In Aceh tradition, food festive cuisines are always cooked by men, such as preparing kuah beulangong. Beulangong, refers to the big size of iron crock, is around one meter in diameter. Kenduri tradition or a kind of thanksgiving festive in Aceh has been done collectively and with the spirit of togetherness.
Star shaped Lawang flowers, tube cuts of banana trunk, pandan leaves, curry leaves, were floating among seasonings and meat in the iron crock. The fire woods created the dancing smokes of hundreds of beef cuts wrapped in rich spices seasoning.
The aroma was enticing. Smokes flew from the kitchen thatch roof. Right in the side of the door, 15 big crocks or beulangong danced its way for the delicious aroma. It invited visitors to gather in the kitchen as it lined up the cooking in the yard of Aceh traditional house.
Around 15 groups of people, both men and women, were preparing the beef gravy to greet 1,500 guests. The women prepared bu kulah, rice wrapped with banana leaves in a small pyramid shape.
The dzikr recital, or the praising of God’s name, stopped. Each person went searching for an empty seat before idang which was still covered by the gold embroidery veil. Several people sat surrounding the idang, a medium size tray filled with several plates, aside kuah beulangong.
Bu kulah was opened and released the aroma of hot rice mixed banana leaves. When scooping the kuah beulangong out of the plate, the delicious spicy aroma was really tempting the saliva, urged the tongue to taste the smoky curry.
We can still find this tradition both in the cities and villages across Aceh. There is a tradition of food festive during Maulid kenduri (celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad), Sunat Rasul (khitan, celebrating circumcision of a boy), marriage, and treun blang (start to work on the paddy field).
The no less interesting part of curry cuisine is kuah beulangong. Kuah beulangong usually serves as an obligatory during kenduri. The tradition of big festive was originated from Aceh Besar, the district surrounding Banda Aceh city, so Banda Aceh also serves kuah beulangong as the main culinary to both foreign and domestic tourists.
To respond this, Banda Aceh city government promotes the culinary tradition in an attractive Kuah Beulangong Festive for visitors. The event was held to invite visitors coming to Aceh to taste the cuisine, witness the cooking tradition and enjoy their participation.
In the Maulid month, kuah beulangong is commonly served in Aceh Besar and Banda Aceh. The Banda Aceh Cultural and Tourism Office promote Aceh Museum as the kenduri park, so the visitors can experience the village aura in the festival.
“Besides enjoying the taste of kuah beulangong, visitors can explore Museum of Aceh and see its collections,” says Reza Fahlevi, Head of Aceh Cultural and Tourism Office. Nine crocks from Aceh Besar and six crocks from Banda Aceh gathered in the event. He admits that the current festival is still in a small scale, but is planning to organize more participants from other districts to join in.
“The purpose of this festival is to promote the local potential to the tourists. This kind of culinary festive will be an annual event,” he explains. He will organize a bigger festival that would be located in Queen Safiatuddin Park.
A local tourist and also a culinary blogger from Java, Wana Darma, who attended Kuah Beulangong Festival in Museum Aceh was amazed with the big culinary tradition. He says the aroma of kuah beulangong curry is very enticing. “It is really delicious. The beef and the banana trunk tasted great, and it had no coconut milk on it while the spices are really great,” he says to Aceh Tourism.
He came directly to witness the Kuah Beulangong to reveal its secret recipe from the participants. Previously he thought the kind of gravy cuisine uses all coconut milk. He then considered kuah beulangong is different. The grated coconut is the main ingredient seasoning.
Not only Wana, a group of Malaysian tourists also tasted the cuisine and headed off to the kitchen of kuah beulangong. They were curious with the seasoned gravy which was not a curry as they saw and smelled the aroma.
Malaysian culinary also has seasoned gravy called curry. The guests were amazed with the freedom of variation of Acehnese in their culinary dish. Chefs are free to choose their meat counterparts in kuah beulangong, such as mixing it with jackfruit, banana, or banana trunk.
Not only tradition which makes Aceh special. This sharia province also has a secret in stirring the cooking at the kitchen.
“Stir it counter-clockwise when cooking. Like doing tawaf during hajj [Islamic pilgrim], that’s what makes us different in the way of cooking. Don’t forget to salawat [praise the Prophet and his family] when stirring,” explains Zulkhari, a participant from Meuraxa Sub-district, Banda Aceh.
The fanfare of Kuah Beulangong festival felt so warm between visitors and participants. They sat together on the pandan matting while chatting and enjoying the tough beef. Scooping the gravy until its last drop in the bowl. As if the guests were enjoying a family festive and forgot that they were in Aceh culinary festival. (Yanti Octiva)