July 8, 2020, 09.42 AM

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay stood dumbfounded on seeing pacu jawi, a traditional bull race in the West Sumatra regency of Tanah Datar.

“Oh my God are you crazy?!” the 53-year-old said on seeing the jockey gamely controlling the bovines surging down the muddy, 240-meter track.

Ramsay’s companion, Indonesian food writer Ade Putri, grinned at his apprehension. “This is one of the conditions to get a choice cut of beef for rendang [beef stew].” 

Ramsay tried out the messy race three times. He emerged sore and mud-spattered, but earned the audience’s respect.

Age-old tradition

The pacu jawi is a highlight of “Sumatra’s Stunning Highlands”, an episode of his documentary Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted on the National Geographic Channel.

While pacu jawi’s origins might be a matter of conjecture, its purpose is more definitive.

Also read: Gordon Ramsay's Uncharted West Sumatra Culinary Adventure

“Pacu jawi originated as a way for farmers in Tanah Datar to pass the time following the harvest,” according to “Pacu Jawi, Balapan Sapi Khas Minangkabau” [Pacu Jawi, An Iconic Minangkabau Bull], a Kompas.com article published on 15 April 2013.

“Held three times annually, Pacu Jawi’s origins as entertainment gave it a festive atmosphere,” the article noted. “It is also a Minangkabau form of thanksgiving for a successful harvest.”

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