What Indonesian Dishes Made From Dog Meat

Friend at the plate: the dog in Indonesia's culinary tradition

Red meat, hardly any fat: dog breast skewers, not seared yet (Photo: Jürgen Schmücking)

The dog in Indonesia's culinary tradition. A report from a backyard restaurant.

The restaurant doesn't have a name. The locals call itmbah geong. Grandpa’s place. Instagram? Facebook? Nothing. In fact, it is unlikely that the bumpy road leading to thembah geong is shown on the official maps. It's oppressively hot and humid. About eight Javanese are sitting at the wooden tables under the roof. A dog is barking in the back yard.

The dog is not eaten for culinary reasons in Indonesia, rather it serves as a cheap source of protein. (Photo: Jürgen Schmücking)

Anyone who comes here does not come by by chance. The house is located about 30 kilometers north of Yogyakarta in the southeast of Java. A wooden sign dangles on the outside wall: "buka ". That actually just means that the company is open. In truth, it's a code. An indication that fresh dog meat is available.

Even if the ball is held flat in Indonesia in this regard, dog is everywhere on the menu of the country. In Indonesia's cookbooks, however, there are neither instructions nor recipes to be found. “Flavors of Bali”, for example, has just appeared, an extensive and professionally illustrated basic work on Balinese cuisine, and although there are countless ones in Denpasar, the island's capital warungs and restaurants cater to the culinary preferences of migrants from northern Sumatra and Sulawesi, there is not a single reference to the tradition of eating dogs. You will find more in anthropological and gastrosophic works. The cultural historian Vivienne Kruger describes in her book “Balinese Food. The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali “that the consumption of dog meat is part of the daily diet of the Balinese. Dog meat is on the family's menu once or twice a month. The father then sets off and looks for a stray. He knows the dogs that may belong to the neighbors and will bring one home that he is sure does not belong to anyone around him. He kills the animal with a wooden club and brings it home for processing.

Well hung. But nobody cares about hygiene here. (Photo: Jürgen Schmücking)

The stray: a cheap source of protein
Of course, it's not about the culinary or even sensory value. Indonesians consider dog meat a cheap source of protein. However, there are no markets for dog meat, as are common in South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia or southern China, in Indonesia. You will look in vain for the meat at the weekly markets in the villages. Only specialized warungs, simple, small restaurants offer it.

Grilled over extreme heat, seasoned with sambal: dog breast skewers (Photo: Jürgen Schmücking)

The court in mbah geong was called sengju satay. Breast meat cut into goulash size. Red meat, little fat. There is a fire pot in one corner, and a rusty knife is used to cut the meat on a wooden board. If an Austrian official from the food authority were here, he would immediately go into a kind of paralysis. It is now almost 10 p.m., and it is still almost 30 degrees and humidity like a hammam. The bloody hook on which the dog was dismantled is wiped off with a damp cloth. Palm sugar is caramelized in a pan over an open fire. Before they get on the fire pot, they will satayswho have favourited skewers tossed in liquid sugar. They are then served with the ultra-hot chili paste sambal and some rice.

Rusty knives, rustic kitchen inventory. (Photo: Jürgen Schmücking)

Not an option: dog breasts medium rare
If one ignores aspects of food hygiene (cold chain, slaughter, storage), two problems arise when consuming dog meat. One is the question of origin. Dogs are not bred for consumption in an Indonesia. This means that the feeding is not subject to any control. In other words, the Carnivore canis eats what it can get. Medium rare so is not a real option. Even the Balinese know that the Dutch oven has to be extremely hot to be halfway on the safe side. The second problem is - for Europeans - an emotional one. Journalistic curiosity drives me into the backyard before the spit. To where the dog barked when we arrived. He's still barking. The dogs are not in small kennels. More like a medium-sized shed made of wooden boards. Two four-legged friends in about eight square meters. But the look is different. You don't have to be a great dog lover, but loyalty, fear or resignation are much easier to interpret in a dog's gaze than in that of a pig or a cow.

Doesn't taste bad. As a European, however, it is not easy emotionally and culturally to eat dog. (Photo: Jürgen Schmücking)