My first introduction to brenebon soup happened a long time ago when I was working as a tour guide at Mangkunegaran Palace, Surakarta. We used to host a rijsttafel (rice table) dinner event which served an array of traditional foods in the palace dining room for visitors — usually tourists from Holland.
There, in the dining room, a big, long, handsome teakwood dining table stands majestically right in the center. At the head of the table, before any other dishes, there would always be a big pot of piping hot brenebon soup! This clear soup was reddish with kidney beans, chunks of carrots, and small pieces of meat swimming in the broth. It was very delicious!
The dinner event would always be followed by a classical Javanese dance performance, accompanied by a live gamelan orchestra in a grand pendopo (the palace front hall used to hold performances or ceremonies). Working there was quite a memorable experience. Long after leaving Mangkunegaran, I can still remember the event, and especially the soup, vividly.
Sup brenebon, or brenebon soup, is a local adaptation of the term Dutch bruine bonensoep, which means kidney beans. The soup is commonly found in the Eastern part of Indonesia and is associated with Manado cuisine from North Sulawesi. As to why it was served at Mangkunegaran Palace (which is located in Central Java), alongside traditional Javanese dishes, I never knew. My guess is, because most of the guests were Dutch tourists, a Dutch-influenced dish was seen as appropriate.
Originally, the Manadonese people prepared the soup using pig’s trotters or pork meat, but as the dish is gaining more popularity in Java, where the majority of the population are Muslim, pork is substituted with beef for the soup base. Fatty cuts of beef are usually used, such as brisket or ribs. The halal version of the broth is not as thick as the original one, as it lacks natural gelatin found in the pig’s foot, but it’s no less delicious.
As the name suggests, kidney beans are the star ingredient of the dish. To simplify the cooking process, I used the canned beans for this recipe, but fresh or dried beans are definitely more nutritious. When using dried beans, they need to be soaked before being cooked to shorten the cooking time. To thicken the broth, some mashed kidney beans can be added, but I prefer the clear and lighter soup.
The best part of the soup is the spiced broth along with the soft beans. The soup is satisfying, and can be enjoyed by itself, or as an accompaniment for rice or bread.Print
Brenebon soup is a Dutch-influenced kidney beans soup, with a meat stock as its base. The dish originates in Manado, where pig’s trotters are used for the broth. Our version is the halal Javanese one, using beef ribs.
- 500 gr beef ribs
- 2 lt water
- 2 cm fresh ginger, peeled, bruised
- 3 cm cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 0.5 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3 small celery stalks (1 knotted, and the others sliced)
- 9 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
- 0.5 tsp white pepper powder
- 1 can (around 15 oz) kidney beans, drained
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into bite sizes
- 1 spring onions, cut into 2 cm pisces
- 1 medium tomato, quartered
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of sugar (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil or 1 tbsp butter/margarine
- Wash the beef ribs thoroughly, and put it in a deep cooking pan. Cover with water and add ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and the knotted celery. Bring the soup to boil over medium high heat.
- When the soup boils, lower the heat to medium low, cover the pan (slightly open the cover) and simmer the soup.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil or butter/margarine, and sauté the sliced shallots and garlic until fragrant, around 3 minutes.
- Add the sautéed shallots and garlic to the soup.
- Add white pepper powder, salt and sugar.
- Continue to simmer the soup. The total cooking time from when the soup boils until it’s done is about 1.5 hours.
- 10 minutes before the soup is done, add the kidney beans, and carrots.
- 2 minutes before the soup is done, add tomato slices, spring onion and sliced celery stalks.
- Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the soup rest for a while before serving.
- For the soup base, pig’s trotters, beef bones or chicken feet can be used as well — but never use fish or seafood.
Keywords: Non-spicy, healthy, common ingredients