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Digging into the history of 'pecel'

Nedi Putra AW

The Jakarta Post

Malang, East Java  /  Thu, October 24, 2019  /  11:06 am
Digging into the history of 'pecel'

A plate of Madiun 'pecel' (traditional vegetable dish with peanut sauce) and crackers. (JP/Nedi Putra AW)

Pecel, a traditional vegetable dish with peanut sauce, has been around for a long time, found in humble food stalls and high-class restaurants across Indonesia.

Ary Budiyanto, an anthropologist of Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, said that according to ancient texts, pecel referred to the cooking technique of slathering.

For instance, the word was included in the text of Sanghyang Siksakanda Ng Karesian, which was written in 1518.

“In those ancient texts, pecel always goes with chicken as the sauce or condiment,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He added that based on the texts, pecel was usually served with lawar (raw vegetables) or kuluban (cooked vegetables). When chicken was not available, the sauce and vegetables then became the main items.   

“That, in turn, became the pecel dish, while the sauce is known as pecel sauce,” he said.

Read also: Five must-try dishes when traveling to Banyuwangi

A Madiun 'pecel' stall in Malang, East Java. A Madiun 'pecel' stall in Malang, East Java. (JP/Nedi Putra AW)

Ary also said that the use of peanuts in pecel sauce might have started in 1814, the year when Serat Centhini scripture was written, in which rujak (mixed sliced fruit and vegetables served with spicy palm sugar dressing) was mentioned.

Ary noted that peanuts might have also come from Portuguese or Chinese influences in Indonesian cuisine.

“The Javanese were no strangers to exploring, including creating karedok and ketoprak in Betawi, tahu tek in East Java or tahu gimbal in Semarang,” he said, mentioning peanut sauce-based dishes that are also well-known in present time.

He argued that in the process, vegetable pecel was then consumed with rice or lontong (rice cakes).

“If anyone’s interested in tasting one of the most authentic pecel recipes today, one can look for Madiun pecel,” Ary said.

“The sauce is made with neither shrimp paste nor kencur (aromatic ginger) and it is fried without oil on a clay mortar.” (wng)

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