One of my favourite traditional East Java dish: Rawon. On the picture above, it’s in the left most bowl with the dark coloured soup. Rawon is actually a beef stew soaked in a dark golden soup of keluwek or Pangium edule fruit extract.
This dish is best served hot with rice, chilli sauce, kerupuk, fried tempe or tempeh, some salted boiled duck eggs called telor asin, and fresh soya beans. Good for heavy breakfast, lunch or even dinner.
The darkness of the soup gives it the exotic aura of old East Java cultures, the distinct taste and smell of keluwek and a slight note of ginger will ensure the departure of the soul to some imaginary exotic place in remote east Java.
To my amazement after had been enjoying these kind of dishes for decades, I just found out that the main ingredient of this rawon, the above mentioned keluwek contains hydrogen cyanide – which is a kind of poison. Cyanide, those pills for captured spies! But through some process that takes 40-days, the poison has been extracted out from the fruit so that the extracted sauce is safe to eat.
Now I’m wondering how has it ever occur to somebody to prepare such a meal that perhaps has been around for at least a century – with an initially poisonous ingredient within. Empirically perhaps, this dish had human casualties due to the poisonous nature of the main ingredient.
Who would ever think or how had somebody come to a conclusion to extract the poison from a fruit and turn it into an exotic dish?
Now I am also wondering, who or what formal entity is taking the responsibility of validating the safety of the fruit extract?
If you believe in fate and destiny – do try Rawon. Try it anyway even if you are not.