Can you imagine an Indonesian soup dish, like Soto can have a different recipe in many regions? It not only happens in Soto but also in rice-based menus, salads, and even a beverage.
The cultural process has a significant role in diversification. In this article, we will dig deeper into Indonesian soup, not only as a culinary heritage but also the history behind it.
- Indonesian soup and The acculturation process
- Every Region has a different style of soup
- The Best 15 Indonesian soups
- 1. Kuah Pliek U (Pliek U Soup)
- 2. Gulai Kepala Ikan (White Snapper Curry)
- 3. Pempek Palembang (Indonesian Fish Cake)
- 4. Soto Medan
- 5.Coto Makassar
- 6.Sayur Asam (Sweet-Sour Soup)
- 7.Soto Betawi
- 8.Soto Semarang
- 9. Rawon (Black Soup)
- 10. Soto Banjar
- 11. Garang Asem
- 12. Ares
- 13. Ikan kuah kuning (Fish with yellow soup)
- 14. Sup merah (Red Soup)
- 15. Lontong kikil
Indonesian soup and The acculturation process
This Indonesian soup diversity is influenced not only by its authentic ingredients from every region like vegetables, fruits, and spices but also by the acculturation process.
This acculturation happened a long way before the colonization period. According to indonesia.go.id, it happened around 19 century. When a trader from China, Middle East, and Europe came to Indonesia. They didn’t only bring goods like fabrics and gold or look for spices, but also bring their original recipe. Like the Indonesian soup dish, Soto.
This culinary recipe was brought by a Chinese trader. Still, because it has turmeric inside, Soto also had influenced by Indian culture. When the acculturation process works, this Indonesian soup becomes very specific in every region. With a different soup style and its content (meat or vegetable).
Every Region has a different style of soup
Indonesian soup also has a different style of broth in many regions. One uses coconut milk (Santan) and the other uses original broth (usually using fish or meat as the flavor).
For example, Indonesian soup with coconut milk. In Sumatra, this kind of Indonesian soup is often served with vegetables that grow a lot on this island like jackfruit or cassava leaves. In Borneo, Indonesian soup with coconut milk is often served with fish as the main ingredient.
Not only the meat or veggies, but the coconut milk color is also different in every region. There are red, yellow, pale yellow, and white. It is because every origin has its specific taste and spices.
There is also Indonesian soup with original broth. Usually, it has a clear color and has a different style too in every region.
The Best 15 Indonesian soups
There are many Indonesian soups, but here are the 15 best recommendations of Indonesian soups from Aceh (the west region of Indonesia) to Papua (the east region of Indonesia) that you must try.
1. Kuah Pliek U (Pliek U Soup)
This Indonesian soup is from Aceh. Pliek U or Patarana is a coconut oil leftover. The coconut oil becomes cooking oil and the leftover is dried and called a Pliek U.
Kuah Pliek U contains vegetables, shrimp(rebon), and you can also add Kikil (part of cow’s feet). This dish has tasty with a hint of sour and spicy.
2. Gulai Kepala Ikan (White Snapper Curry)
Gulai kepala ikan is a famous west sumatera culinary beside of Rendang. This Indonesian soup is using coconut milk with turmeric, so the soup has a yellow color. Like its name, Gulai kepala ikan used a white snapper head. Because it only has the head part from white snapper fish, this menu often costs a lot.
3. Pempek Palembang (Indonesian Fish Cake)
This Indonesian soup has a brown color with a sour taste. Many sources say Pempek comes from Apek, the founder. Apek who lived near Musi river, tried to modify a fish menu beside it’s being fried or cooked with coconut milk. So, Apek made a fish dish using flour.
Now, Pempek has many styles, like Pempek Kapal Selam (Pempek with egg), Pempek Lenjer (pempek with long round shape) and Pempek Adaan (pempek with round shape).
In the early era, Pempek used Belida fish. Yet, that fish becomes rare, now Pempek using Mackerel fish.
4. Soto Medan
Soto Medan is one kind of Soto that uses coconut milk. The coconut milk make this dish has a thick and tasty flavor with chicken meat or beef, rice noodles, and a boiled egg.
Like Soto Medan, Coto Makasar is also a kind of Indonesian soup that uses coconut milk.
If the Medan style has a yellow color from turmeric, Coto Makassar has a white color.
Coto Makassar contains beef and innards. It’s served in a small bowl with Buras and Melinjo chips.
6.Sayur Asam (Sweet-Sour Soup)
Sayur Asam is an Indonesian soup with a clear color and sour taste. The origin is from West Java.
In West Java, Sayur Asam contains vegetables like corn, half-ripe papaya, and long beans.
But, in East Java Sayur Asam has a different style. They usually added water spinach, cucumber and it has a spicy taste.
Not just coconut milk, Soto Betawi also has milk for its soup. This mixture makes Soto Betawi not just tasty but creamy too.
Like Coto Makassar, Soto Betawi used beef and innards. The unique point of this Indonesian soup is they have a potato and tomato inside. This tomato gives a fresh taste between the creamy soup and fatty meat.
This Indonesian soup has a common stuffing like rice noodles, cabbage, and chicken meat. The soup itself is also simple. It has a clear colour with a tasty flavor.
What makes this Indonesian soup memorable is, it served in a little bowl and has so many complementary foods to enjoy with. Like tempe goreng, seafood satay, innard satay and perkedel.
9. Rawon (Black Soup)
Rawon is a East Java signature dish. This Indonesian soup known since Majapahit era.
The black color is made from Kluwek. Even though the color is mysterious, Kluwek has significant tasty flavor.
Not just that, Kluwek also a natural preservative for Rawon. That’s why people say, Rawon will have a better taste when it is served more than a day.
10. Soto Banjar
Banjar is one of the Borneo tribe and Soto Banjar is their signature dish.
This Indonesian soup has a creamy texture from condensed milk or egg. Soto Banjar uses pullet meat and has Perkedel inside.
People usually enjoy this Indonesian soup with Lontong.
11. Garang Asem
This Indonesian soup used to be a nobleman’s favorite dish. Because the main ingredient is free-range chicken, which is so expensive at that time.
But now, everyone can enjoy Garang Asem. Garang Asem has a Bilimbi which has a sour but fresh taste. Usually, this Indonesian soup is served inside a banana leaf.
Ares is a unique Indonesian food made from banana stem and coconut milk soup.
This dish uses a banana stem because at that time, Nusa Tenggara Barat was struggling with dry season. And banana is the only plant that survives.
13. Ikan kuah kuning (Fish with yellow soup)
This Indonesian soup uses coconut milk or fish for broth.
In Papua, Ikan Kuah Kuning served with Papeda (sago porridge with a chewy texture).
For the fish, you can use mullet, yellow tail fish, or Mackerel fish for making this Indonesian soup.
14. Sup merah (Red Soup)
Many sources say this Indonesian soup comes from Surabaya East Java.
as its name, Merah means “Red”. Because this soup has a red color that comes from tomato, carrot, and sausage inside the soup.
15. Lontong kikil
Lontong is rice covered with banana leaves. while Kikil is part of cow feet like a jelly-chewy texture.
Lontong kikil is an Indonesian soup from East Java. It has a clear color soup from a cow-meat broth. But, what make this dish unique is the sambal. Lontong kikil often served with candleberry sambal which has a creamy-nutty taste.
From these best 15 Indonesian soups from Aceh to Papua, you see Indonesia has a various culinary legacy. A different region has its own soups consistency, color, stuffing even a complementary dish.
It’s because a cultural process meets the richness of natural resources and the precious history of each region.