..so the second leg of my recent journey took me to the island of Bali, Indonesia. The food here is colorful, piquant and full of island spice. It also challenges Vietnam for the crown of cheapest eats in Southeast Asia. Even more importantly my tastebuds were livin' large 24/7. Without further ado: LETS GRUB.
Although Sate is grilled and eaten everywhere from Malaysia to Thai restaurants in California, it was born on the island of Java, Indonesia. Here we have Sate Kambing, or Goat Satay. It's served with sliced shallots and smothered in a sweet-soy/peanut sauce.
Tastes nothing like the gamey goat I've tried back in the states and I.Kidd.You.Not. the chunks of fat literally melt in your mouth. 10 sticks for 5.000 Rupiah (45 cents or so) or double that if you're not careful.
Nasi Campur (mixed rice) is your street side lunch staple for Indonesians. Take a peek at what you want, and the lady will pile it on your plate. The accompaniments range from fried tempe, shredded spicy chicken bumbu, fried eggs, egg noodles, fried chicken, stir-fried veggies and so on. Also essential is sambal, the chili based condiment that's ready to burn upon consumption.
Here's an especially tasty version of mixed rice, built around nasi kuning or yellow rice. The color comes from a local saffron-type flower (or turmeric) and the rice is cooked with coconut milk for a subtle flavor boost. Costs anywhere from 50 cents to a $1.50 per plate.
Indonesia has nowhere near the vast amount of delicious soup varieties Vietnam possesses but don't overlook Bakso, a humble beef meatball soup that seems to be extremely popular with the local working class and youth. Meatballs are extra chewy and I still can't figure out why...
Mie goreng. Nothing real special here. Egg noodles stir-fried with chicken, egg and veggies. In rural areas you might have to resort to plates or mie and/or nasi GORENG (see below)- every DAMN day- not that I'm complaining or anything.
Nasi Goreng, perhaps the national dish? I'd say yea. Alongside sate and nasi campur, probably the most commonly consumed dish in Indonesia. Usually served with a fried egg smack on top and a few krupuk (shrimp) chips. Renditions of this dish range from edible to mildy satisfying- but nothing too invigorating so sit back down. Budget tourists love N.G. 'cause it fills your belly for pocket change (about a dollar on average) but why limit yourself..
..when you could be grubbin' Balinese Specialties?! Here we have Sate Lilit. Minced fish is mixed with freshly shredded coconut, shallots, chili, lime and lemongrass then skewered and grilled over charcoal (or sometimes coconut husks!). It's crispy and curiously creamy at the same time. Already spicy enough to get your pits moist, dip it in sambal if you feel so inclined.
PEPES. I loved saying this dishes name almost as much as I enjoyed eating it. PEPES. Felt like I was back in Guatemala ordering from that roadside dog taco stand again. Anyways, PEPES has the same lemongrass/chili base element of sate lilit but instead of minced seafood it's solid chunks of tuna. The charred banana leaf it's wrapped in while grilled keeps the fish moist and imparts a slightly smoky flavor. 2 thumbs up for PEPES.
The most popular Balinese Food Speciality is undoubtedly Babi Guling- and for good reason. First the pig is stuffed with bumbu, a Balinese spice blend including lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, and ground candlenuts. Here at the famous IBU OKA restaurant in the city of Ubud, the 7 daily roasted pigs are each continuously basted with coconut water while on the flame to create carmelized skin, crispy like a cracker.
A serving of IBU OKA babi guling includes a bit of everything. Each order tends to be a bit different but expect crispy skin, tender shreds of meat, spicy sausage made from..something pig, fried intestines, liver or event heart. Not much is wasted. You have to respect that. The aforementioned spice blend bumbu, which had been absorbing hedonic pig juices for 6 hours of roasting or so, is removed from the steaming carcass and spooned right on top of your plate to mix in with your Balinese rice and such.
As Indonesians put it: ENAK!!!!