You’ve heard of sup kambing and sup ayam... but sup gearbox? RIDZWAN A. RAHIM introduces us to a soup that’s ‘guaranteed’ to get you going. And going. And going.
OF all the local soups available on the market, sup gearbox must be the one with the most unusual name. It’s really bone marrow soup. If you are familiar with sup tulang (bone soup) or sup ekor (oxtail soup), then this one is not much different.
But why the association with the car anatomy, you ask? It’s because the cow’s joint used as the main ingredient in the concoction resembles a car’s gearbox. And it’s big! It’s about the size of a small computer monitor. (Come to think of it, maybe it can also be called Sup Computer Monitor. But I digress.)
So sup gearbox is basically this huge chunk of bone in a richly flavoured soup, plus some garnishing.
And the whole thing can be enjoyed with either steamed rice or bread. Although this “delicacy” can be found almost everywhere in the country, an expert will tell you that making a good bowl of sup gearbox is not that easy.
“You will want to use the bone of a bull because bulls work harder and therefore have more muscles. Cows tend to have more fat,” says Sabri Salleh, who owns a restaurant in the city called Raja Sup (King of Soups) and was kind enough to let my friends and I sample the “exotic” concoction.
Additionally, he told us, a heifer (a young cow that has yet to have her first calf) is preferred. And cows from the KK (Kedah-Kelantan) variant are said to have “sweet” tasting meat, although they may have a bit of an odour.
Preparing the dish is a time-consuming affair. The bone needs to be cooked for about 12 hours in order to soften the leftover flesh found on it.
A big bowl of sup gearbox costs between RM15 and RM20 depending on the size of the bone. It is good for three to four persons. If you dine alone, you can have a smaller bowl which will set you back about RM5.
Another unusual thing is that sup gearbox is usually served with a knife and fork, ostensibly to make it easier to slice the leftover meat and fat. But often you will be forced to use your bare hands to tear the bone apart. Be prepared to get a little messy.
Most restaurants will normally also serve the soup with a straw. Yes, the common drinking straw. You use the straw to slurp the rich bone marrow together with a bit of soup. Yummy!
But because sup gearbox does not exactly qualify as healthy, after a meal some diners like to wash the whole thing down with air akar kayu (a tonic drink made from medicinal plants) which is believed to contain properties that offset the soup’s high cholesterol content.
Top five places to find sup gearbox:
1. Raja Sup in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. Here, one can find every conceivable type of soup. Yet despite its fame, Raja Sup is a small outlet, occupying just half a shoplot tucked between Secret Recipe and a fancy looking restaurant at No.46, Jalan Datuk Sulaiman. The cook is from Kelantan.
2. Warung in Bandar Baru Bangi which has a kampung feel to it. From the PLUS highway, exit through the Kajang toll. Then at the traffic lights, go straight towards Bandar Baru Bangi. You will come to a long straight. Towards the end of that straight, you will see Shell and Mobil petrol stations on your right and the restaurant on your left (with many cars parked by the roadside).
3. This particular restaurant in Panji, some 3km from Kota Baru town, specialises in sup gearbox, daging bakar and kerabu. Many Government officers go there for lunch (the restaurant is closed at night).
4. Sup Hamid. A well-patronised restaurant serving many kinds of soup dishes, located in front of Hotel Malaysia at the end of Penang Road. Sup gearbox is usually available at night.
5. There is this particular corner shop very well known among locals located at the Simpang Mariaman corner of Jalan Petri. It specialises in mee rebus gearbox.