Saturday, May 13, 2006

Soup Tulang: Nothing Was What It Seemed

Soup Tulang

This was definitely an experience that I won't forget. Although I had heard about this stuff before, I'm generally not a big fan of innards, so the thought of some strange red-looking bone with the benefit of eating the marrow didn't quite appeal to me right away. For some reason though, tonight we felt like trying it out, so we headed down to the Golden Mile Food Centre, where there were four hawkers right next to each other (#B1-13 to B1-16) selling this stuff past midnight.

Four soup tulang stalls in a rowNothing was what it seemed. First off, this was sitting in a bright red sauce, which made it look very spicy. It wasn't at all (I heard that the red color was artificial). Secondly, the bright red sauce could also mean that it would be a rather sweet sauce too. It wasn't (which is a good thing). Next, this is called Soup Tulang, but where the heck was the soup?? It was just that red gravy stuff on top. Fourth, it looked like a very straightforwardly cooked bone that you just eat the meat off of. Whatever meat was on there was decently tender, but there wasn't much of it (it was mutton, BTW - and they do make a decent kambing soup too). Instead, the gist of this dish is to eat the marrow inside.

After finally having gotten the marrow outAnd that's where it got even trickier. How the heck was one supposed to get the marrow out of that thing? I tried sucking it out, but that didn't really work since the bone was a bit pourous and could not create a vacuum seal. Then I tried various objects like a straw or skewer to try to help it out, but to no avail. The marrow finally came out only after I inverted the bone and tapped on it to get the stuff to fall out. And when it came out, it looked like a slimy little slug (or a rather disgusting glob of yellowish-brown phlegm from a really bad case of the flu).

Then I tasted it. And it really was nothing like it seemed. Instead of a repulsive iron or liver taste like I was expecting, this was the exact opposite: it tasted like a blend of foie gras and butter. Whoa. And instead of the coarse or grainy consistency that I had figured it would have (with little annoying bits of broken bone in it), it was more like silky smooth tofu. Such a soft texture was a bit disturbing to me at first, but it was rich enough in taste that I was still rather impressed. Now I understand why Anthony Bourdain said in his London episode that bone marrow was like "Butter of the Gods." It really was quite extravagantly rich, and I could finally understand the attraction to this stuff. This was in fact so rich that I don't think I can eat this stuff too often (admittedly I even felt a bit nauseous afterwards), but the English way of eating it looked even better: spreading it on toasted bread. Wow! (And to continue the string of ironies, this extra rich stuff apparently helps reduce cholesterol rather than boost it, if I have my facts correct.)

Hmm...I never would have thought that this was how this stuff tasted. It just goes to show you that you can't judge food by its appearances, and as long as you set aside any preconceived notions about some things in order to give it a try, you might very well find something quite extraordinary. If you come try this, leave those preconceptions at home...and definitely bring a lot of napkins as this stuff gets messy with all that red stuff getting all over your hands. (Napkins are rarely provided by hawkers out here; thus, the ubiquitous little "tissue packs" that one carries and uses to hold his/her seat.)


mama bok said...

My favourite..! but messy to eat in public.. and wouldn't be as nice to bring it home to eat. The atmosphere and all had to be there.. to eat "tulang"

hermit said...

Hmm that sounded so delicious that I might just pluck up the courage to try it someday

Anonymous said...

I normally bring my own rigid straws (just get them from Mc's) and they work really well with sucking up the bone marrow. Try the one at Adam Road too, I personally feel that this one is overated.

Anonymous said...

Hungryboy, you're not wrong if this entry in the online thefreedictionary is correct.

Bone marrow as a food
Though once used in various preparations including pemmican, Bone marrow has fallen out of favor as a food, commonly now being used only as a flavoring for soup. Bone marrow is a source of protein and high in monounsaturated fats. These fats are known to decrease LDL cholesterol levels. Some believe this results in a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, prompting them to make bone marrow a dietary staple. The actual health effects of the addition of bone marrow to the diet is unknown.

Mister Fedward Hyde said...

lol, i had that problem with sop buntut very recently..

the solution of a straw though..find it rather unappealing, due to the plastic.

guess the real ossobuco lover gotta snatch one of those little forks and take it around. anyways with the margin they charge at some italian restaurants, little qualm

Anonymous said...

hi, i know this has nothing to do with this post here, but i just read your entry on Old Chang Kee, and i really suggest you try their curry puffs. it is really awesome, the pastry, the filling and everything, plus its one of the things that keep warm most of the time.

Donald said...

Its also known as Tulang Merah, meaning literally Red Bone.

I agree the stall at Adam Rd is pretty good. I think its called Ibrahim stall, its the one 2 doors right of the famous nasi lemak.

Heaven is Roti John with the bone marrow from Tulang Merah spread on top, and lightly slathered with the red sauce.

Anonymous said...


Whilst searching for a picture of sop tulang, I encountered yours! You take very nice pictures of sop tulang. May I use the picture of the sop tulang? Let me know.

Jenny Strachan said...

Hi Hungry Boy
Next time you encounter these marrow bones make sure you have some disposable chopsticks to hand. They really help in removing all that good marrow.

Anonymous said...

I make it a point to grab some of the linen towels from the SQ lavatory as I'm flying into Singapore in anticipation of Soup Tulang. Two of these plus a wet wipe and you're ready to tuck in :-)

Oh, and you'll notice that the spoons they give you have very thin handles - use them to scoop out the marrow.

traci said...

just came across your blog.. very interesting!

in manila there's a soup dish called 'bulalo', the base of which is beef bones and what specifically gives it flavor is the marrow. unlike the soup tulang, this is really soup..or maybe i should say broth.. with green veg called 'petchay'. you would tap the bone to get the marrow out (as you discovered) and then flavor it with a little fish sauce mixed with kalamansi (a local lemon). you should try it!

Anonymous said...

Hey Hungryboy - I just tried Tulang last week at Newton's Circus after seeing it on Anthony Bourdain's show - yum! You wouldn't happen to know where I can get a recipe for this? I live in Australia and my chances of finding it here are not great so I'd like to try preparing this at home.

nanaymiriam said...

Hi Hungry boy,

I will be linking your post about tulang-- as it relates to my search for healthy recipes for the WAP Diet (Weston A. Price diet)-- which is said to remineralize teeth. I have yet to try this though, thanks for the article.