Thursday, July 31, 2014

Porcine Head-to-Tail Eating in Nusa Dua

From left to right:
Babi guling ala bakas - Rp 50,000
Babi guling campur - Rp 50,000
Sate babi - Rp 40,000
The practice of using every bit of the animal is not some fancy new-fangled phenomenon in Indonesia. And eating these lesser than prime cuts is also not something that’s extraordinary. It’s a normal everyday occurrence, examples of which can be found all over the country. Like sop kikil (broth with soft cartilage from cow’s feet); or babat hitam (beef tripe cooked in spices); or the ubiquitous soto daging (beef and intestines in tumeric broth).

In Nusa Dua, Warung Bakas specialises in pork, spit-roasted pork to be exact. This place leaves the infamous Babi Guling Ibu Oka in the dust.

We visited a total of three times in the five days we were in Nusa Dua, we liked it very much. Janet, our cousin who’s worked and lived in Bali for close to half a decade, is a major foodie and a fan of this place. If ever I am grateful for one’s love of overeating, this was it, I couldn’t thank her enough for introducing me to this warung.

Before I enthuse about the food, I must tell you the place gets super hectic around meal time. The first time we visited was at lunch time, the 13 of us had to wait close to half an hour, the dishes didn’t come all at the same time, there was a mix up in the orders, some other dish arrived, another dish didn’t arrive at all, it was chaos. Of course, we reviewed our bill after the meal and asked them to remove the orders that didn’t arrive. It’s not that they’re actively attempting to rip us off, as my cousin put it, “This place suddenly had a lot of tourist interests and they can’t handle the demand, yet.” So until they do, please be patient, check your bill and correct them respectfully if a mistake was made.

The third and last visit to the restaurant was made mere hours prior to our plane ride out of the archipelago. It was morning, not a busy meal time, the place was quiet, there was no jostling. Plenty of time for me to take pictures at a leisurely pace and I even managed to have a bit of a laugh with the owner and her employees.

Our order arrived in no time at all this time. Torn pieces of juicy babi guling (spit-roasted pig) were smeared with the heady spices the pig was stuffed with. On top was a shiny piece of pork crackling. Chunks of pork were skewered and charcoal grilled to make golden brown, sweet caramelised sate babi.

Pork rind given the deep-fried treatment has puffed up into translucent, crunchy pork rambak. Pork blood mixed with spices formed into sausages were boiled then fried. Deep fried pork intestine produced a crunchy cracker-like texture. Pork slices were smoked to create babi asap with a maroon colour to match the chequered table cloth.

Accompanying the meal were two bowls of jukut ares -- a comforting pork broth dish with tender pork pieces and slices of young banana petiole.

All dishes were garnished with a pop of more red in the form of shredded large red chillies, and on the side were stir-fried snake beans and a saucer of sliced bird’s eye chillies for those who crave for more heat.

There’s not a doubt about Warung Bakas’ respect to the animal, its use of every bit of the pig, head-to-tail. But what's more important is everything's dang delicious, head-to-tail be damned. The smokiness of the bacon-like babi asap made me smile from ear to ear, the sweetness of skewered pork begged me to spoon in more rice, the pork broth combined with the banana stalk was both comforting and refreshing. Eating was like a treasure hunt, finding contrasting textures, enticing me to try one thing, then the next thing, and eventually everything on the plate.

Warung Bakas
Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai
Nusa Dua BALI
location on google maps

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seminyak "Eat Street"

When I’m in Bali, I avoid having western-style food. The variety of Balinese cuisine and the general Indonesian food in Bali is immense, it’s almost a shame to eat food I can readily access back in Australia.

The bargain-hunter part of me also feels it’s more economical to eat local food. When you think about it, for the same priced ingredients, western style cafés, bistros and restaurants charge double or more. But of course, included in that is the price we pay for the ambiance, the expat executive chef, the napery, etc.

The only western eatery we visited on our last holiday in Bali was The Bistrot. It's located in the so-called "Eat Street" in Seminyak due to the dense population of restaurants in the area. This is the premiere location for expat chefs who want to open their next hip restaurant in Bali.

The Bistrot excelled in terms of ambiance with its barn house feel, exposed brick wall and quirky décor. If I were to nitpick, the air-conditioning self-described on their website as “natural hewn stone air-conditioned”, whatever that means, was a bit lacking. Certainly inside the bistro was few degrees cooler than on the streets outside, but being a closed space, the humidity had nowhere to go. It was cool but slightly sticky. Though I’m pleased to say their service was not lacking, it was gracious and effective.

My dish of the day was seafood penne rigate, chock full of ingredients with hefty chunks of fish, king prawns, and plump clams and mussels. It vexes me whenever restaurants charge ridiculous prices only to serve a plateful of nothing. Fortunately, this was not one such case, we were starving and we were answered with a satisfying lunch. An ice-cold corona and refreshing watermelon juice completed the meal.

As with the burger, I only had a bite of it. Though the portion size for the burger was quite decent, to me it was a standard burger. I can’t even remember what protein was the patty made of, was it chicken or was it beef?

Seeing other reviews of this bistro, there’s a wide divide between the very good and the awful. Our experience was more on the positive end of the scale. We must’ve gone on a good day.

The Bistrot
Jalan Kayu Aya 117
Seminyak BALI
Open 7 days 7.30am-midnight

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Japanese Influenced Pottery in Kuta

Being a food blogger, joy fills my heart whenever I see beautiful tableware. The same feeling came over me when I spent an hour (or maybe two) browsing Jenggala Keramik’s website prior to my Bali vacation.

Their pieces are influenced mostly by traditional Indonesian and Balinese pattern and colours, but I can see some are influenced by Japanese pottery -- clean and simple lines with muted colours. These sexy Japanese inspired ones are ones that excites me the most. I’ve been seriously coveting some of their pieces, but their price tags have so far stopped me from purchasing them online.

Jenggala boasts that each piece of pottery is inspected for the highest quality, with normal variation due to its handmade nature. While this is certainly the case -- you won’t be able to buy one blemished piece from their showroom -- the slightly imperfect pieces are still available for purchase and can be found at Jenggala’s lesser known Factory Outlet.

Jenggala does very little by way of advertising their Factory Outlet for whatever reason, there isn’t even an official link to it on their website. Being the bargain hunter that I am, I managed to find it from the lovely people on the web.

There were pieces with undeliberate minor askew shapes, or the accidental colour stain here there. But those with obvious flaws were the minority. The imperfections on most of the pieces I’ve examined were imperceptible to the naked eye and these were the ones I picked to buy. With prices of up to 50% off, I went on a shopping spree.

One of my purchases was this teardrop white salad bowl with undulating rim seemingly to have been brushed with a muted teal paint. So beautiful. Pictured below is this bowl having the flaw of paint dots at its bottom. There was a stack of these bowls in the shop, I looked for two which didn't have such obvious flaws.

While the attendants wrapped up my pieces with some old newspaper, I noticed quite a few of the customers were Japanese. I guess even they love Jenggala’s interpretation of Japanese pottery. After they were wrapped up, the pieces were stacked into shopping bags. If you happened to ask for boxes, they will kindly let you know boxes are not provided in the factory outlet, only in the showrooms. One less perk I don't mind having without.

The piece I use most often at home is this ramen bowl. It has a distinct Japanese look, a deep bowl capable of holding a lot, with convenient indentations on its rim for placing a pair of chopsticks. I’ve used it for serving salmon phở with a bountiful salmon bone broth, for bibimbap with its vigorous mixing action, for simple chicken and noodle soup, and many many other delicious dishes.

Jenggala Factory Outlet
Jalan Sunset Road No. 1
location on google maps

Friday, July 11, 2014

Subak: Rice Farming in Bali

A lot of Asians -- myself included -- won’t feel full without eating rice thanks to being brought up with the typical Asian diet of eating rice at least twice a day. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m addicted, but I certainly can’t picture my life without it. Last year in an effort to better my nutrition value, I’ve started adding grains, seeds and beans such as chia seeds, barley, soaked mung beans, etc. to make multi-grain rice. While I’m pretty much used to eating it without noticeable difference, once in a while I like to cook the pure unadulterated stuff. There’s this inexplicably satisfying feeling I get digging into a steaming bowl of fluffy white rice that multi-grain rice simply can’t give.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In Klungkung, One Salt Farmer Prevails

Artisanal salt farming is a dying trade in Bali. The Indonesian government has an incentive program to subsidise local salt farming in an effort to attract and retain this trade. Is it working? Is this primitive and labour intensive method of producing salt worth saving?

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