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Sup kambing is a soup typically made of mutton, onions, tomatoes and a long list of spices that are roasted and turned into a marinating paste. The dish is especially popular in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, where it can be found being sold from food stalls on the street as a hot, filling meal. The soup basically is made from mutton that has been marinated in the roasted spices, cooked with aromatics such as onion and ginger, and then stewed in water or stock with some tomatoes. There are many variations on the basic recipe, with some including carrots, celery and cabbage, and others that use a strong base of fried leeks for flavor. Traditionally, sup kambing is served with a variety of garnishes including diced scallion, fried onions, hot chilies, cilantro and crispy fried shallots.
The name "sup kambing" literally means "mutton soup", although the type of meat that is used can vary slightly depending on the area, availability and one's definition of mutton. Classically, mutton is the meat of a lamb that is more than 1 year old. Some areas, however, do not herd or track lamb in this way, and mutton in those areas is goat meat. The dish is intended to be made with a strongly flavored meat such as mutton or goat, but it can be made with young lamb meat if the spices are carefully adjusted so they do not overpower the meat taste. Any cut of mutton can be used, but parts such as the ribs and neck are favored because of the flavor that the bones and tendons impart.
The first step in making sup kambing involves creating a paste out of the spices. The mixture most often includes ginger, onions, cloves, pepper, cardamom, mace, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. Some of the spices are first toasted in a pan to bring out their flavors and oils, after which they are ground together to form a thick paste, normally with a little water added. The spice mixture is then poured on top of the mutton and the meat is allowed to marinade for some time, usually overnight.
The marinated meat is then placed in a large, heavy pot along with any vegetables that are going to be used — frequently leeks, onions, carrots and celery — and then covered with water or a robust stock. Sup kambing is then allowed to simmer for several hours so all the flavors come together and the meat cooks all the way through and becomes fall-off-the-bone tender. Just before the end of cooking, tomatoes are chopped or quartered and added to the pot.
When completed, sup kambing can be served with bread, rice or by itself in a bowl. It is traditional to have a number of toppings available, most especially fried shallots or fried onions that are crispy and create some texture in the soup. Other garnishes can include scallions, shredded carrots or dried chili flakes.
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