Gudeg as a Food Culture and Yogyakarta’s Icon
Gudeg is Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is Gudeg. We cannot be separating these two as we cannot separate the creating of eggs and chickens.
This Yogyakarta’s icon is a traditional Javanese cuisine which we can trace the history way back to the mid 16th century: which always be attached to the history of the ended of Islamic Demak Kingdom (Sulnate Demak) and Pajang Kongdom (Sulnate Pajang) as well as the beginning of Islamic Mataram Kingdom (Sultanate Mataram, the last major independent kingdom in Java before the island was colonized by the Dutch).
A Glance of Demak, Pajang, and Mataram, and its Relation to Gudeg
In the mid 16th century, Ki Ageng Pemanahan and his son, Sutawijaya, helped his friend. Sultan Hadiwijaya who has the successor of Sultanate Demak to kill Arya Penangsang which was still related to the Sultan: the cousin of the Sultan’s wife. The two were thus awarded a fief in a forest called Alas Mentaok, now Kotagede (the great city) on which they founded their base for the future capital of Mataram Kingdom.
Aria Penangsang’s rebellion action and infiltration the Portuguese to monopolize spices trading by colonizing several trading ports along to the northern coastal area of Java: starting from Banten, Sunda Kelapa up to Tuban, and Gresik included Kendal, Jepara, and Lasem had caused Sultan Hadiwijaya to move the palace to Pajang, near Kartosuro. It was the start of Sultanate Pajang and a short-Muslim state in Java.
When Sutawijaya and his father just developed Alas Mentaok into a civilization area that is known as Kotagede in modern day, he was given a title Ngabehi Loring Pasar which is meant Lord of the Northern Part of the Market. The death of his foster father Sultan Hadiwijaya who had a disability heir Prince Benawa which was not capable to be the successor of Sultanate Pajang had passed the throne to Sutawijaya. He then crowned as the creator and King of Mataram Kingdom. In the Islamic Kingdoms, Sultan is a title that given to the King. However, Sutawijaya preferred to be crowned as a Panembahan unlike his foster father had.
The troops of Sutanwijaya were employed to open up the Alas Mentaok found abundant numbers of jackfruit and coconut trees to feed themselves. Wood logs from deforesting process were used to fire up a dish that was later named Gudeg.
Since the forest contained only olant based ingredients, gudeg was starting as a vegan dish: a mix of green or unripe jackfruit (in Javanese: gori, or in Indonesian: nangka muda), coconut milk, palm sugar, and spices (shallots, garlics, candlenuts, coriander seeds, galangal, daun salam or Indonesian bay leaves, and teak leaves) then stewed in a large pot for 3-4 hours until it was drier and caramelized. The additional ingredient of teak leaves is impotant to give the dish to have dark brown reddish color.
To soften the fresh unripe jackfruits by boiling in water prior or be cooked in coconut milk and spices is recommended. Handgudeg or ngudeg activity which is meant keep stirring is needed to let the mixture without burning. Those Javanese words was adopted to the dish itself “Gudeg”.
As foods evolve, so is Gudeg. The original serving of Gudeg in the past didn’t include any meats or animal by products: just Gudeg and steamed white rice. In the present day, you will find Gudeg is cooked with egg or chicken then serve with other side dishes, such as Opor Ayam (chicken in coconut gravy) or Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), Sambal Goreng Krecek (cattle rinds/ skins fried sambal), Telur Pindang (tea eggs), Opor Telur (egg in coconut gravy) or just regular hard oiled egg, tofu, and/or tempeh.
Variations of Gudeg
Gudeg is a food that was created and strated from commoners. Then the royal family of Yogyakarta descendants to their guest, and developed Gudeg Manggar, a coconut flower in Javanese.
Based on texture, Gudeg can be divided into two: dried and wet gudeg. Dried Gudeg is the original version which developed and catered in the era without refrigeration and still be good to be consumed for the next 24 hours. it’s known as Red Gudeg from Yogyakarta. Drier, sweeter, and dark reddish in color.
Wet Gudeg contains more coconut milk and typical of Solo version: more liquid, soupy, and white opaque in color due to no teak leaves being added.
Beside texture, Gudeg can be classified on the regions. Yogyakarta and Solo were mentioned previously but with time, there is a Banyumas version with additional lemongrass. Meanwhile, East Java with less amount of palm sugar, saltier, and hotter in tone as a result of chili peppers addition.
Cookware and Packaging Materials
It’s recommended to cook Gudeg in a kendil (claypot) like the old time to get a distinct flavor. However, in modern days, people can cook it in a regular pot, or dutch oven, or even a pressure cooker. Surely with all these modern cookwares, you will loose a remarkable aroma that is produced as if we cook in a kendil.
Traditionally, Gudeg will be stored in the original cookingware, kendil, or transfer it to a besek (bamboo box packaging). In present days, people can keep many different to be stored in the refrigerator then later heated up by steaming process.
Gudeg that is packaged in a can has been popularized in Indonesia for some years. The recent ability to pack it in a can will create a wider opportunity to be transported and exported outside Indonesia as the shelf life will be up to a year without refrigeration.
The popularity of Gudeg has been spread out all over the country. You can find warungs (small eateries) or restaurants that serve Gudeg in Jakarta and any other cities in Indonesia.
Yogyakarta and Its Surroundings
Yogyakarta is now as a special territory and the capital city of that special territory. This city had been always contributed to the central government during the revolution and independency eras.
The late Sultan Hamengkubuwono the 10th was once appointed as the Vice Prsident of Soeharto’s regime. Meanwhile during the first presidency’s era Soekarno, the Sultan was apointed as a Minister of Defense of Indonesia as well as the Governor of Yogyakarta Special Territory.
As a second most popular tourist destination, Yogyakarta deserves much more attentions with its rich Javanese culture, located near two temples of UNESCO World Heritage: Candi Borobudur and Candi Prambanan, and last but least its Gudeg.
The history of Borobudur and Prambanan is even older than the history of Gudeg as one of Yogyakarta’s cultural icons, Sultanate Mataram and Yogyakarta.
Borobudur as a Buddhist temple was built by King Samarottungga of Shailendra Dyansty, dated back to 850 AD. Later on, another temple was started by Sri Maharaja Rakai Pikatan as the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty’s answered to the Buddhidt Shailendr’s Dynasty, Samarotungga’s daughter Princess Pramodha Vardhani. This Hindu’s temple construction was finally done during Sri Maharaja Balitung Mah Sambu around the 10th century.
There is much more to explore in this special territory of Yogyakarta ever since the new international airport was built to create as easy access for tourism. About 40 kilometers away to the west from the airport, there are some tourist destinations in Kulon Progo, such as Glagah Beach, Kalibiru, one thousand stone Songgo Langit, Woh Kudu Beach, small lake of Sendangsari, Pajangan, Flower Garden at Samas Beach geoforest Watu Payung, and Pintu Langit Dahrono in Bantul.
With all these accessibilities and beautiful destinations, visit Yogyakarta and taste the Gudeg, Traveler. You will also see how ancient Javanese culture shape the modern world.
Food Content Writer: Pepy Nasution (FB & IG: Indonesiaeats)
Expert: Ibu Mimis Katoppo Sasmoyo (Gastronome and Head of Lingkar Budaya Indonesia)
Gastronomy has been the joy of all peoples through the ages. It produces beauty, and wit, and goes hand in hand with goodness of heart, and a consideration of others.”
~ Charles Pieree Monselet