The word babi means pork in Indonesian. The oldest recipe of Babi Kecap was found in the cookbook Kokkie Bitja of the year 1854. A dish created by the influence of the ethnic Chinese-Indonesians in Indonesia, also known as “Tionghoa Peranakan” or “Chinese Peranakan.” Peranakan Chinese are descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled in the Indonesian archipelago centuries ago and intermarried with local Indonesian communities. The term “Peranakan” itself means “descendants” or “born of” in Malay and Indonesian languages.
Babi kecap is an Indonesian dish featuring braised pork in sweet soy sauce, primarily associated with Javanese cuisine. While influenced by Chinese culinary practices, it is not typically considered a Peranakan dish, despite some similarities. Peranakan cuisine, or Straits Chinese cuisine, is distinct from Indonesian cuisine, although culinary influences often overlap. Nonetheless, babi kecap remains a beloved classic in Indonesian cooking, particularly in Javanese cuisine.
In the Netherlands, where there are historical ties with Indonesia, the dish is known as babi ketjap (old Dutch spelling) and is popular among the Indo-Dutch community. It may be served as part of a rijsttafel banquet, reflecting colonial influences.
The dish is believed to have origins in Southern Chinese braised pork in soy sauce, known as babi taotjo, although it has evolved to become more Indonesian in nature, particularly due to the use of kecap manis, which adds a mild sweetness to the dish. In Bali, babi kecap is consumed during festivals such as Galungan and Nyepi, showcasing its cultural significance in Indonesian cuisine.
Pork is not a prominent part of the national menu in Indonesia due to the country’s large Muslim population, which abstains from consuming pork for religious reasons. However, in certain regions of Indonesia where there are significant non-Muslim communities, such as Bali, North Sulawesi, and parts of East Nusa Tenggara, pork dishes are more prevalent and culturally significant. In these regions, pork is featured in various traditional dishes and culinary specialties. For example, in Bali, “babi guling” (suckling pig) is a famous dish served during ceremonies and celebrations. In North Sulawesi, dishes like “babi panggang” (grilled pork) and “babi rica-rica” (spicy pork) are popular. Despite pork not being a mainstream part of the national menu, Indonesia’s diverse culinary landscape reflects the cultural diversity and influences from different regions, including those where pork is consumed. Additionally, with the growth of tourism and exposure to international cuisines, some modern Indonesian restaurants may offer pork dishes to cater to a broader range of tastes and preferences. However, it’s essential to respect local customs and sensitivities regarding food choices when dining in Indonesia. A halal Indonesian version often uses beef variant known as Daging Semur (from the Dutch word smoor, means braising).
This family favorite is an easy recipe with tender pieces of pork and a fragrant soy sauce. It can be part of a spread of dishes or just served with steamed rice and some fresh cucumber sticks.
SOY SAUCE (Ketjap, Kecap modern spelling}, is a condiment made from soybeans. Available in three types: sweet (manis), semi-sweet (sedang) and salty (asin).
Thick, syrupy kecap manis is the most common type used. Kecap is usually added while cooking, but can also be used at the end. Kecap asin is often used as a salt substitute. If manis is not available, you can use Chinese soy sauce with the addition of brown sugar or molasses.
1 pound pork belly
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed OR 2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon oil
3-4 tablespoons butter
2-inch piece fresh djahé (ginger), sliced lengthwise
1 cup ketjap manis
1 teaspoon ketumbar (ground coriander)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or Gulah Jawa)
1 teaspoon salt
Cut the pork into cubes of about 1.5 inches. Heat the oil and butter and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the meat and fry until halfway done. Add the djahé, ketjap manis and ketumbar.
Stir well to combine and simmer with a covered lid over low heat for about 1.5 hours. Add sugar and salt to taste; the sauce should be slightly sweet. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Add water when too thick.