In My Balinese Kitchen, August 2019

It takes a while to adapt to cooking in Bali, given that the local restaurant and warung food is so alluring and economical. You could think why bother, but in the end, when living in another country for around three months, cooking with local ingredients becomes part of the experience. It involves getting to know what locals pay for things, observing seasonality, enjoying chats with stall holders at the traditional market, buying less more often, and learning ways to cook with unusual ingredients. It is also nice to relax at home, and not feel compelled to go out to eat.

mango and lime smoothie.

We did bring a few items from home, including a large block of Parmigiano Reggiano and a kilo pack of good dried spaghetti. Extra Virgin olive oil is available in Bali, but only Italian brands of dubious source. My 1/2 litre bottle of good Australian olive oil was eliminated from my packing at the last minute in order to lower our overall luggage weight: Mr T had added a second stringed instrument to his list of essential items! Good parmesan cheese is much harder to find in Bali. A quick pasta dish sauced with shallot, garlic, chilli, and fresh tomatoes, liberally sprinkled with parmesan, is a quick and comforting home style meal. We also brought along our Aldi brand copy of a Nutribullet electric blender: its powerful motor churns through tropical fruits in seconds, so useful for an afternoon fruit smoothie, and handy for making pumpkin soup and Jamu.

My market shopping list usually includes the following basic ingredients: red shallots ( bawang merah), garlic ( bawang putih), snake beans, limes, potato, tomatoes, bananas, small pre-made packets of Bumbu Bali, sambals, peanut sauce ( pecel), and a few small cakes ( kua). The large supermarket sells herbs such as basil, oregano and mint, as well as very reasonably priced tempeh, and tofu( tahu). Unfortunately I haven’t found a source of fresh coconut milk, and so rely on small tetra packs for santan ( coconut milk). The ladies at the market sell small rounds of palm sugar for around 20 cents a piece. Palm sugar, gula merah, is extracted from the coconut palm tree: the nectar is boiled and then shaped in small coconut containers. It is organic and very tasty, with hints of caramel, coffee and other minerals not noticeable in regular sugar.

It’s hard to resist home meals using tempeh and tofu. The first picture below features a classic Tempeh Manis. This involves a few preliminary steps but then it comes together quite quickly. The tempeh block is cut into strips then deep fried in neutral oil then drained. A paste is made from shallots, garlic and galangal which is then fried in a little oil. Lemongrass, chilli, daun salam leaves, are then added, followed finally with the kecap manis and palm sugar. The tempeh is returned to the sticky sweet sauce and tossed about. This is one dish you can make in advance.

To cut the sweet stickiness of the tempeh, I also made a quick cucumber and dill pickle, a recipe I found on Moya’s instagram post a few weeks ago.

Another tofu and tempeh dish is a quick stirfry consisting of shallots, garlic, whole chilli, snake beans and pre-fried tempeh and tofu. To bring it together with a tasty sauce, I heated a small block of pecel pedas ( spicy hot peanut sauce) in a little water, then added it to the stir fry. The result is very similar to the Balinese classic dish Tipak Cantok, a local version of gado gado.ย A few prices are of note here. A block of tempe and tofu costs around 30 cents. A bunch of snake beans around 50 cents. A little block of very tasty Pecel– why would you make your own peanut sauce when it tastes so good- around 20 cents.

Little blocks of hot and spicy Pecel, peanut sauce.

Sometimes we enjoy a simple light meal of a cheese, tomato and shallot toastie. This is Mr T’s specialty, always served with Sambal ekstra pedas or hot chilli sauce.

Fruit from our friend Wayan is always welcome. The salak (snake fruit) comes from his parents’ farm in Sideman. He often brings large papaya and other lovely tropical fruit, knowing we have a blender.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to make some Jamu, given that fresh turmeric is prolific and cheap. Jamu is a traditional tonic used by the Balinese as a cure all. The recipe involves peeling around 150 grams of fresh turmeric and some ginger, then blending it into a puree with a couple of cups of water. The puree is cooked for 10 minutes or so, which is then sweetened (I added a touch of grated palm sugar). Lime juice is finally added. It is then strained and stored in the fridge for up to a week. I was pretty excited yesterday when making my own Jamu, and didn’t think through the process entirely. Now my manicured painted nails have turned from pink to an odd coral/orange colour, the skin on my palms is still bright yellow, the white kitchen sink stained, and the threadbare tea towel I used for straining the Jamu looks like an abandoned saffron Buddhist robe. I’m imagining my innards stained a psychedelic yellow and look forward to dying some cotton for crocheting with fresh turmeric on my return. The colour on the cloth is sensational.

Jamu in the making, before it went everywhere.

One of the first things we invested in is a 19 litre returnable water container ( around AU$4) which can be refilled for AU$1.80. A nearby store has a swap and go system. I use this water for washing vegetables, cooking and drinking- it lasts for about a week. I am very aware of my plastic consumption while I’m in Bali, and have tucked away all the soft clean plastic to bring back to Australia. Despite the fact that the Australian plastic recycling industry is now in strife, with much of our recycling being added to landfill, the soft stuff is coming home with me: I’m not going to add to Bali’s plastic problem. I take small net bags to the fresh market- the ladies are impressed with these. Like Australia, Bali has banned the single use plastic bag but also like Australia, small plastic bags are still available for fruit and vegetables. Being part of the problem involves being part of the solution.

Cooking and drinking water supply with a very effective pump.

Thanks Sherry for hosting the monthly event, In My Kitchen. You can find other world kitchens on Sherry’s Pickings, or you can join in, a very supportive way to join a blogging group.

Uleg, a very nice size, for grinding spices and pounding sambals.

16 thoughts on “In My Balinese Kitchen, August 2019”

  1. Wow – the most fun and informative food blog for many a moon !! Especially since Instagram seems to have banned me from ‘liking’ and commenting! Have seen most of your photos and not been able to say ‘Why and how, teacher?’ !! And absolutely the only matter which would not suit is the not being able to turn on the tap for potable water. I drink nearly two litres a day ! Oh, if I can access fresh turmeric here in the country jamu will be the first recipe to follow: taking turmeric capsules as I do is not much fun . . . Would love to be able to buy the pecel and cannot believe the price of the tofu and tempeh I so love . . . ! Use a lot of kecap here but your tempeh manis may be too much of an undertaking. And am grabbing some of those delightful sugar bananas right thru’ the screen ., . . please, Fran, do not take a whole month to be teacher again . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know you searched high and low for an Uleg and what a beauty. All those luscious and colourful foods and spices is tropical eye candy. Our Dry season in Far North Qld has provided nothing but rain, rain and more rain, the shaving grace is the cooler weather. Our kitchen to churning out slow cook curries et al. All good though. We’re loving your blogs, stories, recipes and inspiration, wish we were there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love palm sugar but haven’t seen the little rounds in the markets. I wasn’t familiar with jamu so thanks for introducing me to a new food. I hope it tastes good and does the job. I always think turmeric taste likes dirt. I must take look when we are there. Like you, we buy the biggest water bottle we can lay our hands on. It’s the best you can do in the circumstances. Second stringed instrument. Lol

    http://www.tiffinbitesized.com.au/2019/08/03/in-my-kitchen-august-2019/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Learning about life in a really remote place is wonderful. Definitely the most remote kitchen in Sherry’s blog party here! I can only wonder what tastes are in the beautiful photos you posted, as there’s definitely nothing like it here in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Thank you for this and also for all the Instagram posts.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sounds like quite a change to be in bail – but I love the bright colours esp all the turmeric. It sounds wonderful to have all that tempeh – it is too long since I cooked with it but when I do I love it. I am interested to hear you are bringing plastic home and that Bail has banned plastic bags too. Great to have an insight into life in Bail – enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. hi francesca
    so bali doesn’t mind food being brought in? i imagine aussie customs would have a hissy fit ๐Ÿ™‚ how very enterprising taking your own blender. i would never have thought of it. love the look of that palm sugar, and the mortar and pestle. how marvellous to cook with local produce. enjoy your holiday, and thanks heaps for joining in IMK even tho you are so far away. cheers sherry

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been enjoying the snapshots of your food at home and out, the local dining looks delicious but when away from home there is something comforting about the respire of simple homemade routine of making and eating something in but from local ingredients. Jamu looks interesting. I made the G.O. a turmeric tincture with a vodka base… it stained me and everything else it came in contact with yellow… the food processer still. Jamu sounds much more palatable. It’s wonderful that IMK travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Some very taste dishes in your Balinese kitchen right now. You must be an expert on Balinese cuisine by now. Thank your for the mention when you made the dill pickles… a really easy recipe. I can’t imagine the turmeric dye every coming out of that cloth. Happy August Francesca ๐Ÿ™‚

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