The Unoriginal Madurese

semut rangrang-Khoirul umam

Semut Rangrang (Tree’s red ants). Picture by Khoirul Umam (

Some of my friends jokingly called me “Madura KW” which means “the unoriginal Madurese”. The other ones who knew me even longer, let say my colleagues in Surabaya Post Daily, called me “the private Madurese” as opposed to those who considered as “official” Madurese. They called me that way since they think that I barely represent the characteristics of Madurese although both my father and mother are 100% Madurese.

So, what are the characteristics on me which my friend categorize as un-Madurese? Well, let’s discuss the simplest one: food-related preference.

Madurese, as any other ethnic groups in Indonesia, creatively cook offal (innards) of chicken, duck, goat, and cow into various delicious menus. We have intestine satay (grilled intestine), stir fry liver, and the most famous one is Madurese soto. Soto itself is a menu which consists of broth and some proteins. There are at least two kinds of Madurese sotos. The first one have a clear yellow broth  with a light tangy-savory taste. The broth covered slices of meat, beef fat, and beef offals (liver, lung, intestine, etc). The second type of soto is the one with darker broth and stronger taste which come from more intense spices and larger quantity of offals.

I love soto, especially the first type. However, I always ask for “meat only” soto. I do not like to consume soto with beef fat and even offals. While most of Madurese love the offal soto, I hate it. So, this is the way I lose the first characteristic of Madurese.

Madurese are also well-known of their endurance in dealing with harsh and dirty condition. Hence the waste-related trading –such as used papers, plastics, alloys, bottles, etc—are dominated by Madurese. I am at the extreme opposite. A newly washed plate which displays dots of water will effectively reduces my appetite. Consequently I seldom eat at the roadside stalls. Yes I bought food from those roadside stalls, however I prefer to bring it home and serve it using my own utensils. I can’t stand to eat at rather dirty stalls. I will definitely not eat in front of dish-washing area of the stalls. I can’t stand squalor. I definitely lose the second character of Madurese.

My weak compromy toward rather-disgusting things rules my food preference. I will not eat offal (for sure!) as well as head, neck, skin, and brutu. Well, brutu is chicken or duck’s buttock where their tail feathers grow. Many people said that brutu is so delicious. For me, brutu is simply disgusting. For other article about brutu, you might want to visit: or and ask Uncle Google to translate them.

I have also a different ‘style’ in eating fish. Most of Indonesian people eat fish by ‘pinching’ the fish flesh and mix it with rice (main dish). My ritual in eating fish is that I separate the flesh from other parts of the fish such as the head, offals, and fishbone. I only start eating my food when the fish meat already been “cleaned”. So, obviously, this is the third characteristic of Madurese off me.

The fourth and most obvious sign that I am “unoriginal” Madurese is that I hate super hot food. Well, I really mean hot, not sexy nor gorgeous. For me, hot is a strong taste and it will outdo any other tastes. So, a delicious soup will be tasted ‘hot’ and only ‘hot’ once you add chilli or hot sauce. In fact, most of Madurese love hot food. Hence, my friend call me “Madura KW” or the “unoriginal Madurese.

Well, we can also discuss it a bit more seriously. The emergence of “unoriginal Madurese” appellation to me is a result of stereotyping. People stereotype a certain ethnic group with certain sets of characteristics. In this context, Madurese are perceived as hot food-lovers. The stereotype is really strong so that any Madurese who do not like to eat hot food will be considered “un-Madurese”.

In fact, have you forgot a topic in junior high school’s biology subject? My biology teacher asked me and the other students to observe each other’s face and make a list of similarities and differences among them. Interestingly, most of the students has similar shape of ears: the earlobes have a half-circle on the end. However, there are a few people whose end earlobes attached to the temple. We call the minority as ‘variation’. In terms of social phenomenon, the variations are abundant. So, if a Madurese do not like to eat hot food, it does not mean that he is an “unoriginal” Madurese. He belongs to ‘variation’. Unique. Hahaha (*)

Pictures taken on 26 November 2012 from Image


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