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Balinese Food

One of the great pleasures of being in Bali is the spicy Indonesian and Balinese food and the great fruit juice drinks – watermelon, lime juices, starfruit, pineapple and others.

The traditional beachside café is called a 'Warung' and while you may mostly eat where you are staying, it is worth checking out other restaurants and also street food too where you feel that the food looks fresh and the area clean. The number of people in the restaurant, warung or street stall is a good indicator as to the whether you should go there or keep looking.

Most Balinese shop at local markets buying what they need for the day and if you have the interest, see if you can visit a food market while you are here. Tropical fruit, leafy vegetables, onions, spices, meats, fish, lemon grass, freshly made shredded coconut and coconut milk, chillies and everything you need to cook a great meal. Some of the things on sale you will recognize and others you won't.

Some of the tropical fruits you may see are Rambutans, Jackfruit, Starfruit, different Melons, Dragon fruit, different Mangos, Longans, Mangosteen, Pomelo, Soursop, Jambu – they are all fantastic.

Indonesian and Balinese cooking is renowned for its mix of flavours and aroma, but also its mix of textures that add to the sensation of eating.

Three of the most popular dishes you will see are Gado-Gado, Nasi Goreng and Satays – and while you can make these dishes anywhere in the world if you can find the right fresh ingredients, eating them in Bali with their fresh local ingredients, tropical heat and environment, as well as the special touch that Balinese chefs and cooks have, make all the difference. Don't be put off however, it is worth trying to cook them yourself and then when you come to Bali you can head to a cooking school and learn more!

RECIPES -

Ideally if you can, go to an Asian Grocery Store with your list of ingredients and hopefully find a store that sells fresh Asian vegetables too.

Gado-Gado Recipe –   this combines fresh bean sprouts, cabbage leaves and small beans (the vegetables) with a peanut/chilli sauce liquid and half cut boiled eggs and maybe tufu. The aroma and flavour are sensational. 

The key is the Peanut Sauce (check to see that those eating are not allergic to peanuts).

Before making the sauce, hard boil two or more eggs and when cool cut into quarters when time to serve, and boil water in another saucepan ready for Vegetables. Or use a steamer.

The Peanut Sauce: Made in a Wok –

  1. 125g of Peanuts- broken into crushed small pieces (about 2mm size). Smaller peanuts taste better, though you probably won't find the ones they use in Indonesia.
  2. One or two red chillies (Chopped finely) depending on how hot you want the dish and the type of chilli you use. Smaller ones are better.
  3. 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  4. Sambal - In Bali they make their own, but you can buy in a jar from an Asian Grocery. It may not smell good, but it adds some vital taste to the dish.
  5. A heaped tablespoon of Palm Sugar or Coconut Sugar – this has the 'caramel' flavour you want. Brown sugar can also be used if you can't find Palm Sugar.
  6. 2 Fresh Kaffir Lime leaves – fresh ideally, but dried if you can't find fresh.
  7. A little Grated Ginger  and salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Fry chopped chilli, garlic and ginger in a wok together for a couple of minutes then remove from wok and grind into a semi-paste to combine the flavours.
  2. Add the crushed peanuts then place all in the wok and add 2 cups of water, bringing the mix to the boil, before adding the lime leaves, palm sugar, salt and pepper and turning the heat down and allowing the mix to thicken. Optional: add a half teaspoon of Sambal.
  3. Optional: fry some cubes of Tufu to add as a garnish

Vegetables – 250g Fresh beansprouts, 250g chopped fresh beans, 100g chopped Red Cabbage, Chopped shallots for garnishing. Boil or steam beans and cabbage and add sprouts last (less cooking needed). Undercook rather than overcook, so that vegetables retain their crunch.

Serve – by placing vegetables in a large bowl (or individual bowls) with chopped boiled eggs and pour the Peanut Sauce over all to make a semi-soup. Garnish with chopped shallots if desired.

NASI GORENG - a spicy fried Rice dish with Chicken

What you need are –

Cooking Oil – peanut oil is best

Long grain white Rice

2 eggs

Two Chicken thighs or breast – finely chopped

A half cup of peeled small prawns (Shrimp)

Shrimp paste – 2 teaspoons

Some finely chopped Ginger

1 Spanish Onion

Crushed Garlic – 2 cloves

3 small red chillies – finely chopped

Soy sauce – roughly ½ cup.  (Light or standard)

Palm sugar – roughly ½ cup (Coconut sugar or brown sugar)

Also to accompany dish –  freshly sliced cucumber, tomato and shallots; A sprinkle of peanuts if desired.

Method:

  1. Use a Rice cooker and cook enough rice for 3 to 4 people
  2. Blend Palm Sugar and soy sauce together
  3. Fry chopped chicken until evenly cooked through
  4. Add chopped onion and crushed garlic, then Shrimp Paste –to coat chicken
  5. Add the cooked rice and continue to stir-fry, then add the small prawns, sugar & soy sauce and chopped chillis until the rice mix is fully coated. Turn down heat.
  6. Fry 4 eggs, sunny side up and serve Rice mix into plates or bowls and top each with a fried egg. Serve with sliced cucumber, tomato and shallots –as self-serve or to accompany each plate or dish, with a little decoration of crushed peanuts if desired.  

Satay Sticks

Satays are one of the most popular of all Indonesian, Singapore and Malaysian dishes, and if you see a 'Satay man' with a small charcoal burner with his satays, fanning the charcoal fire to evenly spread the heat, then stop and enjoy one of the best Satays in the world. Chicken (Ayam), Pork (Babi) or Beef (Daging Sapi) are all great. The secret to a great Satay is however the sauce and the flavour that comes from cooking them over a charcoal fire.

When you see a Satay man, ask how long he has been making Satays. In most cases it will be years and he will have perfected his 'recipe' over years too, with the recipe maybe going back to a family recipe handed down through generations.

On line you will see many recipes for Satays – and in my mind the small peanuts in Indonesia have a different flavour to ones that are available elsewhere, and they use Tamarind that adds a little slightly bitter lemon taste and Kecap Manis – a specialty sauce made in Indonesia. There is also galangal – a white ginger also used, and while you might get away with using a crunchy peanut butter and not crushed peanuts, it is not quite the same.

Anyway, I have decided not to put a Satay Recipe here because the real Satay is best to eat right here in Indonesia. Maybe that's a big incentive to book your flight and hotel right now! Your Satays are waiting for you!

Happy Travelling! Happy Cooking!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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