Grilled as you like it

Bali: Dinner at Mozaic September 29, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Travel — laurel @ 10:41 pm
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While we were planning out trip to Indonesia, the New York Times had a timely review of Mozaic Restaurant in Ubud. It sounded like it was worth a try. It was also ranked as the fifth best restaurant in Asia by the Miele Guide, so I decided that that was the clincher.


After we arrived we enjoyed these cream-filled gougeres (above) in the lounge before being seated at our table in the garden. The garden was enjoyable but very dark. We didn’t bring along the mini-tripod and of course didn’t want to use the flash, so I don’t have many pictures from that point on. Alex chose the “Discovery Menu,” which is a series of dishes based on six traditional Balinese ingredients: Kluwek nuts, daun korokeling (salam leaves), kecicang (ginger flower), basa gede (spice paste), belimbing (baby star fruit), and buah kaffir (kaffir lime). At first we were presented with a platter that contained all six ingredients for us to look at, smell, and taste. The fresh salam leaves had a spicy scent that reminded me of burned rubber. The ginger flower had crispy layers and a slightly gingery taste. The baby star fruit was a little bit crunchy and much more sour than a mature star fruit. This was one of the few ingredients that we could more than just a nibble to taste. The kaffir lime had a wonderful citrus scent, especially if we squeezed it.

I chose the Chef’s Tasting Menu so that we could share and try both meals. Both meals were very good. I think if I could only choose one I would choose the Discovery Menu. It was really delicious and seeing and playing with the ingredients in their raw state was fun and interesting.

Mozaic’s ingredients discovery plate, part of the “Discovery Menu”: from left, kluwek nut, salam leaves (daun korokeling), fresh ginger flower (kecicang), basa gede spices (ginger, galangal, lemongrass); not pictured are baby star fruit (belimbing) and kaffir lime (buah kaffir)

Another thing I really enjoyed about our meal was the freshly baked bread. Our waiter dropped by occasionally with a basket full of warm rolls with interesting flavors like different herbs and grains. The rolls were nice and crusty, and a good change from the mostly sandwich-type breads and sweet rolls that were are so accustomed to in Japan.

fresh langoustine carpaccio cured in vanilla and macadamia, Sturia caviar, pepper tuille and baby leaf

Discovery Menu
Mozaic Restaurant, May 3rd 2009

Amuse Bouche

Balsamic glazed barramundi, Balinese ‘kluwek’ infused black olive sauce, vanilla endives and sambal ‘kluwek’

Daun Korokeling
Selection of market fresh seafood in a fresh curry leaf infused meunière, roasted eggplant caviar, cardamom reduction and fresh yogurt

French duck magret, stir fried Asian greens, fresh lime leaf infused yellow bell pepper sauce and sambal ‘kecicang’

Basa Gede
Slices of grilled Australian beef tenderloin, four spiced chestnut purée, Balinese ‘basa gede’ and ginger scented sprouts

Fresh belimbing sorbet, confied young balinese star fruit and star fruit chip

Buah Kaffir
Baked lemon tart soufflé, kaffir lime custard, chili infused lemongrass sorbet and passion fruit sauce

Chef’s Tasting Menu
Mozaic Restaurant, May 3rd 2009

Fine de Claire oyster with Japanese wakame

Fresh Langoustine Carpaccio
cured in vanilla and macadamia, Sturia caviar, pepper tuille and baby leaf

Parrot Fish Steamed in Laksa Leaf
fresh spinner crab ravioli, roasted coconut and laksa leaf infused broth

Caramelized Wagyu Beef
ragout of sticky oxtail, seared foie gras, whipped turnip, burned bread emulsion and ‘jus gras’

Victoria Rack of Lamb
organic plum purée, toasted spice, Swiss chard and Guinness beer emulsion

Fresh A.O.C. ‘Fourme d’Amber’ Cheese
Apricot sorbet, black truffle honey and baked fruit ‘pastilla’

Valrhona ‘Guanaja’ Chocolate and Coffee Fondant
Spiced grape reduction, date puree and bitter espresso granité


Bali: A day at the market and cooking class September 15, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Eating,recipes,Travel — laurel @ 9:54 pm
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On our first day in Ubud we took a cooking class at Bumbu Restaurant. The class began with a tour of Ubud’s market. The market is busiest earlier in the morning so we went back for an earlier visit on another day. Our chef-instructor Gus showed us around the market and explained some essential ingredients of Balinese cuisine. I really enjoyed the tour, where we learned a lot of things that we probably wouldn’t have learned on our own. On the other hand, if you’re going to do some shopping, don’t do it with your tour group. The vendors know they can really stick it to you when you’re with the group. You’ve got a lot more freedom to haggle and shop around when you’re on your own. Another tip is to steer clear of the vendors in the areas that get a lot of foot traffic-they charge more than the vendors further back in the market.

Near the market entrance you can find sellers with spices for basa gede (the basic spice paste that finds it’s way into nearly everything) like greater galangal, and the smaller and spicier lesser galangal, fresh turmeric roots, garlic, ginger, shallots, and chiles. The woman above is also selling palm sugar, tomatoes, and green bananas.


These small, slightly wrinkled green chiles are spicy. The larger red chiles (no picture) are called lombok chiles, and are not very spicy, more like a flavorful sweet pepper.


Vibrant purple mangosteens–a vendor showed us a trick to open them without a knife. Just clasp your fingers together and put your palms on either side, then give it a good squeeze. The fruit will pop right open with no mess. This works on passionfruit too.


This ramp leads downstairs from the courtyard to the meat and vegetable sellers. Vendors alongside the ramp are selling peeled and sliced fresh fruits.


The view of the vegetable and meat vendors’ area.


A vegetable seller with greens, eggplants, carrots, potatoes, and long beans. On the right you can see the hand of our chef-instructor, who is explaining the vegetables that we’ll use in our class later.


Walk inside from the vegetable area and you will find cooking wares like mortars and pestles, wooden spoons, and coconut graters and then a maze of hallways leading to vendors with spices, dry goods, and dried fish. Here you can see dried fish, garlic, chiles, and rice. In the background are sauces and other essentials like fermented shrimp paste.


A woman walks home from the market with her shopping. Later, a watermelon fell out of the basket and started rolling down the street. Luckily we were able to catch it and return it, or who knows where it might have ended up.

basa gede

After the tour of the market we went back to Bumbu, where we started the lesson by making basa gede. Basa gede is a basic spice paste that each household can use in many different dishes. The recipe we made had fresh turmeric root, shallot, garlic, ginger, greater and lesser galangal, lombok chiles, candlenuts, white and black pepper, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, sesame seeds, and cumin ground together until almost smooth in this stone mortar and pestle and then fried with a tiny bit of fermented shrimp paste. Once you’ve prepared the paste you can use it to season a number of different dishes and it’s very convenient because you can store it in the refrigerator or freezer (if you do this leave out the shrimp paste until you’re ready to cook with it)

sambal goreng

This is sambal goreng, or fried hot spices: chiles, shallots, garlic, and shrimp paste. It is mixed with grated fresh coconut and then cooked vegetables to make sayur urab, mixed vegetables.

opor ayam

This was one of my favorite dishes that we made: opor ayam, curried chicken. It was easy to make and delicious. I have made it a few times since we’ve returned to Japan–it took me a few tries to get the basa-gede right without fresh galangal, lemongrass, and turmeric but I think I’ve found some substitutions that work. I made sure to increase the amount of dried turmeric since the fresh root is much stronger. I added a yuzu half to the simmering curry; the aromatic citrus flavor replaces the scent of lemongrass. Finally I used ginger instead of galangal. Of course it’s not the same, but it’s the best I can do for now.

Here’s the rest of the menu from our class:

Basa Gede – Basic Spice Paste

Sayur Urab – Mixed Vegetables with Sambal Goreng (fried sambal)

Tuna Sambal Matah – Tuna with Raw Sambal

Tempe Manis – Sweet Tempe

Opor Ayam – Curried Chicken

Bali Sate Lilit – Balinese Sate Skewers

Opor Ayam – Balinese Curried Chicken
by Bumbu Bali (my updates in parenthesis)

about 5 tablespoons basa gede
1 chicken (2 chicken legs and chicken thighs)
1 tsp salt
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 carrot (2 or 3 carrots)
1 potato (2 or 3 potatoes)
3 salam leaves (substitute bay leaves)
1/2 cup coconut milk

Cut chicken into large chunks. Put chicken and basa gede in a pot and mix well. (Cook for a few minutes until fragrant.) Add enough water to cover chicken. Cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Peel the carrot and potato (and eggplant) and cut into chunks. Add to pot with salam leaves, lemongrass, and coconut milk. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes until sauce is thickened and vegetables are cooked through.

Basa Gede – Basic Spice Paste
by Bumbu Bali

10 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 lombok chiles (substitute mild red peppers)
5 cm laos root (greater galangal), peeled and chopped (substitute ginger if necessary)
5 cm kencur root (lesser galangal), peeled and chopped (substitute ginger if necessary)
5 cm ginger root, peeled and chopped
10 cm fresh turmeric root, peeled and chopped (substitute generous 2 tbsp powdered turmeric)
6 candlenuts (or macadamia nuts)
1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
4 cloves
4 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp dried shrimp paste

Pound all of the ingredients except oil and shrimp paste together in a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, grind dry spices in a spice grinder and then puree the remaining ingredients except shrimp paste in a blender (with oil in this case). Add oil (if you haven’t already) and cook in a skillet, stirring, about 5 minutes. Store refrigerated up to 3 weeks or frozen up to 1 month. When ready to cook, stir in shrimp paste and cook a bit more.


Golden Week part 3: Bali! September 11, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Travel — laurel @ 11:18 pm
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After our sunrise tour of Mount Bromo on Java, we hopped on on of the big long-distance busses bound for the island of Bali. It was a long, hot day. Although some vendors would hop on the bus to sell snacks and drinks whenever they had a chance, there were no stops for meals. It was pretty late by the time we hopped off the bus at Medewi Beach on the northwest coast, but we checked in in time to grab a quick bite at the hotel restaurant. I jumped for the chef’s salad, which had too much dressing, but I was excited to see fresh vegetables after a long time without them.

One big difference between Bali and Java is that Bali is mostly Hindu while Java is mostly Muslim. Everywhere we went in Bali we saw offerings of flowers, bits of food, and incense sticks (like in the picture above). There are often placed at the entrances to businesses and along the sidewalk, so you have to look out so as not to step on them!

pura rambut siwi

In the morning we caught a local bus to Pura Rambut Siwi, where we were able to take a nearly private tour in English. They were preparing for a ceremony at the temple. You can see the offerings being blessed and sprinkled with coconut water.

pura rambut siwi2

After that we visited Pura Tanah Lot and then went to Ubud, where we would be staying for the next few days. For dinner, we ate at Ary’s Warung: the guidebook was right about it being pretentious…I was attracted to the spice roasted duck that the guide mentioned, but it was certainly overpriced. A visit to the restroom revealed that the toilet didn’t even flush properly! After dinner, we headed down the street to Bumbu Restaurant, where we registered for their Balinese cooking class for the next day.

pandan pancakes

Breakfast at our hotel was fresh fruit, eggs, and green pancakes filled with fresh coconut and sliced bananas (I actually had mine with no bananas).


The green color comes from water blended with pandan leaves.


We took an afternoon walk in the Monkey Forest. Vendors outside the gates will sell you bananas, but look out! If these guys think you’ve got food, they’ll jump all over you. We saw another quick character snatch an old lady’s water bottle, unscrew the top, and guzzle it down faster than you can say “bad monkey!”

ibu oka

After seeing Ibu Oka’s babi guling, spiced roasted suckling pig, on No Reservations, I was sure we’d have to try it. This is the “Special Suckling Pig” plate, which comes with vegetables, meat, a few slices of blood sausage, pieces of crispy skin, deep fried intestine, spicy sauce over rice. We also tried the “Different Suckling Pig” plate, which had pretty much the same stuff, but possible a few different cuts of pork and larger portions (the rice is on a separate plate). It was so good that I worked hard to finish it all, even though it was a little spicy for my taste (I am a real wimp about spicy food). To see the roasting process in progress, check out the Indonesia episode of No Reservations.


After a morning rainstorm we took a walk in the rice paddies. The trail gets a little faint in places, so it’s easy to get off the trail, but we kept walking and got back on the right track soon enough (but I did slip and get my feet wet in an irrigation ditch. Oops!) Unlike in Japan, where the planting and harvesting happens all at once, it’s easy to grow rice year-round in Bali, so we saw some folks harvesting their fields, while some were empty, and others were still lush and green.


Along the way we saw some chickens. A few of the chicks had fallen into the irrigation ditch and couldn’t get out so Alex stepped in to rescue them. My hero!

Along the walk we passed a bunch of small art studios. One also sold organic vanilla, cloves, and coffee, but it was closed. We did get to see the growing vanilla beans though.


This cow was looking cute while resting in the shade.


We also saw lots of ducks in the rice paddies. Duck is a local specialty in Ubud, and it was easy to see why, they’re everywhere in the rice fields, feasting on whatever goodies they can find.


This flock lived behind our hotel. They were cute to watch during the day but a little bit too loud at night. A few times we saw the farmers come by for a harvest. As you can see, they like to hang out together on the berm between the ponds, so the farmer just uses a long stick to scare a few into the field below and the rest rush to follow, not knowing that his friend is waiting there to capture them. I guess there’s safety in numbers, except for the unlucky few.

bebek bengil1

Speaking of ducks, we enjoyed a late lunch at Bebek Bengil (otherwise known as the Dirty Duck Diner), which was recommended by the Miele Guide that I picked up in Singapore. This is the amazingly crispy Bebek Bengil Crispy Duck. It was delicious!

bebek bengil2

This clever fellow knew that if he stuck around he could get a taste too after the customers left. We watched him run off with some rib bones from the table next to us.


On the last day in Bali we went to Jimbaran beach for a seafood barbecue lunch. We could watch the boats out on the waves while we ate.


There is a whole row of restaurants along the street. According to the driver we hired they’re all pretty much the same so we went to his friend’s place (everybody knows somebody they can hook up it seems like).


What a delicious lunch it was! We went a little crazy, but we wanted to make sure to try a good variety of dishes. I recommend going with a big group if you can so that you can try a lot without ending up with too much food. We ordered prawns, clams, and fish, which also came with garlic, sambals, baked potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. All of the seafood was grilled over coconut shells and basted with a tasty sweet and spicy sauce. Mmm… it was so good!


We enjoyed our meals with sweetened coconut water, which was a tasty tropical treat.

See more about our trip to Bali including lots more monkey photos at Alex’s photoblog.


Golden Week part 2: Java! September 2, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Travel — laurel @ 8:41 pm
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Padang restaurant in Yogyakarta

For the second leg of our Golden Week trip, we headed to Java. We flew into Yogyakarta from Singapore, and I knew right away that this trip would be very different from any that I had been on before. Outside of the US, I have also been to Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan: all modern, industrialized, and fairly wealthy nations. Indonesia is a large and populous country, but certainly not wealthy. The international airport terminal was basically a waiting room where you fill out your forms and hand over the $25 for your visa, and you’re on your way. As we traveled, it became really apparent how important the money that tourists bring can be to some people.

On both of the days that we were traveling with groups of other tourists, a few people in each group had really awful manners. On our minibus ride, a pair of young guys had just made their airline reservations that morning and needed to pay for them. They had the minibus driver stop at an ATM and two different banks while they tried to figure out how to pay, making the ten other passengers and the driver wait for them. We got to our hotel so late that the restaurant had closed for the night and if our driver hadn’t found a tiny local warung we would have gone to bed without dinner. Unfortunately I got a bad case of motion sickness on the winding road up the mountain, so I went to bed without dinner anyways. The next morning our fellow Jeep passengers on the Bromo tour were wasting time just chatting and were late to every meeting time. The worst part was that they knew what time they needed to be back, but they just didn’t seem to care (at least those other guys really were in a pinch, and they apologized). We got back to the hotel late and almost had to leave without breakfast too, but luckily the restaurant packed up some fried rice, toast, and eggs for us to take with us. We left in such a hurry we accidentally left our nice travel towels behind at the hotel too. 😦  The manners of our constantly late fellow travelers were really appalling: I don’t think that people would put up with that kind of bad behavior in the US or most of the other countries I’ve been to (4o minutes late? This bus is leaving without you). Unfortunately, people seem to put up with it because they really need the money from the tourists (whether they’ve got any manners or not).


We spent the first night at the Princess Manohara Hotel at the foot of Borobudur so that we could take the sunrise tour first thing in the morning. After the sunrise, we headed back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast. All of the hotels that we stayed at in Indonesia offered complimentary breakfast–usually nasi goreng (fried rice) with shrimp chips and fresh fruit. From there, we met our driver and our sightseeing in Yogyakarta continued. On the way back to Yogyakarta we stopped to see some of the smaller temples in the area around Borobudur.


gamelan players at Kraton

After that we went to Kraton, the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta. We enjoyed a performance of gamelan and puppet theater and a tour of the grounds in English.


In the afternoon we visited Prambanan, a large complex of Hindu temples.


Goats and sheep grazed on some of the less-visited corners of the grounds.

Mt. Bromo at sunrise

The next day we took an all day minibus ride to Mt. Bromo. In the morning we were up early for another sunrise tour. First we got a view of the volcano from an adjacent viewpoint, and then we got a ride into the large caldera. We were able to climb right up to the lip of one of the smaller volcanoes inside and look down into the smoking fissure below. We had been thinking of going on a sunrise tour on Bali

nasi ayam goreng

But in between all of this sightseeing, what did we eat? Here’s one plate from our dinner at the padang restaurant pictured at the top of this post (I think it’s called RM Palito Alam Masakan Minang). This is nasi ayam goreng (fried chicken with greens, vegetables and rice with curry sauce). It’s moist inside but incredibly crispy outside and the greens and curry sauce are really delicious. The price for this tasty plate: about 90 cents. We also had nasi ayam gulai (curried chicken plate with the same sides), gado gado (spicy vegetables), and kerepuk palembang (fish chips). Some of the sides, especially the gado gado, were too spicy for me, but overall it was a great meal. The grand total was about $3.65.

spice roasted duck

For lunch on the same day our driver picked out Sekar Kedhaton Restaurant in the silverworking district near Prambanan. This place was pretty much the exact opposite of the padang that we would eat at that night: air-conditioned, immaculately clean, expensive, and full of tourists. While we were eating, several big tour busses pulled into the parking lot to disgorge their loads of tourists at the rijsttafel buffet. Not being on a bus, we were able to choose our own meals from the menu: Alex chose the spice-roasted duck and I had the satay (though I was leaning towards the pandan-leaf fried chicken at first). The satay and duck were delicious, but the rice cylinders that were served with the satay didn’t sit as well with me–they were very dense and a little mochi-like, but without the chewiness that makes mochi so fun to eat.

gulas squash (tamarind and lime soda)

To drink I had a gulas squash, a tamarind and lime flavored soda. It was delicious.

nighttime food vendors

Along the main street in the Malioboro neighborhood in Yogyakarta, vendors set up to sell a variety of foods at night. We didn’t stop at one, since we’d just had a big dinner at the padang, but if I had more time I think I would try it.

roadside salaks (snakefruit) for sale

While we were driving around we saw so many stands with mounds of these brown fruits. Our driver told us that they are called salak, and are much more delicious (sweet and sour) than the salak in Bali. He also mentioned that they’re good for soothing a stomach ache or other digestive woes. When he told us that we could buy a bagful for just 20 cents, we couldn’t resist. If you look at them up close, the skin of the fruit looks like snake skin (it’s also called snakefruit). The fruit is firm, white, and a bit crunchy. It had a mild flavor and was indeed sweet and sour. They made good car snacks, especially on the long, hot drive to Mt. Bromo the next day.

On our last morning in Yogyakarta, we went to the market, Pasar Beringharjo. The market is so large (and housed on three floors in at least two buildings) that we were nearly out of time before we found the food stalls. There were stalls with dry goods and spices on the first floor, huge piles of colorful vegetables on the second floor, and finally all kinds of tropical fruits on the third floor. We didn’t have time to buy anything or even get any photos (except of the banana vendor, and I hate bananas) before we had to rush back to our hotel to check out.

Most of our other meals on Java were at roadside cafeterias where we ate things like fried rice, noodles, curries, and shrimp or fish crackers. One of the best was a spicy goat curry that we had for lunch on the way to Mt. Bromo.

woman carrying cabbages on Mt. Bromo.

All along the road on the way down from Mount Bromo we saw so many farms built on amazingly steep plots of land. Since it gets cold at night, this must be a better place to grow cool weather crops that would suffer in the heat at lower elevations.

Mt. Bromo farms- you can see some of the steeper fields on the side of the mountain in the background

Check out more from our trip at Alex’s photoblog