This is one of the many barbecued dishes that are served by the sea at Jimbaran. In what was formally a rustic coastal eating place dotted with simple grass huts, there are now hundreds of bamboo tables and chairs perched on the sand, and tonnes of seafood being served, from prawns to lobster and snapper to squid, for eager tourists. The secret at Jimbaran is cooking the seafood over coconut husks for a delectable smokiness, and the moist heat of the husks creates tender meat with glazed and burnished skin without dryness. If you are flying into Denpasar at night, the smoke from the barbecues at Jimbaran bay looks like an enormous bushfire.
Black rice pudding is one of Bali’s most famous desserts that, once upon a time, used to feature on the breakfast menu of most simple guesthouses around the island. Traditionally served as an in-between snack, it’s glossy blackness and almost chocolatey flavour makes it both intriguing and alluring. Mornings or afternoons, you can usually find black rice pudding on sale at simple food stalls at local markets, along with other syrupy porridge-like treats. These comforting dishes are the domain of mothers and grandmas who are the experts of all that is “sugar and spice and everything nice.”
My sister-in-law, Karsi, taught me how to make Black rice pudding and walked me through the subtleties of achieving the perfect flavour and consistency.
One of Indonesia’s national treasures, and also found in Malaysia and Singapore, rujak, is the ubiquitous afternoon snack. When the sun starts its descent and the heat of the day starts to dull the brain, just about every Balinese I know tucks into this action-packed fruit salad with a savoury dressing that is guaranteed to slap you out of a tropical slump.
It combines the energizing four pillars of Asian cooking: sweet, sour, spicy and salty, and it clears the mind, refreshes the palette, speeds up the metabolism and offers a generous dose of vitamin C, iron, folic acid and calcium. Pregnant women crave its strong flavours, and rightly so.
As soon as my children are home from school, they feast on rujak mixed with any amount of seasonal fruit.
Perhaps Indonesia’s national dish, nasi goreng is enjoying a curious renaissance, appearing in all shapes and sizes across the archipelago in oh-so creative combinations of meats, herbs and garnishes. If you wander through the food courts of Indonesia’s glam shopping malls, you will see modern reinterpretations of it wherever you look. I recently found this particularly delicious nasi goreng on my travels in Jakarta. However, in the spirit of nasi goreng, feel free to add what you like (providing it tastes good!) as nasi goreng is all about experimentation.
- 2 red shallots or 1⁄2 onion, finely chopped 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large green chilli, sliced
- 2 small green chillies, sliced (optional) 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped leek
- 120 g shelled raw prawns, finely chopped
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, rolled into a bundle and finely shredded 11/2 cups chopped choy sum or bok choy
- 1/4 cup snow peas, blanched
- 1/4 cup peas
- 1 teaspoon kecap manis
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 3 teaspoons oyster sauce
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 2 tablespoons chopped lemon basil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- fried shallots to serve
- 1 grilled extra-large prawn to serve
- large krupuk to serve
Put the spice paste ingredients in a mortar and pound to a smooth paste, or blitz in a blender.