Tasting Soto Tauto in Pekalongan
Steam wafts in the air as the spicy soup got poured into a bowl. The savory aroma of this dark reddish-brown soup will greet you as you set foot in a Tauto stall in Pekalongan.
Tauto is one of Pekalongan specialties. A dash of tauco—or fermented soybean, gives Tauto its unique flavor. Tauco makes a thicker soto (spicy soup) broth and lends its reddish color into the broth, making Tauto stands out from other soto dishes in Java.
In addition to the distinctive taste of tauco, Tauto has an interesting history. In the past, Tauto was sold by Chinese merchants in and out of the village. Yes, the distribution of spicy soup or soto in the archipelago cannot be separated from the influence of Chinese traders. Caudo. From this word, comes the word soto—that was absorbed by various regions into soto, coto, or tauto.
In Pekalongan, where the populations consist of Arabs, Malays, and Chinese, the word caudo is absorbed into tauto. Later on, the locals add tauco paste into the recipe. When asked about the uniqueness of Tauto, a Pekalongan friend replied: “The meat is from buffalo meat!”
Buffalo, not cow.
Tauto is made with buffalo meat—not beef or chicken. Why buffalo? It cannot be separated from history. In the old days, the coastal city of Pekalongan was dominated by Hindu-Javanese culture. For the Hindus, cows are considered sacred animals. Therefore, at that time, an unwritten rule was circulated to have a ban on slaughtering cows. Conversely, buffalo meat is an option.
Tauto comes with a portion of warm rice. A variety of savory fries were present on the serving table. Add fried tempeh into your plate along with kerupuk (flour crackers), and you’ll have a complete tasting of Tauto!
Actually, Tauto was originally served with lontong (rice cakes), not rice. However, over time, Tauto bent itself to follow the taste buds of Indonesians, and rice becomes an option. “Usually lontong will still be served on the table,” said the locals.
He was right. In addition to fries and various types of crackers, a plate of lontong is ready on the table.
“If you want to have tauto, have one in a traditional stall, not in a restaurant!” said my Pekalongan friend. One of his favorite Tauto stalls is located just outside the city, in Kedungwuni Ambokembang Village. “The atmosphere and the taste make you miss it!” he added.
Sweet, savory, and slightly spicy flavor from Tauto soup melt perfectly in your moth. The crispy tempeh chips are dipped in the thick reddish-brown soup. The taste of tauco gives such a fresh sensation to it. It could be this unique taste that makes a lot of people crave this Pekalongan culinary wonder.
Tauto is not only rich in taste, but also rich in history. It can’t be denied that local culinary always hides a clue to the history of an area. Say for instance, Tauto that merges the cultural diversity of Pekalongan into a delicious bowl of spicy soup.