Grilled as you like it

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.


A day in Denver February 28, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Travel — laurel @ 7:42 pm
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I found some more photos from our holiday trip to Colorado. Here are some that I took on an afternoon in Denver with my mom. First we went to the Denver Bread company for some bread and cookies. Mmm… I miss good crusty bread here in Japan; just looking at this photo makes me want some.


Next we headed to Urbanistic Tea and Bike Shop. This shop used to be Lily’s on the other side of the street, but they’ve moved and changed their offerings a little bit. If I were to open a retail store, I think this is what I would want it to be: herbs and spices, cool cooking tools, gourmet foods, fine teas, and bike gear (plus a small repair area in the back). How cool is that? I loved their “ride bikes*be fabulous” t-shirt, but they didn’t have my size. zannen.


Urbanistic is right next door to St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop. It’s another great little shop. They don’t just have cheese. They also have spices and gourmet goodies. I picked up a few bags of Le Puy and black caviar lentils to bring back to Japan. I also bought a few pieces of Spanish cheeses. One great thing about St. Kilian’s is that they let you try the cheese before you buy it, so I knew that I was going to like the ones I picked out. One was Zamorano, and unfortunately I forgot the name of the other, but trust me, it was good.


For our last stop, we left the Highlands neighborhood and headed to LoDo. We were hoping to stop in at Wen Chocolates, but they were closed for the first ten days of January. Wen Chocolates is next door to the original Savory Spice shop in Denver. I had already done all of my spice shopping at the Boulder store, so although we stopped in and said hello, I didn’t buy anything there.



Home for the holidays February 16, 2009

The Kitchen, Boulder, Colorado

We went home for 17 days over the winter holidays. What a great trip it was. Of course, we tried our best to fill up on all of the things we can’t get in Japan. Mexican food was at the top of our list. Here are some highlights from our trip. We had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Boulder, The Kitchen. I love that they have great local ingredients and that they’re not afraid to share their recipes on their website. They know that a great restaurant is more than just the recipes.


We picked up lots of bulk spices at great prices at Savory Spice Shop. This was the first time that I had been to their new(ish) Boulder store. It’s much brighter and more spacious than the adorable Denver shop. It seems like they are always improving their selection, and everything that I’ve gotten from there has been great. This time we picked up all of the spices that we thought we might need in the next year-and-a-half. We stocked up on spices for making Mexican food in particular, and more of our favorite locally inspired blend, Lodo Red Adobo.


After visiting Savory Spice we headed to Pekoe Sip House for our favorite teas. Although there is plenty of green tea in Japan, the selection of black tea is not as good and it’s expensive too. So we stocked up on our favorite teas like Herbal Madras, Evening in Missoula, Forbidden Fruits, Ceylon, and Lilioukalani.


Later in the week we had brunch at Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder. Alex has declared their burger to be the best in town. (more…)


Spiced Kabocha and Apple Soup October 8, 2008

Filed under: Cooking,Four seasons in Japan,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 7:32 pm
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creamy spiced kabocha and apple soup

On a cool, rainy fall day, hard squashes like pumpkins, butternut and kabocha really hit the spot for me. You won’t see many butternut squash or pumpkins in Japan, but there are plenty of kabocha squash. The kabocha has a similar flavor and texture to a butternut squash, but unlike a butternut the kabocha’s thin skin is edible. I learned from another teacher at school that the best time for kabocha is actually late summer in July and August, but then the weather is so hot so I’m not really in the mood for a hearty roasted squash dish just yet. Japan’s long, hot growing season means the squashes are ready to eat much earlier in the year than I’m used to seeing them. Luckily, these squashes store well so I can enjoy them in the fall and winter too.

I bought a local kabocha the other day and decided that it would make a great creamy soup. I decided to use ume-shu to add both sweet and sour notes to the soup. I also used a bunch of spices, but I think the soup could be just as good with simpler seasoning. Feel free to spice it to your own taste.

Spiced Kabocha and Apple Soup

1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
pinch of salt
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup ume-shu (plum wine, can substitute white wine)
1 small kabocha or half of a larger kabocha, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 to 6 cups water or chicken stock
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
ground nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder to taste
2 whole star anise, optional
heaping tablespoon Saikyo miso (Kyoto-style sweet white miso)
lemon juice, vinegar, or apple juice to taste
fresh cream, sour cream, or yogurt

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil or butters. Add the onion, carrot, and a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables over low heat. When the vegetables are tender add the apple. Allow to cook for a few minutes. Add ume-shu and scrape the bottom of your pot with a wooden spoon to remove any browned bits. Add the kabocha, stock or water, ginger, and spices. Simmer until the kabocha is tender, at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the star anise from the soup. Add a heaping tablespoon of Saikyo miso. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and spices. If the soup is very sweet but not very tangy, add lemon juice, vinegar, or apple juice to add a sour contrasting note.

To serve, top with a bit of fresh cream, sour cream, or yogurt.

copyright 2008, LMS