"Black soup," the fellow called it. He and his friends were digging into bowls of nasi rawon, a beef soup bolstered by rice (nasi). The ingredient that lends this Javanese dish its dark color and richness is kluwak (also called kluwek and buah keluak), the fermented nuts of the kepayang tree. Together with numerous seasonings, the nuts are sauteed to form a thick black gravy (the rawon), which becomes the base for the soup.
Nasi rawon is eaten for breakfast as well as lunch, and typically sells out by early afternoon. (For that matter, many menu items at this periodic bazaar come and go at the discretion of the individual vendors. There's no telling what you might find on any given day.) Your best best of scoring a bowl is to arrive on the early side, say, around 11:00 — which also allows you to beat the heat, since the tented canopies, on the small parking lot behind the mosque, offer only just so much shelter. Look for nasi rawon on the shady side of the bazaar, simmering in an unlabeled pot at the back of a stall or, perhaps, cradled in the hand of one of the local cognoscenti.
Indonesian bazaar at Masjid al-Hikmah
48-01 31st Ave. (at 48th St.), Astoria, Queens
Periodically, on a weekend, during the warmer months
(The next bazaar will be held on Sunday, July 22)