"Eco-friendly" Jengkol that Gets You Addicted
Updated on 1/6/2016
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Quietness accompanied us while turning to Kabupaten Street, a shady area not far from the heart of Jogja. Big trees covered us from the burning morning sun, accompanying us along the way to Roro Jengkol's. Being only 3 weeks of age, the restaurant has started to gain popularity as it offers a menu rarely found in Jogja: jengkol. It is said that Roro Jengkol's is the first restaurant in Yogyakarta specializing in jengkol, and is said to produce delicious jengkol menus. Curious, YogYES visited the restaurant, located on Kabupaten Street.
Roro Jengkol's can be easily identified from a black banner installed in front of the building. We were greeted by Heri "Kuncung", the owner of Roro Jengkol's, who is a Master of Ceremony frequently performing in various entertainment events in Yogyakarta. The restaurant looks just humble-only a small cart and two dining tables set in the porch. On the cart, a set of large pans were seen in line, containing four menus: jengkol stew, gulai jengkol (a kind of goulash or curry), rendang jengkol, and balado jengkol. As Heri suggested, we ordered balado jengkol and rendang jengkol that indeed appeared tasty.
After waiting a few minutes, we were served with our orders. Both the rendang and balado were served in a small bowl, next to warm steamy rice. We leaned our faces to the foods served before us, trying to smell the distinctive aroma of jengkol, which commonly is very strong. Strange as it was, we didn't smell any aroma we've previously expected. The aroma was replaced by strong smell of spices produced by the seasonings.
Couldn't wait any longer, YogYES rushed and enjoy the foods. Jengkol balado tastes a bit spicy from the chilli and lime leaves used as its seasoning. The jengkol tastes soft, but with a hint of potato-like texture as commonly found in jengkol seeds. There is no bitter taste usually found in the middle of the jengkol, unless we have a strangely sharp sense of taste that can taste beyond the balado seasoning covering the outer side of the seed.
Rendang jengkol also offers similar taste, but with softer texture. Longer cooking perhaps has contributed in making the rendang jengkol softer, similar to that of boiled potato cooked almost fully. The thick, somewhat sweet rendang gravy seeped deep into the inside of the jengkol seeds, tastes considerably delicious when eaten along with warm rice.
After dining, we talked with Heri, who was busy cleaning up the display cart. The MC known by his stage name-Kuncung-enthusiastically told us how he happened to start his small business.
"At first, I was only trying to run a side business to fill the gap between MC jobs," said Heri, a man in glasses. "I didn't know for sure how I came up with the idea of selling jengkol-based foods. And, here it is, Roro Jengkol's."
Besides offering on-premise sales, Roro Jengkol's also offers delivery service for a minimum order of 5 portions. Though being only 3 weeks of age, Heri has been overloaded by orders from various cities in Indonesia, such as Surabaya and Jakarta. Some of his customers even come all the way down from outer cities only to have a try of the jengkol menus, followed by ordering kilograms of cooked jengkol packed in special packaging.
"I was just told that the Vice Major would visit my restaurant. I'm overwhelmed," Heri said, showing his handphone to YogYES.
As Heri explained, the restaurant was inspired by his own experience, where he found it difficult to enjoy jengkol he loves so much. There are only few restaurants serving jengkol in Yogyakarta, making it hard for jengkol lovers to find one. Also, the strong aroma sometimes causes people to feel embarrassed to enjoy them openly, leading people to consider jengkol as an unusual menu. This is what has led Heri into creating "Eco-friendly Jengkol" concept to apply to Roro Jengkol's.
"I don't use unusual ingredients like charcoal or limestone commonly used by others when cooking jengkol. I only use pure Indonesian spices," he explained further.
Heri believes that such lengthy process can also remove the toxic contained in jengkol, which sometimes becomes something to fear for the fans of this unique food. As widely known, excessive consumption of jengkol may cause what is known as "jengkolan", a health issue known by the name "djenkolism" in medical term. The issue is caused by djenkolic acid, an amino acid contained in jengkol seeds, which crystalize easily in acidic condition. In human's kidney and bladder, djenkolic acid may turn into sharp crystals that can hurt the urinary tract. This is what causes a number of painful symptoms in people diagnosed with jengkolan, from difficulty when urinating, bloody urination, to kidney damage.
Though sounds harmful, jengkol-a member of the family of nuts-indeed bear many benefits! A research has concluded that jengkol can improve blood sugar condition in mices infected with diabetes. Better still, jengkol also contains high level of protein (up to 23%), higher than tempe (19%), milk (7%), and chicken eggs (13.6%). With so many benefits, it's not a mistake to eat jengkol without having to fear the smell and toxic it contains.
"So, no need to be afraid of eating jengkol," Heri concluded, smiling.
Text PANJI G. AKBAR Photography JAYA TRI HARTONO
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