Thursday, April 5, 2012

Balinese food and Balinese kitchens

    Madek, our homestay host, invited us over one day to his family compound. He took me into the kitchen where his Mum routinely makes meals for ten people. It was the simplest of stoves, a wood-fired oven over which sat pots and saucepans. As I've found travelling elsewhere in Asia, good food is more about working with fresh ingredients than elaborate equipment.
   One of our first Balinese meals was beside the road on the way to Ubud, at a little warung--a simple restaurant--that specialized in nasi goreng. Preparations began with the whack-whack of a cleaver that reduced lots of garlic to a pulp. Then an egg was fried in sizzling oil, then chicken and small shrimp. Already cooked rice went into the pan, then spices and seasonings.
It cost less than a dollar a plate.
Time and again, Peter and I went back to this little spot on a side street in Ubud. On our first visit, I'd ordered what was listed as "Chinese omelette." Through an oblong hole in the wall, we could hear and smell it being made, a big crispy-edged pancake filled with bean sprouts, shredded carrot and cabbage, egg and little bits of chicken. Utterly delicious. It's usually topped with a dollop of sweet chili sauce but it's better if you ask for that to be served on the side. Cold ginger tea goes well with it.
Another memorable meal--and again one at a simple little restaurant, on the day we drove to see a volcano, and its nearby lake. The freshest of fish grilled with loads of shallots on top, a stunningly hot sambal on the side (that red stuff). It came with bowls of rice and fish soup.
A fisherman on the lake catching our lunch.
Another Indonesian specialty, gado gado is basically mixed vegetables with a gently spicy peanut sauce either served over it, or with it for dipping purposes. Those brown looks-like-cake slices at eight o'clock are tempeh, a soy product that originated in Indonesia. That's tofu at nine o'clock for comparison. I became strangely addicted to tempeh, which is nutty and firm-textured.
   Mainly because of the heat, our meat consumption dropped considerably while we were in Ubud--except on the days when we ate at the roast pig place at the end of the street. This is a Balinese specialty: whole pigs stuffed with lemongrass, ginger, and all manner of other spices. This shot of the menu shows you a couple of options. The one at the bottom is just a plateful of pork crackling.
We usually ordered the mix of meat and pork skin, which came with plain steamed rice, and a savagely spicy sambal to go with it.
     Finally, two of our favourite places.

"Let's meet at the place round the corner from the Internet place across from where we take the laundry."
That's here.

And this is Rumah Roda, an upstairs restaurant that's part of a family compound, which serves authentic and wonderful Balinese food. Sunday night, there's a buffet where you can serve yourself to dishes that you just don't see anywhere else. Because it has wifi, people often settle in here for hours at a time, or sit and gaze out at what's happening on the street. Everyone in this large extended family is hugely friendly and, if you want to find out more about them and everyday life in Bali, they feature in the terrific "A Little Bit One O'Clock" by locally-based author William Ingram.
   If you want to whet your appetite, the web site at lists all the items on the buffet, introduces you to the family, shows you the rooms you can stay in and tells you a bit more about the book.
   And I almost forgot to tell you that Rumah Roda makes the most sublime banana pancakes, topped with shredded fresh coconut and lime juice. The tempeh curry is good too. 

1 comment:

Wil - WilandWayansKitchen said...

Yum, this makes me miss 'home'. The ikan bakar up in the mountains is fantastic, isn't it? Did you have it near Bedugul or Kintamani?