Se’i, The Famous Indonesian Smoked Meat (Se’i Lamalera, Bandung)
Smoking and curing are known way to preserve meat, as well as probably the most favorite ones. These procedures enhance the flavor of the meat to the max, making it more enjoyable to eat. And normally, when we hear about smoked beef, we might think if that comes from Europe or America. The answer, not really. Smoking is popular in many cultures and traditions throughout the globe, including Indonesia.
In Eastern Indonesia, specifically in Kupang (Timor Island), Nusa Tenggara Timur, there’s a smoked meat product called se’i (from Rote language: to slice the meat in thin strips). Originally, as it is a game food, venison is used. But now, because there is a restriction on deer hunting for conservation, either pork or beef are used. Sometimes, chicken and fish are also good for options.
To make se’i, the normal ingredients like table salt (NaCl) and saltpeter/curing salt (KNO3) are used as flavor enhancer and preserving agent against unwanted microbes, respectively. But, the real magic comes from a specific tree, which leaves and woods used for smoking the se’i. The tree is called, kesambi or kosambi (Schleichera oleosa (Lour.) Oken, which belongs to family Sapindaceae, a cousin of Rambutan), also known as Makassar oil tree, or Ceylon Oak. Somehow, in a reason I don’t really know, smoking with this plant materials gives se’i its distinctive flavor and aroma, as well as giving it the reddish surface color.
Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had a chance to go to Kupang to tell the real story. So instead, I visited a restaurant, which specifically selling this smoked meat goodness in Bandung, that only takes me a moment by train from Jakarta (the travel duration would be the same, but you spend only IDR 100k (USD 8) to Bandung, IDR 1.1 million (USD 80) to Kupang).
I ordered the se’i sapi (beef se’i) and se’i ayam (chicken se’i), using the traditional sambal lu’at (sambal or spicy condiment from Kupang, with chili, tomato, and coriander leaves) and sambal matah (sambal made of chili and lemongrass, quite trendy now in Indonesia). Ah, and when we ordered se’i, it seems to be common if it served with rice, a lemony clear broth, and sauteed papaya (Carica papaya L.) flowers. This time, not only the flowers, but also sauteed papaya leaves.
The taste is awesome. The beef one used brisket meat (if I correct), making it layered with fat, enhancing the flavor. It tastes like normal smoked beef, but the smokiness is stronger, as it was just smoked. We normally eat meat with something sour, right, so we used sauces like barbecue sauce. Sambal lu’at has the spicy and sour kick that we need, the coriander boost the flavor even more. Sambal matah is also good, but too spicy for me and it conceal the smokey goodness of the se’i. The broth is good if you add it a bit to the rice, giving more lemon flavor with a hint of meat stock flavor to it. For the sauteed leaves, I like the bites in it and the perfect saltiness add to it. As it is part of papaya plant (it has bitter latex), I’d say that they cook it perfectly.
Final verdict, sambal lu’at is the best condiment for se’i. I like the beef one, but preferably I like the chicken more. Because the beef se’i is kinda shrinking and drier when it served, while the chicken (also I like chicken) is still meaty and succulent, although the beef has stronger smokey flavor.
P.S.: Other than regular beef meat and chicken meat, they also selling se’i of beef tongue (it is much softer and has smoother texture) and beef ribs (rib eye meat) (which has even more denser beef flavor).
SE’I SAPI LAMALERA
- Mushalla (praying room) – Available
- Debit card – Available
- Se’i Sapi with Sambal Lu’at – Regular Size (IDR 20k)
- Se’i Ayam with Sambal Matah – Regular Size (IDR 15k)
- Because the price is very affordable for students, this place is packed with people for lunch, plan your trip wisely so you can get a seat!
- You can buy the 1/4, 1/2, and 1 Kg of the Se’i here. The 1 Kg beef se’i was about IDR 150k