“Pindang tetel is made of ‘pindang’ fish, right?”
Indeed, this question often arises when we mention ‘pindang tetel’. In Indonesia, ‘pindang’ is commonly used to refer to a cooking method where fish is salted and seasoned, then smoked or boiled until dry for preservation.
However, the answer to the question above is: no. Although the name is ‘Pindang Tetel’–the typical food of Ambokembang Village in Kedungwuni Subdistrict, Pekalongan Regency–the dish is actually made from beef, not fish.
From the look of it, this dish resembles another Indonesian soupy dish called ‘rawon’. However, the taste of pindang tetel is very different from rawon–which has a thicker soup.
The sound of traditional crispy crackers (kerupuk) being broken will be the sound that welcomes you when you visit a pindang tetel food stall. Kerupuk usek, a traditional cracker that is fried with sand, cannot be separated from pindang tetel.
“Pindang tetel is not a good match for oil-fried kerupuk, so it has to be accompanied by sand-fried kerupuk (kerupuk usek),” explained one of the pindang tetel sellers.
It is said that the Ambokembang area, from where the dish originated, used to be abundant with kluwek–an Indonesian spice that gives out a natural blackish color when cooked. When the locals tried to cook tempeh and tofu with this spice, they found the tasted to be strange. They turned into beef instead, that was chopped into small pieces, or known locally as ‘tetelan’. This is where ‘pindang tetel’ got its name.
The meat near the bone is the most suitable to be made into pindang tetel. Kluwek, one of the main ingredients for pindang tetel, mixes well with onions to eliminate the unpleasant smell of beef.
This slightly-spicy savory food is best enjoyed in the late afternoon. Pindang tetel is usually served with rice cake or white rice. In the old days, pindang tetel was only served during celebrations or circumcision ceremonies, but the increasing number of fans for this dish has made pindang tetel sellers mushroomed.
For those of you who are interested in tasting pindang tetel, you can visit the Kedungwuni area when you are in Pekalongan. Gerobak (food cart) Pindang Tetel Ibu Sugi, that is located next to RSI (hospital) Pekajan, has been serving this local dish for more than 20 years!