Monday, January 30, 2012

The eating extravaganza continues in Bali

Just when we thought we reached a new high in food awesomeness in Brazil, our minds (and bellies) have been blown again. Here comes Bali, a place where you can eat the most delicious foods you can imagine and only pay a few bucks for it. Imagine high-end restaurants with claims of organic ingredients, or farmers markets with fresh organic produce, or your juicer at home (if you have one) and the time it takes to make your own organic smoothie. Then, picture being able to buy all that at an outdoors restaurant facing a hillside covered with rice paddies and coconut palms, while sitting on comfy pillows - and only pay about $3 per dish. Bali is a place to pamper not only your skin, but also your taste buds.

Sara and Jesse took us to a quiet little hotel in Candidasa (on the southern tip of the island) with bungalows facing the ocean. This was our dining area, with the ocean to the left of this photograph. Avocado is very popular in Bali and is used a lot just as a smoothie. Here's in the form of "guacamole" served in a polished coconut shell.

Anne's platter where she sampled various Indonesian dishes at a local eatery in Seminyak. Note in the background Anne's sweet tea (which reminded her of her childhood in the South) and my beer (which reminded me of my big beer belly and how I should stop drinking beer.)

Bali = Fruit Heaven
We were impressed by the diversity and ubiquity of natural juices on the streets of Rio, but little did we know how hard Bali outjuices Brazil. We ate fruit every day. We drank fruit every day, in form of juices and smoothies. We ate fruit every day, in tarts and ice-creams. We learned of new fruit we didn't even know existed and tried every single one of them. Experiencing a certain food item for the first time can be a strange cause of joy. Not sure whether it happens only to foodies like us, but if you see food as an essential aspect of a new culture you're immersing yourself into, then it can be just as exhilarating as visiting a temple or seeing a mountain for the first time.

 On the way back from the Gitgit waterfall (it was really nice having a car and being driven around the island by the awesome Sara who rocks at driving stick on the other side of the road), we stopped at a fruit market. All they sold there was fruit, both fresh and dried up. We stocked up on tons of fruit and kept snacking on it the entire car ride.

Rambutan is like lychee, but a bit bigger. There is so much of it here in Bali, that they give it to the monkeys to eat. And the monkeys loooove rambutan.

We rode our scooter up to Kintamani and Lake Batur and on the way back we stopped at a fruit stand on the side of the road where we bought a pomelo and some mangosteens. The pomelo I did not photograph (it's like a bigger and sweeter grapefruit).

The mangosteen is a tropical evergreen tree believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas of Indonesia. The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, and somewhat fibrous, with an inedible, deep reddish purple-colored rind.

On a different car ride through the island, we stopped again at a fruit stand and sampled some rambutans, durians, mangosteens and snake fruit, all of that for only 30,000 rupiahs (3 USD)



A close-up look at the outside shell of a durian. These guys are the size of a watermelon and grow high up on trees, some of which are right on the side of the road. If one of these things fell on your head you'd probably be dead.

We ate durian for the first time in our lives. Durian has a distinct smell and many people can't eat it because of the bad smell. Some say it smells like "stinky French cheese," others resemble it to "dirty socks." The fruit is mushy and to me it tasted like vanilla pudding.

Snake fruit is native to Indonesia. The fruit grow in clusters at the base of the palm, and are known as snake fruit due to the reddish-brown scaly skin. They are about the size and shape of a ripe fig, with a distinct tip. The fruit can be peeled by pinching the tip, which should cause the skin to slough off so it can be pulled away. The fruit inside consists of three lobes, each containing a large inedible seed. The lobes resemble, and have the consistency of, large peeled garlic cloves. The taste is usually sweet and acidic, but its apple-like texture can vary from very dry and crumbly to moist and crunchy. (from Wikipedia)

 The coconuts in Bali were not as good as the ones in Brazil. While bigger and containing three times as much coconut water, they were quite flavorless.

One coconut for 10K rupiahs (=1USD) By comparison, a small plastic bottle of water cost about 3K (30 cents), but the plastic would plague the earth for many years to come.

Dragon fruit is the white thing with black seeds. Our hotel served it up for breakfast and the first few days I did not eat it, thinking it was some weird rice pudding with poppy seeds. It turned out it's a real fruit, produced by several cactus species. It's quite flavorless, which is why I think it's not very popular. They probably serve it in hotels to appeal to tourists looking for exotic tropical fruit.

Soursop has been promoted to my "all-time favorite fruits" right next to passion fruit. The soursop is a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen tree native to Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. Today, it is also grown in some areas of Southeast Asia. It was most likely brought from Mexico to the Philippines by way of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. Other common names include: guanĂ¡bana (Spanish) and graviola (Portuguese). Its flavor has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana. (from Wikipedia)

Jackfruit is yet another fruit that we've first tried in Bali. We first ate it dried and loved it, thinking it was mango. Then we ate it deep-fried and dipped in chocolate. Finally, we ate it in its raw form (as seen above) and still loved it. Jackfruit is very lovable. It is native to parts of Southeast Asia. Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh, where it is known as "kathal." The jackfruit tree is believed to be indigenous to the southwestern rain forests of India. It is widely cultivated in tropical regions of the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. (from Wikipedia)

That's my lap covered up in all the fruit we bought from the fruit market. The middle one is a cocoa pod that we picked up from a tree on the side of the road. The cocoa pods are ripe when they get brown. Cocoa beans eaten straight from the pod taste almost the same as raw dark chocolate. Divine, that is.

Sara and Jesse took us to a humble little outdoor food court where the locals eat. In Bali, sadly, there is a distinct separation between where the tourists eat and where the locals eat. Locals can't afford the $3 menu items that tourists eat, so they eat mostly at dirt cheap eateries where a portion of soup or fried rice costs around 30 cents.

 At this place we ordered a weird sweet drink (can't remember the name) that was very colorful and contained ice, pieces of colorful jelly, avocado, candies and any sort of random sweet items they had in the shop. I hated it, Anne seemed to like it.

Babi guling is a traditional balinese dish. It's basically roasted baby pig. We didn't have the fortune to taste the little fellow you see in the photo above, as it was a very special piglet cooked up at the very special Four Seasons Hotel. As we snuck our way into this luxury resort on a pool-finding mission, we ran into the babi guling roasting party. They were getting ready for a BBQ and we were cordially invited, for the nominal fee of 70 USD. Our salivating mouths politely declined.

 However, I got to eat babi guling at a restaurant down the street for a much lower price, and this is how it looked like on the plate.

 Naughty Nuri's is an institution in Ubud.They have really good spare ribs and this is what everyone is coming here for.

 Nuri's is located right across the street from Neka art museum. Nothing better after several hours of staring at figurative Balinese paintings than a good ol' BBQ.

 Our order of ribs with french fries and sambal sauce.

 The ribs didn't seem to quench our hunger, so Anne ordered a burger. And this is what came off the grill.

A lovely outdoor restaurant by a rice paddy that Sara and Jesse took us to. I don't remember the name or the area where it was, but we loved the decor and the serenity of eating outdoors, in the middle of a rice field.

 We also visited a small chocolate factory, owned by an American guy from Florida who has lived in Bali for 14 years. From top in clockwork order: a ripe cocoa pod, raw cocoa beans, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, dried goji berries, chocolate crunch (mixed w rice) and finally cocoa syrup. The prices for the chocolate made here were very reasonable, and sadly, the guy doesn't export any of it outside of Bali, since chocolate melts and it would take an expensive container with refrigeration to ship it.

The chocolate factory is the small cabin on the right. All these buildings were made of bamboo and palm leaves.

Saturday morning at Sara and Jesse's house, where Sara made us crepes for breakfast, before we hit the road.

 Breakfast at home.

 The cute and hippie Art Cafe in Ubud, with mismatching wooden furniture and hanging dreamcatchers.

 Waiting for our food at the Art Cafe.

 Anne got chimichangas, while I opted for chicken satay with peanut sauce. It's nice to be able to order both Thai and Mexican at the same restaurant.

The traditional Indonesian nasi goreng (fried rice mixed with vegetables and spices) with a modern twist: brown organic rice instead of the regular white rice.

Women selling fruit and vegetables at the market. 

 Spice stand at the fruit market.

 Boiled corn on the cob.

Sari Organik is probably my favorite food joint in Bali. It's an organic restaurant located in the middle of rice paddies and fields right outside the town of Ubud. It's a little walk to get there, but a beautiful one nonetheless. You can only get there by walking a narrow path or riding your motorbike, with inundated rice fields on both sides of the path.

Natural juices, salads and raw food. It may sound pretentious and hippie, but everything we ate was incredibly fresh and delicious.

 Beet soup: raw beet juice with ginger and shredded carrot and mint.

This salad had finely chopped vegetables, including those you'd not think of eating raw, such as beet. But when everything is chopped up small, colorful and crunchy, can't help but eat it all up and love it.

The second time we went there, I couldn't help myself and ordered two juices instead of one. The green one on the left has juiced brocolli, apple, lemongrass, mint and lime. I really can't wait to buy a juicer and try out all sorts of veggie/fruit combinations when I get back home after the trip.

 Toasting with our fruit shakes.

Anne loved her mushroom chicken so much, that she got the same dish both times we came to this restaurant.

 What you see here is a piece of heaven on a plate. It's jackfruit deep fried with a coat of rice flour, then dipped in the chocolate syrup made by the guy from the chocolate factory.

 Table at Sari Organik restaurant.

All smoothies were served with bamboo straws, which you could also purchase. They come with cleaning instructions: bamboo straws have to be kept in the freezer in-between uses, probably to avoid formation of mold or bacteria on the inside.

I am deeply concentrated on my delicious passion fruit smoothie.

Anne always finds funny details in labels or brand names in the countries we visit, which I somehow fail to notice.

Sushi flavored chips anyone?

Because we love balls, especially chocolate ones.

Now these balls may seem boring (and that is solely due to the poor quality of the photograph), but they were actually quite interesting. The one on the left is spirulina with mint, coconut flakes, sesame seeds and granola. The one on the right is cardamom, goji berries and granola. Available for purchase at the Bali Buddha bakery. On a side note, the expat Bali does seem a lot like you're in Berkeley.

Complimentary treats that were offered to us at the Four Seasons hotel in Ubud.

Keeping the daily chico flame alive! We found a couple amazing gelaterias in Ubud and didn't hesitate to try out their offerings.