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Empal gentong is a type of soup from Indonesia that has a spicy, complex flavor complemented by pieces of beef. The dish is usually served with rice and contains a number of ingredients and spices to achieve the correct flavor. The meat used is often beef, usually pieces of traditional cuts as well as offal and tripe. The name "empal gentong" is derived from the Indonesian words for beef and the name of the clay pot in which it can be cooked, although modern preparations use more common metal cookware. Cooking originally took place over a wood-burning fire that heated the clay pot, but any heat source can be used.
In Indonesia, empal gentong resembles a type of dish known as a curry. These are usually spicy mixtures of ingredients and sauces that can be a main dish or a condiment. The first step in preparing empal gentong is to prepare the spices for the rest of the dish. These can vary widely, but they generally include garlic, turmeric, coriander, lemongrass, shallots, cumin, salt and galangal, a root that has an earthy, woody taste. The spices are ground and then fried in oil until they become aromatic but do not burn.
Sambal is sometimes added to the empal gentong. This is a type of very hot chili paste that is popular in Indonesia. There are many recipes for the paste, but the common factor connecting them is the heat of the condiment. It can be added to the soup in paste form, or can be added as a dried, powdered version that is similar to red pepper powder.
The meat in empal gentong is prepared next. This involves boiling the meat in water or stock. The authentic version of the dish uses cubes of beef from a standard cut and some of the offal. The type of offal used is usually tripe, lungs and intestines. The flavors can be different and conflict while cooking, so the offal and the rest of the beef are boiled separately to allow their flavors to remain distinct.
When the meat is done it is removed and the boiling liquid is replaced with a lesser amount, then the meat is placed back into the stock and reheated. The spice mixture is added to the pot as well as bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves. After the flavors have started to merge, thick coconut milk is added to the soup. The entire mixture is allowed to cook and reduce slightly, after which the empal gentong is complete.
The soup can be eaten in a bowl by itself, or it can be served with side dishes. Traditionally, it is complimented by different types of packed rice. These are balls of rice that have been stuffed into palm or banana leaves and then boiled or steamed. The empal gentong can be garnished with diced chives and onions.