An East Javanese staple, "nasi rawon" is basically steamed white rice drowned in an aromatic, black-colored soupy beef stew. It's one of Indonesia's favorite meals. The "rawon" takes its color from the brackish "kluwek" nuts (in Singapore and Malacca, it's called "buah keluak" and is widely used in Peranakan/Nyonya cooking), scented with galangal, coriander powder, fresh turmeric, candlenuts, cumin, shallots and (my least-liked Javanese aromatic) Indonesian bay leaf ("daun salam").
Preparation of the 'kluwek" nuts for cooking is very important - these nuts were usually buried in volcanic ash and allowed to mature. Before it can be edible, the nuts needed to be soaked in water for 3 days - the water needs to be changed and the nuts brushed clean daily. When cleaned, the nuts are cracked open, the black-colored pulp scraped out, and used for cooking. It has a heady, truffle-like scent.
Beef or tendon ("dengkul") will be boiled till tender in the "rawon" stock, then served with rice. Side-dishes include small raw mungbean sprouts ("camba") and spicy chilli paste ("sambal").
My first taste of "nasi rawon" today was at Rumah Makan Nguling, which is supposed to serve the BEST rawon in Malang town, East Java. It's been there since 1981, but is purportedly a spin-off of a famous Rumah Makan Nguling Probolinggo which started during the 1940s. Nguling's version was lighter than others I'd seen, but had a strong herbal flavor. We ordered a portion of "rawon" (with beef shin) and the more expensive "rawon dengkul" (beef tendons). There's also a platter of deep-fried side-dishes which included "perkedel" (potato-corned beef croquette), "gorengan paru" (deep-fried beef lung), "tempe" (fermented beancurd) and other unidentifiable morsels. I washed all those down with an "Es Soda Gembira" (Happy Iced Soda), an Indonesian concoction of pink rose syrup, evaporated milk and soda water on the rocks.
Interesting meal - a definite must-try if you want to understand East Javanese tastes.
Rumah Makan Nguling
Jl. K.. Zaenal Arifin No. 62
Kidul Ndalem, Malang