EAT FIRST, SHOP LATER
Since my sister and I like mutton, Mr. Efrat, our driver slash history teller, recommended us to try one of president Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) favourite dishes when he was a mayor in Solo: tengkleng at the warung, or stall, called “Tengkleng Klewer Bu Edi”.
Although I was born and raised in Indonesia, tengkleng became my new vocabulary on that day. All I remembered that it is mutton soup and the price is right, meaning that they never scam you. Fair enough.
“Eat first, shop later.” He warned us when he dropped off us at Pasar Klewer, a famous traditional market in Solo. The main reason behind the warning was not because we almost fainted for famine.
The stall opens at 1 pm and they usually run out of stock very quickly, within 2 to 3 hours. My watch showed that it was already 1.30 pm.
MODEST AND BIODEGRADABLE DINING WARE
A bunch of middle-aged moms clustered around the warung situated right under the arch of Pasar Klewer as we got there. The queue looked more like fences surrounding the house that no one could see the products they sold.
I was aware that comfort is not something essential from a warung, but there were a few things I found quite a wonder. The less than 5-square-metered stall only had 3 long benches without tables. Selling soup-based rice dish, it was served with a very modest dining ware. As a substitute of a bowl, they used a brown paper with thin plastic inner lining, doubled with banana leaf on top to avoid leakage, and a plastic spoon. Just the same way as you get one to go.
Despite its simplicity, they unconsciously “go green” (in this case, plastic spoons not included) in particular way. It saves water and detergent since there is no need to wash any dishes, except giant pots to place the tengkleng and soup spoons to pour the dish. Moreover, banana leaf and brown paper are biodegradable in nature.
ORGANS IN MOUTHWATERING SOUP
I was completely a newbie and clueless about all the strange look organs in giant pots. Mostly, they looked bony with a little leftover meat (or whatever it is) attached, some sheen and chewy parts that could be anything but meat: cartilage? tendon? eyeballs? Or mention any glossary from your anatomy class for a lucky guess.
Nonetheless, the moms seemed to know everything by heart and easily pointed organs they wanted in their “bowl”.
Squeezing among the hungry moms until I got my turn, I took my chances to take pictures of the busy activity and zoomed in the exotic organs, to share with you all in my post, until the soup accidentally splashed on my filter (luckily not the lens!).
When my turn came, I asked how to order the food. I looked stupid, but I didn’t care.
“Do you still have the meat?”
“No meat.” she replied. Her eyes looked down, her right hand was moving fast pouring rice, the organs and finally the soup. I pointed one organ in the pot and asked her what it was, but then I realized that it wasn’t the right time to do after she answered impatiently, implying an indirect expression of “you should have known that”. Thus, I picked what I thought would be good, like skewed intestines and other parts that looked meaty.
Forget about hospitality from a crowded stall like that. Anyways, there is no service charge and VAT.
It challenged my skills to hold the folded paper bowl with one hand, while the other hand peeled off (leftover) meat from the bones and held the spoon to scoop rice and soup interchangeably. No wonder why those hungry moms would rather have it to go. I threw the bones away into the bucket next to the bench functioning as a garbage bin.
A blend of unique spices, a family secret recipe for generations, and savoury flavour coming from boiling bones and fat for hours, resulted in distinctive taste of juice mutton broth I wouldn’t get anywhere else. It was mouthwatering, literally and mentally. The soup was the key of its fame.
To dine in, wearing light-coloured clothing is not recommended, as the turmeric based-soup could be a very stubborn stain to remove. Bring wet tissue or get some bottled water to wash hands (besides to drink).
EIGHTY THOUSAND RUPIAH??
When my sister paid for the drinks from a different vendor whose counter was attached to the warung, I came to the vendor lady to pay our food.
“Eighty thousand rupiah.” she said.
I paused. “For two?”
“Yes, for two.”
I gave an exact amount of bank note of eighty thousand rupiah (Rp. 80.000, or $7) without questioning.
My sis and I both agree that it was not as cheap as we thought it would be.
Mr. Efrat himself was surprised that 2 portions could cost eighty thousand rupiah. A couple of month ago, it was only twenty thousand rupiah (Rp. 20.000) per portion (about $1.50). He wondered if the price could rise that much in two months.
He subtly shook his head and finally concluded, “I think they just cheated on you. I’m so shock they did. I’ve brought a lot of my customers there and nobody complained. I guess I should return to that place to investigate and warn my future customers.”
The stall that never scam people just scammed us. If it wasn’t a bad luck, then what?
My sis thought that I stood out among other customers with a big camera hanging on my neck and obviously took several pictures of their place. She said I was too daring (still, i’m nothing compared to the paparazzi) to do that. Moreover, I asked too many questions. May be it provoked the bitches to make use of the situation to get more luck from someone not from the neighbourhood.
C’mon, what would you react in the first place you’re not familiar with how things work? You ask, don’t you?
Oh, wait. I remember they whispered to each other before replying my question about the total price. Ah, I should have noticed those mimics, those gestures. Nasty bitches!!
Though it didn’t leave us broke and penniless, I won’t go back there ever again. Bone soup without proper meat has never been my favourite, and being scammed is indeed everyone’s least favourite.
Oh well, scam is just part of the risks of being a total stranger. At least I have a story with thrilling climax to bring home and to publish online.
Sometimes you need to act as if you knew everything, even if you don’t know anything. Don’t ask too much, act like a pro!