Situated near Raya Prapen Street, the small hole-in-the-wall Soto Blora eatery apparently could easily go unnoticed due to the huge banners in front of two eateries sandwiching the premise. One to the left is a Soto Daging (meat soup, generally cooked in coconut milk with other spices) business and another one to the right is a Soto Ayam Lamongan (chicken soup, northern part of East Java Lamongan style) eatery.
Providing Sate Blora (chicken satay the Blora –a region in southern part of Central Java, way), Tahu Telor (tofu fried in egg and cooked with soy sauce and ground, fried peanut), Nasi Soto (chicken soup with rice), and some other dishes for hungry travellers, the premise was quite small in terms of space. When I and five other friends arrive at the premise, there were only four tables and 16 plastic chairs available (in fact, those were the only tables and chairs in that place), and I had to share table with a couple of starved-looking customers –all were in their good fifties or sixties.
Ignoring the fact that they were total strangers, I gazed upon the menu that they ordered –or at least what was left of it. Chicken satay seems to be a long-time favorite, seeing that each of them has a small plate of satay and peanut sauce, aside than two other dishes that seem to be the tofu-filled menus on the list. Since I was quite hungry, I took a pack of fried fish crackers available inside nearby plastic jar while waiting for the waiter to come. Fish, garlic and shrimp crackers are great accompaniments to almost all dishes with the name “Soto” on it and you can find them easily whenever you plan to eat Soto.
Order # 1. Sate Ayam Blora
Shortly speaking, I ordered Soto Ayam Blora and Sate Ayam, as previously referenced by a friend. When my satay came, it was gracefully placed onto a nice, small plate made of glass. The waiter forgot to give us the peanut sauce so we need to wait for another 5 or 10 minutes for the peanut sauce and yellow-colored soup to be delivered. We quickly sprinkle the satay with the peanut sauce –but left the yellow soup alone as we didn’t know what to do with it. I have heard that Sate Ayam Blora is supposed to be small in pieces, but I did not think that they should be that hard to bite. Nevertheless, well, by puns or by guns I decided not to leave those wicked chicken bites outdid me. So I took them by mouth, gripping the upper part of the chicken satay with my upper teeth and the lower with my lower teeth, jeopardizing my vocal chords and palate.
When the satay finally gave in, it popped to my mouth (of course along with the peanut sauce) quite in a subtle way. The chicken meat was arguably quite hard and chewy, rubber-textured; with hint of burnt coal that gave some of the authentic satay-taste, (you wouldn’t experience such aroma with machine-grilled robatayaki anywhere in the world). What impressed me most was the peanut sauce. It was made to the right thickness, not too dense/thick and not too watery. There was no slightest hint of peanut granule –apparently, the sauce maker has perfected his/her ingredients and food processing technique.
Furthermore, the sauce has no bitter aftertaste, which means the peanut was roasted to a certain degree of heat and consistency, enough to make the peanut well-done to the core without having to burn the outer parts of the peanut, which causes the typical bitter aftertaste in most satay eateries that I have tried. Although I think that bitter aftertaste that comes from peanut sauce for satay is fine –as it shows the peanut sauce was hand-roasted and hand-made, unlike many fast-foods, franchise eateries that have their ingredients pre-cooked and pre-packaged at a factory before finally cooked with machinery that assure uniformity in taste, shape and color, among others.
As to the yellow soup, it turned out to be boiled chicken stock, with hints of turmeric and galangal, and a sprinkle of fried shallots that usually people pour on rice, while eating their chicken satay. The taste of turmeric and galangal was quite sharp, while the soup itself was thin and clear, so I guessed it worked well to balance the thick, dense taste of the peanut sauce. For those who are not too into spices, they may steer clear of the yellow soup and the chicken satay alone would be enough to please their palate. If it were not for the great peanut sauce, I would give the rubber-like chewy chicken satay 2 stars. For the price (IDR 15.000 or about $1.5), 10 teeny chicken satay were quite expensive compared to the market price. With the sauce, I gave the whole dish 3.5 stars –after all, I almost cut my tongue in the process.
To be continued to Order # 2. Soto Ayam Blora…