“One of the most iconic features of Es Kapalis the dipping of bread into the ice, which gives off a one-of-a-kind sensation that you won’t find with any other dessert.”
Es Kapal, which literally translates to “ice boat” in Bahasa Indonesia, is known as one of the classic thirst quenchers in Solo that was really big during the 1970s. Sadly, the number of Es Kapal purveyors has declined sharply over the years, with only a handful left peddling the dessert. One of the last remaining survivors is 61-year-old Pak Dodo Witosukarto, whom we managed to have a chat with during our time in Solo.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the business of selling Es Kapal.
I’m a father of six, and I’ve been selling Es Kapal since 1972. Es Kapal was really popular during the 1950s up until the 1970s, and my uncle was already in the business back then. As I saw its huge potential, I decided to follow in his footsteps.
What exactly is Es Kapal?
The name is derived from the boat-shaped cart that we use to sell our goods, so there’s no correlation with the sweet cold treat at all. It is basically shaved ice doused with coconut milk and topped with chocolate syrup. I concocted the chocolate syrup out of brown sugar. One of the most iconic features of Es Kapal is the dipping of bread into the ice, which gives off a one-of-a-kind sensation that you won’t find with any other dessert.
Having been selling Es Kapal for more than 40 years, what would you say are the challenges that you’ve faced?
Truth be told, it’s not that easy of a job to undertake. Back then, competition was very fierce and our success would depend on the customers’ preference. Fortunately, I managed to amass quite a number of regulars. As it’s an ice-based delicacy, sales would drop during the rainy season, so that has caused me grief as well.
What would you say are your greatest achievements?
43 years I’ve spent in this business, and from it I have been able to feed my family and send four out six of my children to high school. It may not sound like much for some, but it’s something that I’m extremely proud of.
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