Ok, here it is people. The long awaited, highly anticipated blog post on food baby, nothing but FOOD! Hoorah! Be sure not to salivate on your keyboards darlings.
My life revolves around food. Food and I have a passionate love affair, we simple must see each other every day, alone, in a group, I don’t care. As long as I get to wrap my luscious lips regularly around culinary delights and moan in sensory delight, then I’m one satisfied woman. I almost always have a snack handy and, when not adequately fed, involuntarily cease rational functioning. I am one of those people who regularly plans my days around my meals, not the other way around. I know of people who eat purely out of necessity, caring little about the language of food as long as it fills their dietary requirements and keeps them alive. To them I say – Blasphemers! Heretics! Ignoramouses of the most flagrant kind! Repent for your sins before all is lost! Food, in all its delicious variety of colours, flavours and textures is a gift from the gods – appreciate it you mortal fool! Lol So there.
Back in Aus I cook a lot. Cooking is a fantastically creative experience for me… I never use recipes and yet 99% of the time, I create deliciousness… I glean inspiration from everything I eat, from restaurants I pass, from dinners at friend’s houses, to a feature ingredient that I find a glut of at a local market… Everything can be an inspiration for my cooking. And I only cook, I only really cook when I’m settled in a place, when I feel at home, when I feel grounded. In the absence of these feelings I eat out or I revert to doing the bare minimum to keep myself functional.
In Bali I don’t cook. There are multiple reasons for that, some of them being… it’s so cheap to eat here that it’s actually more expensive for a single person to buy all the ingredients to create a meal than it is to go and eat at a warung (small, homestyle restaurants). It’s hot and muggy here and really, who can be bothered spending hours over a stove when you don’t have to? The standard Balinese kitchen is an affront to my Western tastes and are tiny little things, often smaller than the bathroom, with zero bench space and no ovens- cooking in a well appointed, well furnished kitchen is a joy, cooking in one that isn’t is just a bitch. And of course, the most important reason why I don’t cook here… I’m in a strange, exotic country and they have so many yummy things that I have no idea how to make! 🙂 They’re cooking with a completely different understanding and appreciation of food than I’m used to, with a different list of ingredients than I know… Who better to let do the delicious local cooking than the locals? So I’m taking a time out from cooking and diving into the exquisite world of just eating, savouring and appreciating! hehehe (Amen to a metabolism that must be fairly high, I’ve actually lost weight here! lol) So, let’s talk about it shall we?
Rice- Rice is the staple of life here. Literally. Rice is seen as the main in every dish – the other parts of the dish are just accompaniments. Rice is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perfectly steamed rice is the daily conquest of any self respecting citizen. Rice is an integral part in the religious, spiritual lives of the Balinese – rice is in every offering and you will see people everywhere with little bits of rice plastered to their foreheads, right over their third eye to signify that they’ve been to the temple that morning. White is by far the most readily used and available type of rice but red and brown varieties regularly make it to my plate… and who could bypass the famous Indonesian dessert- black rice. Have I mentioned rice a fair bit in this paragraph? Get used to it. Over here, it’s rice, rice, rice! And I love the stuff!
Nasi campur – The name of this dish translates to ‘mixed rice’ and the ubiquitous ‘nasi campur’ is on almost all Indonesian menus. Basically it goes like this – Nasi campur is a random mix of things that changes at every restaurant. The only constant is rice. lol As I’m a vegetarian, mine usually involves some sort of green vegetables sauteed in yummy seasoning, fried tofu and/or tempe (sometimes the tempe is in tiny little matchsticks and has been fried in a sweet sauce), grated and roasted coconut, fried peanuts and other random delights…. and of course, say it with me now, RICE! hehehe I LOVE Nasi Campur… I do tours of towns based on nasi campur… The delight being in the fact that, at each new restaurant, you don’t really know what you’re going to get! 🙂 I had nasi campur for lunch today at a new little place down the south end of the beach… Treo’s cafe… it was delicious and I am thoroughly, completely sated. All for the princely sum of 20,000 rupiah (about $2.50).
Es campur- The linguistically astute will notice that ‘es campur’ and ‘nasi campur’ share a common word…. very good, gold star! Es campur is the dessert version of nasi campur, the only constant being ice and sugar of some variety… Es campur is typically sold by ‘kaki limas’ (Literally translated as ‘Five legs’, meaning the numerous little food vendors who have three wheeled/legged little pushcarts. Plus their two legs and you get… kaki lima!) and is a rainbow coloured concoction of the strangest variety – ingredients involve glutinous, jelly-like palm seeds in various colours, little pearls of tapioca (again in different colours – it’s a very colourful dessert!), little squares of various jellies, grated coconut, giant blobs of strange tasting, cheese looking tapioca (not a winner) and, my personal, hilarious favourite – seaweed! ( I don’t eat it, I just laugh about it lol) Yes, seaweed in delightful little multi-coloured fronds. In your dessert. Weirdos. lol I first had es campur back in Aus and a couple of Indo festivals I performed at and I loved it, I’m a sucker (pun intended) for little flavoured jelly like things and I was looking forward to trying it local style. When I got here it took me ages to get over my distrust of the grotty little vendors to the point where I was actually willing to try it here (Bali Belly be damned, I have intestines of steel!). My friend and I discovered the addition of seaweed in a hilarious incident in a town to the north in which we were two of only 6 Westerners spotted in the entire vicinity. We waltzed over to our new es campur friend and ordered two of whatever the crazy things in his jars were and sat down to eat. Upon discovery of said little trees of seaweed, I burst into uproarious laughter and couldn’t stop for the duration of our dessert eating. The locals were VERY amused be the ridiculous antics of the bule gila! (Crazy foreigner!) hehehe.
So those are my two favourite things to eat – pisang goreng (banana fritters) and Bali Dadar (Balinese pancakes filled with fresh grated coconut and palm sugar) are others that I regularly gorge on. 🙂 um yum yum yum YUM!
There is soooo much else I could wax lyrically on about but I think I need a snack lol
And a word about Western food – my general advice is to avoid it. The quality’s quite often depressing and no one here seems to have quite mastered the art of dairy products or baked goods in a way that leaves me begging for more… When in Indo, eat Indo style – it’s soooo much yummier and generally cheaper. Nasi Campur anyone? 😀