like it will think twice to speak up to others. Over time this ingredient has been living a black sheep because of its smell. People tend to hide the fact they eat it as they do not want others to stay away from them.
When it comes to open a discussion about jengkol, there is always a but in a sentence. Mostly planted in Southeast Asian, jengkol is considerably high protein but consuming it too much in a certain period is not recommended. One research finds consuming jengkol can be useful for people suffering stomach ulcers and anemia but the smell inside the palatal sensory and body waste could make someone feeling uncomfortable talking or taking the restroom.
Unfortunately, jengkol is irresistible for those who have built a tight bond with it. To eat it alone probably is not everyone’s favorite but when it is combined with steamed rice, jengkol —cooked as a stew or as the substitution of meat in rendang, it brims the palate. The taste is complex. A few say it resembles a potato yet way more interesting. There are bitter notes with moist tasty texture. Some cooking techniques can also create an exceptional crisp around its edge.
Its unique taste and cultural heritage, however, sparks at the kitchen of the Indonesian fine dining restaurant, BLANCO par Mandif. Chef Tan Ali (Chef de Cuisine) picked jengkol to be a special ingredient for Valentine’s Day Menu at BLANCO par Mandif. It somehow represents the love-hate relationship people have with jengkol and with Valentine’s Day.
From February 14th to 17th, jengkol was on the side of Kagoshima Wagyu. Nasi Liwet (Indonesia’s traditional “fragrant” rice) was on the side to combine. As slightly mentioned, the taste of jengkol perfectly blends with rice. Aromatic rice in particular. The strong, sharp flavor of jengkol reaches the balance by the flavor of nasi liwet. The rice is full of spices comprising garlic, shallot, ginger, less galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, salam leaf, and coriander powder. On the top are kemangi (basil leaf) and fried shallot to for extra aroma.
To distribute a well-cooked jengkol requires an advanced process to reduce the pungent smell. It includes multiple times of soaking and suitable spices. In this case, Chef Tan Ali cooked the jengkol using semur’s recipe (Indonesia’s authentic sweet soy sauce broth). The chef marinated and stewed the jengkol with the broth until tender then served on top of wagyu that had been grilled in coconut husk and spread with maranggi seasoning (mainly coriander and cumin). Evidently, the aromatic flavor from nasi liwet plus unique flavor from jengkol goes well with the beef. Everything is balanced, very textured. The aftertaste does not leave a bad smell as it is used to consider.