For the last 10 days of our trip we went to Bali for some longed-for R&R. July is the start of peak tourist season in Bali, so we had been careful to book our accommodation well ahead of time (January, in fact). I’ll write more about Bali itself soon, but for now, I’m still dreaming about some of the fabulous food we consumed there.
Ubud town is packed with restaurants, cafes and bars, and it’s helpful to have a recommendation from someone to help you select one. This salad (from a restaurant recommended by our hotel) was delicious – it was avocado and chicken with a lemongrass and coriander dressing. My method of eating is to experiment with each mouthful, combining flavours and textures until I have hit on the optimum combination. I always, always ensure that my last mouthful is an optimum one, so that the best taste-memory lingers as long as possible. The optimum mouthful in terms of this salad was a few leaves of creamy dressing-coated lettce, with a cashew and a chunk of avocado. (Is it really anal to eat like that?)
At the same restaurant, Colin ordered the ubiquitous chicken satay. Ordinary it was not: this satay was good – meat that still tasted of smokey BBQ, creamy and spicy peanut sauce, and the surprise star of the show, a crispy flatbread (a bit like a poppadom) with whole peanuts baked directly between its thin layers. Divine.
Balinese coffee was probably our least favourite coffee in South East Asia. We just couldn’t get it strong enough to suit us, and it always arrived with a great deal of fine coffee grounds floating in the cup (which settled to a thick sediment if you didn’t stir it). However, this cup of coffee was pretty special. It was brewed with a few cardamom pods which added a lovely warm spiciness. It was served with some excellent aniseed biscotti.
We had lunch a couple of times at a really good bakery in Ubud town. This is sugar-free chocolate cake – the sugar is replaced with beetroot, of all things. The cake actually has a faint beetroot taste, but only if you think about it. It was dense, rich, chocolatey, and served with a tangy raspberry topping.
A fellow tourist highly recommended the chocolate desserts at The Three Monkeys restaurant, so of course we had to go. This is the creatively-named “Chocolate and Hazelnut Pate”, which consisted of several slices of a chilled, smooth, rich chocolate…well, pate. It was served with excellent almond shortbread, and a quadrant of toppings: fresh mango and strawberry, very-vanilla-ery custard, raspberry sauce, and chocolate sauce. It was extremely good, and helped to make up for the disappointing moussaka that we had ordered previously (a bit silly really, ordering Greek food in Bali, but I do really love moussaka).
Most of the time we were travelling we attempted to eat as cheaply as possible, apart from the odd treat. In Bali, we had resolved to not worry about the price of food and just enjoy ourselves. But we quickly found that holidaying in Bali is not cheap, and much of the food available cost as much as in New Zealand. After a few days of paying what felt like exhorbitant prices (compared to the rest of SE Asia), we were sick of it, and went to a small local restaurant near our hotel. To our delight, D’Warung produced some of the best food we ate while in Bali, at very reasonable prices. This is Gado Gado, a common Indonesian dish of steamed vegetables, fried tofu and tempeh, with boiled egg and peanut sauce.
D’Warung’s fresh tuna steak (cooked to a beautiful pink medium-rare), served with delicious lemongrass infused yellow rice, and a fresh salsa made with shallots, chilli and more lemongrass.
Nasi Panggang and Ayam Lalah, again at D’Warung. Nasi Panggang is rice, which is wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled until the interior is sticky and faintly smokey. Ayam Lalah is shredded chicken stewed with spices in a fragrant sauce. The meal was served with two chicken satay skewers threaded onto fresh lemongrass. A very, very nice meal.
D’Warung serves an excellent snack of garlicky roasted peanuts. The owner told us that the peanuts are soaked in salty water for 12 hours before being dried, then fried with slices of garlic and sprinkled with salt. After tasting these, we promptly asked the owner to make us up a 500g bag to take away with us went we left Ubud for our final 4 days at the beach.
It just wouldn’t be a SE Asia holiday without banana pancakes. This one was right up there with the best – drizzled with mild honey, cooked in butter (which added a salty dimension), and sprinkled with fresh lime juice for a touch of zing. This was the star offering at Windy’s Warung, a tiny restaurant close to our hotel at the beach. The food was simple, but very tasty, and amazingly cheap. One night we had an entree of spring rolls each, two mains, and a beer and a watermelon juice. This cost the princely sum of 63 rupiah, around $9NZ (one cocktail at our hotel cost 65 rupiah).Amazing lychee and basil cocktail (yes, one of those 65 rupiah ones). We had two each on our last night in Bali (the last night of our trip…sniff, sniff).