Sun, 25 Nov 2001

Warm up with a meal of rabbit 'state'

The glowing afternoon sun provided light but very little warmth, and the gentle breeze added to the peaceful atmosphere. To the east, the Grojogan Sewu waterfall thunderously disgorged its sparkling stream. Laughter abounded and signs of the merriment of holidaymakers were everywhere.

Likewise, there was a glow of happiness on Hadi Purwanto's face. The 25-year-old seller of rabbit sate (small pieces of meat roasted on a skewer) at Tawangmangu resort had every reason to be elated. The skewers of rabbit meat that he had carried on his shoulders from his home in Banjarsari village were almost all sold, with only a few remaining.

"Today I can go home early," he said.

According to Purwanto, there are about 10 rabbit sate sellers scattered around the 3.5 kilometers of the waterfalls. On holidays and Sundays, this number increases to cater to the huge number of people visiting the mountain resort.

"During those days, usually there is a dangdut performance to liven things up," said the father of one.

Grojogan Sewu -- a loose translation being "a gush of one thousand streams" -- is a two-hour drive from Surakarta and is the main tourist attraction in Karanganyar.

Generally, Purwanto and the other sate vendors arrive at their usual spots at 7 a.m. and stay until 5 p.m. Sometimes, however, they remain even after all the visitors have left, having failed to sell even a single skewer.

"I take whatever is left home. It can be warmed up for the next day, anyway," said Purwanto, who has been selling rabbit sate for over seven years. However, holidays always mean brisk business, and during these days he always carries with him a larger stock of skewers.

The rabbit sate is a Tawangmangu specialty. Apart from being delicious, it can help a person warm up in the cool mountainous area.

Unlike chicken, Purwanto said, rabbit meat does not contain much oil. Hence, the roasting method is different. The skewered meat is first dipped into a specially prepared spicy peanut sauce before being roasted. When the meat is done, the sate is dipped into the sauce once again. Then it is ready to be served with ketupat (rice cake boiled in banana leaves).

The prices vary from one seller to the next. Purwanto sells one portion, which consists of 13 skewers and a serving of ketupat, for Rp 5,000.

"The price at restaurants is exorbitant. One portion can cost more than Rp 25,000, though it tastes just like what we sell," added Purwanto.

The sate vendors buy their rabbits for between Rp 15,000 and Rp 50,000, for a large-sized one. It is easy enough to find rabbit meat in the area, as there are many rabbit breeders to satisfy the demand of the sate business.

So when you are in Tawangmangu, do not miss out on the opportunity to enjoy some rabbit sate, which tastes all the more delicious for the beautiful views that accompany the meal.