Badri Jawara, The Jakarta Post, Palu, Central Sulawesi
Do you have any plans to visit Central Sulawesi any time soon? If so, you should not miss out on making your gastronomic experience there complete by savoring one of the local specialties, a dish called kaledo.
Kaledo is believed to have originated from the Donggala area of Central Sulawesi, where the recipe has been handed down generation to generation.
The theory of origin has resulted in the hypothesis that kaledo stands for Kaki Lembu Donggala (feet of Donggala cows) as cow's trotters and bone marrow represent the base.
For centuries, Donggala was known as a supplier of cows to other islands throughout the vast archipelago now called Indonesia. After 1945, when Indonesia proclaimed its nationhood, Donggala traders began to concentrate their beef exports to neighboring Kalimantan and Malaysia.
Before the archipelago became a single nation state, the kingdom of Donggala encompassed Palu, now Central Sulawesi's provincial capital. In Palu, traders set up an animal market and a slaughterhouse. In the course of time, the place developed into a general market.
Legend has it that the market and the slaughterhouse helped introduce Poso -- also in Central Sulawesi -- residents to cattle breeding and the art of cooking beef, most notably kaledo.
The original inhabitants of Palu, the Kaili people from the Palu Valley, have their own version about kaledo. The story has it that it all began with the distribution of beef by a philanthropist to a group of people from different ethnic groups.
First, the philanthropist gave the beef to a Javanese person, who made bakso (meatball soup) which became one of the most popular fares in Indonesia up until today.
The next person was a Makassarese, native of South Sulawesi, who came to the philanthropist for some beef. But, alas, he was too late and there was no more beef steaks or filets to be had. So he took the intestines instead. Then he made coto (beef intestine soup), which has become South Sulawesi's specialty.
The last to come to the slaughterhouse was a Kaili person, who found nothing left but the bones and skin that even the very hungry people would not take.
But the Kaili collected it anyway and sauntered back home, he chopped up the bones and boiled them with spices, and the result was an extremely delicious meal.
Irrespective of the debate on its origin, kaledo has become the best-known native fare of Central Sulawesi. It is simple to prepare (see recipe).
Kaledo is usually had with rice or sweet potatoes, whichever one prefers. Two knives and a pair of chopsticks are put near each plate of kaledo to cut meat and gouge the marrow out of the bones. Salt, chili, soy sauce and Palu's special fried onions with a unique and luscious smell are also available on the table.
Kaledo has become widely known far beyond Central Sulawesi. People from all walks of life love it. It is served during a variety of occasions, from traditional festivities to official meetings.
The Kaili believe that kaledo makes you healthy and, above all, boosts virility in men. It is readily available at most food stalls and restaurants throughout Palu.
In Palu, a portion of kaledo costs between Rp 10,000 and Rp 13,000.
Kaledo: 1 kg of beef and leg bones with marrow, 4 liters of water, 8 raw tamarinds, 5 green chilies, 5 red chilies, salt -- to taste, Monosodium glutamate (MSG) -- optional, vinegar -- to taste. Boiled sweet potatoes or rice for side dish.
Beef and bones are boiled in four liters of water. Add chilies and salt into the boiling water. Add MSG if you like it. The meat is generally cooked enough when the boiling water has evaporated to about 2 liters. Remove it from the stove and add some vinegar.
Note: Tamarind is prepared separately. It is dissolved by way of squeezing it into 0.5 liters of water and boiling it for about three minutes. Cool and strain it before pouring it into the kaledo.
Makes four servings.