The little known characteristics of nasi kucing (cat rice).

Muhammad Gufron Salim   06 November 2015 14:00 - If you go to an angkringan (traditional food stalls), a staple that you might see is the nasi kucing or ‘cat rice’. This menu is such a fixture on angkringan stalls that any vendor not serving it would lose the label.

This popular rice dish didn’t earn its name because it has a feline based menu. Instead, it contains old favorites like chili sauce and milkfish. Wrapped in banana leaves and paper like other Indonesian foods such as gado-gado or ketoprak peanut sauce vegetable salads, or nasi uduk (coconut rice), the food continues to maintain its distinctive identity. will show you how the dish earned its name by highlighting five little known characteristics about it.

1. Its name
“One of the reasons (the Nasi Kucing) earned its name is because its original fillings of milkfish or anchovies, are allegedly a cat’s favorite foods. The dish’s small portions, which are served with chili, also resemble a cat’s meal”, says Angkringan vendor Heru Nugroho, who hails from from Klaten, on Thursday (22/9). “Since then, the side dishes have diversified to Rica-rica (hot pepper chicken, fish, and other meats), fried rice, stir fried mushrooms, stir fried tempe soybean cakes, as well as sweet fried tempe and other ingredients”.

2. The small portions
Originally, an angkringan was not meant to be a place to dine. “(The angkringan) was originally a hangout where snacks were served as to enliven the atmosphere” says Heru. “The term ‘Hik’ that was seen on angkringan from the Central Java town of Klaten was an abbreviation of the term hidangan istimewa kecil or ‘special small snacks’”

3. Unchanged over the time
Heru points out that nasi kucing derives its popularity from its small size and unchanged method of servings in a banana leaf and paper wrap. “Actually, the vendors can serve the nasi kucing on a plate. Though it won’t change the ingredients, it will no longer be known as nasi kucing” adds the 30 year old. “The buyer might have the impression that the dish’s price has increased, making them reluctant to buy it”.

4. Efficient and simple servings
Although nasi kucing’s portions are so small that they seem to be a waste of its wrapping material. But in efficiency and simplicity, the wrap is second to none. “Wrapping the nasi kucing saves me the trouble of doing so when the customer wants to take their food home, as the food was never in a plate. Wrapping the rice does wonders when the stall is crowded, because it saves me the trouble of washing the dishes,” explains Heru.

5. Mixing and matching side dishes
The customers’changing tastes are reflected in the choice of side dishes for the nasi kucing. These range from gorengan (fritters), krupuk (cracker), sate usus (chicken tripe satay), and scallop. Beverages like tea, ginger drinks, and milk as well as other evening favorites are also served, in line with the angkringan’s nighttime opening hours. The angkringan’s unchanged appeal continues to be a strong suit, an element that can be undone by a non traditional addition like a salad or cake.


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