Sunday, September 15, 2013

Eating Bali Part II: The warung way

Nadine Kam photos
Staffers grill chicken and ribs in the open air at Naughty Nuri's in Ubud, Bali.

UBUD, BALI, INDONESIA — If you are meat-inclined in Bali, chances are you will be eating pork or chicken. Beef is too costly to raise, and even in non-resort areas you will pay Western prices of about $14 a plate for it, whereas a pork or chicken plate can be had for about $30,000 to $35,000 rupiah. Before you get scare, that's about $2.60 to $3. Yeah, I went over with about $2 million in rupiah, about $200.

The Balinese people are very entrepreneurial because they still live the kind of sensible village lifestyle in which every home had its specialty, and every family compound—typically with several cottages to house everyone in the family—has a shop, or warung, in front, to peddle its wares, whether food, clothing, jewelry, laundry service, baskets or sundries. You could just walk from neighbor to neighbor to pick up everything you need.

So, many of the restaurants are still in family compounds, such as Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka is known for its pork, but you'd think it was chicken from all the clucking and crowing going on here, a result of another money-making family enterprise, raising fighting cocks. ("Ibu" means "woman" or "matriarch" and "oka" is the first son.)

If Naughty Nuri's Warung seems more Westernized than most, it was started by New Yorker Brian Aldinger and his Javanese wife Isnuri Suryatmi, and evolved along with the Australian tourist market to offer "Wicked Ribs" and "Brutal Martinis." Aldinger died last September, but was a fixture at the Ubud restaurant, and chalkboard messages at the restaurant still read, "We love U Brian."

Nuri's specializes in barbecue, with a delicious sweet sauce utilizing the regional palm sugar, which is less sweet and mellower than the cane sugar we use. I think it's great and wish it were used here.

In the U.S., we don't like to think of where our food comes from, but at Nuri's, the pig farm is still in the back of the original Nuri's and they go through about 300 pounds of pork a day.

Chalk writing in tribute to late owner Brian Aldinger.

These ribs are about $3 at Naughty Nuri's in Ubud, Bali.

Part of the menu at Naughty Nuri's.

Signs around Naughty Nuri's in Ubud look like they come from an old-fashioned 1950's American diner.

Chickens destined for someone's plate.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Eating Bali: Part 1

Nadine Kam photos
At Villa Bodhi, just outside Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

It's always great to travel and taste the regional cuisine, vs. cuisine as translated for a Hawaii audience. In Bali, food is fairly mild, though spice flavors like turmeric, cumin and cardamom abound. Most of the spice we associate with Indonesian cuisine comes with the addition of sambal, traditionally a fiery condiment that was eaten with rice when meat was less a part of the Balinese diet. Today, sambal compliments both meat and rice, and for those who can't take the sting of chilis, there are mild sambals of tomato or fried onion. There are also wet and dry versions.

Here are some typical Balinese dishes served up by Wayan Nanti at Villa Bodhi, where I am staying.

This is a breakfast of egg and turmeric-colored yellow rice, with the real coconut water served with a dash of lime, and tangerine juice. Every morning I can request a different juice, from coconut to soursop, lime, apple and banana.

My favorite breakfast of bubur ayam, a chicken porridge—like jook but fancier—topped with curried chicken, salted chicken egg, fried tempeh, rice, rice noodles, tomatoes, and tomato sambal at the top left.

Every morning there is a different assortment of fruit for breakfast.

Roadside fruit stand at Mt. Batur.

I am hard at work poolside, just before breakfast.

More breakfast fruit, including mangosteen, in front, and snake fruit just behind it. The snakefruit, below, looks like an oversized garlic bulb on the inside, but is reminiscent of a crisp Japanese pear.

Another breakfast specialty of black rice, which has a firm texture, topped with mango in coconut milk. We would consider this more like a dessert at home. In the background is fresh coconut juice with milk.

Kolak is one of the desserts, boiled tapioca and jackfruit, topped with grated coconut.

Lemongrass chicken with web of rice noodles.

Jukut urab is a Balinese mixed vegetable dish. This one includes tapioca leaves, bean sprouts, grated coconut meat and crispy onions. So delicious. I might try making this at home with kale or spinach. They incorporate a lot of plant parts here that I didn't know are edible.

A blessing ceremony took place Aug. 31 at Villa Bodhi, with many offerings, including this table setting below:

After the ceremony, all guests sat down for a lunch of spicy cardamom satay with two kinds of sambal, and lawar, a salad of young starfruit leaves, grated coconut and minced pork.

This is a soup of young banana shoots, sort of like squash except stringier, and duck meat.

I went native for the event, with host and owner of Villa Bodhi, Hawaii designer/stylist Amos Kotomori.