Month: August 2010

Bumbu Bali, Part 2 – IBU OKA SPESIAL

It’s hard to say something about Ibu Oka that hasn’t been said before except for AMEN! Babi guling or roast suckling pig is a Balinese specialty and even more so since pork is a rarity in the rest of Muslim majority Indonesia. Right off of the main road on Jalan Suweta, across from the Ubud Palace, Ibu Oka crams in as many people that can sit around the communal tables packed onto the central raised platform. Throw off your shoes, sit down, and someone will swiftly come by to take your order. In our case, it was a squat man, who happened to resemble a babi guling himself, with a fanny pack bulging with rupiah slung below his belly and a gold watch glistening in my face as he wrote down our order. He was too swift for my camera!

At Ibu Oka’s kitchen around the way, happy baby pigs are snorting and playing until they are sacrificed at dawn to be stuffed with a special blend of bumbu bali (shallots, garlic, chili, ginger, galangal, turmeric, bay leaves) and roasted over a wood fire for five hours while being basted with coconut water.

J and I both ordered the babi guling spesial without really understanding how spesial it would be. The plate not only comes with hunks of succulent roast pork and its legendary crisp caramel honey skin but to our drooling astonishment, deep-fried pork intestines and slices of some of the best blood sausage I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.

Move over chicharrones! Give me a bag of deep-fried chittlins! I could pop these babies in my mouth like a bag of chips. At barely $3 a plate, we contemplated getting seconds or at least a plate of pork skin but we chickened out (wocka wocka!) and instead vowed we would come back very, very soon.

We saluted the picture of Ibu Oka on the wall and left with half-daffy grins that only truly satisfied diners can beam.

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Bumbu Bali, Part 1

A week or so after we got to Jakarta, a turbid city where fresh air is only found in one of its many luxury malls, J and I took a quick jaunt over to Bali to ensure that the moon and stars still surely did exist. We depleted all of the Hyatt points we had collected over the years and booked a bit of paradise along the Nusa Dua stretch of luxury hotels.

Entry to Grand Hyatt Bali

Although Nusa Dua is known as “not the real Bali,” I didn’t seem to care while slipping on my egyptian cotton robe to take my first steps into the Indian ocean about a hop and a skip away from my room. The warm azure waves lapped lovingly until we were happily wading in the most beautiful bath imaginable.

We rented ourselves an ojek (motorbike) and rode around until we found some dinner featuring Indonesian chili crab at a random roadside restaurant that I’ve conveniently forgotten the name of. We picked our crab out of a tank and waited with a beer for J and a gargantuan coconut for me. Coconuts have since become an obsession of ours and will have its own proud post soon!

So, the chili crab in Indonesia seriously pales in comparison to traditional Singaporean chili crab. In lieu of the depth of flavor and spice that infuses Singaporean chili crab, the Indonesian version is lighter and sweeter and lacks the sexy, fiery red sheen its cousin flaunts. To boot, this crab had the densest body armor that was designed to protect its luscious interior at all costs. Eating this robocrab was a frustrating and formidable battle with shells whizzing by, platters clamoring, and fruitless sucking to only be left with mangled and obliterated bits and pieces.

Thank god the following day I found redemption in the most magnificent cob of corn in the eastern hemisphere! After a beautiful day of surfing at Padang Padang beach with Koyok, a local instructor from a nearby surf camp, we headed to the Uluwatu temple at sundown. I was starving and hoping I could find something to tie me over until dinner. Lo and behold, the corn cart. Just a few feet away from the temple entrance is a pedagang kaki lima, which literally translates to trader with 5 feet.

These babies are roasted over hot burning coals and slathered with bumbu bali (Bali spices) butter. I can’t be sure what exactly was in that golden vat of heaven but I was tasting lemongrass, red chilies, ginger, and garlic swirled into butter that is worth its weight in gold. The spicy butter and the sweet juicy corn were in perfect union; it was downright sacramental. I’d like to slather that stuff on everything and everyone. I’d like to force feed a goose with it so I can taste it in its engorged liver. I’d like to make a layer cake with it and have it served on my birthday every year. Please, don’t leave Bali without tracking down one of these messengers of complete deliciousness.

You can also find these wonderful vendors on the beaches at night while you’re waiting for your overpriced seafood dinner that’s not even worth mentioning.

Stay tuned for Bumbu Bali, Part 2 featuring a porkstravaganza at the famed Ibu Oka in Ubud!

I’ll leave you with some pics from the Uluwatu temple and the Kecak dance:

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