December 5, 2011

Back to basics in Bali

Denpasar international airport, Bali. We will soon be boarding our flight to Singapore, thus ending a deliciously relaxing couple of weeks in and around Bali. An extended stay all the more appreciated as the previous five weeks hopping around Indochina involved frequent transfers from one city or country to another and therefore many long and tiring journeys...

The kind of break also, which reminds you that life really doesn't need very much to taste wonderfully sweet, and that we're missing out a great deal by always caring so much about what's next instead of focusing on what is happening right now, the only thing that really exists and matters.
To be on the beach in time to watch the sun go down and play hide and seek with the clouds, resulting in a new though equally enchanting spectacle every night - this was virtually our only 'concern' over the past few days (okay maybe together with holding a bottle of delicious local brew Storm, just to enjoy the show even more)..

The magic of the sunsets, the prettiness of the terraced paddies, the diversity of the crops up in the central mountains and of course, the kindness of the people along with their endearing devotion to legion ceremonies and endless preparation of offerings - this is how Bali totally wins me over.

On the other hand I can't really say that I am enraptured by the island's cuisine in the same way as I am by other south-east Asian foods. However, Bali can surely still pride itself in having a few very charming dishes.

Among them, Babi Guling which I was delighted to taste again at Ubud's famous eatery Ibu Oka. A spicy filling composed of chilli, turmeric, ginger, galangal, shallots, garlic, coriander seeds and aromatic leaves is what makes this Balinese suckling pig so characteristic and flavoursome. Babi Guling is traditionally eaten at special celebrations. Slices of tender roasted meat are served along with crispy golden crackling as well as a variety of offal, of which you may as well want to ignore the exact origin.. With such strong flavours involved, I actually find Babi Guling quite challenging fare, but at the same time I feel like this somehow contributes to the appeal of the dish.

Another local specialty which particularly piqued my interest is the Balinese version of the well-known Indonesian Gado-Gado. Here chunks of rice cakes steamed in coconut leaves nicely complement the  usual boiled vegetables in their crushed peanut dressing.

At last but not least, although not specifically Balinese, my favourite is without a doubt the anything but fancy Nasi Campur, which basically consists of a casual assortment of what has been cooked on the day. This may include items as simple as boiled vegetables, grilled meat or fish, fried tofu or tempe (Indonesian soy-bean cake), hard boiled eggs coated with chilli sauce etc..

Apart from the pleasant variety of tastes and textures, I think what made me enjoy Nasi Campur so much is that after eating out for two months, it finally made me feel like having honest homey food - this all the more as a brown paper wrapping makes it convenient enough to take away and actually eat at home or your temporary place of residence in our case. No long list of dishes to asses, just a few ready-made preparations to pick from to compose yourself a comfortable meal in an instant..

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