Saturday, 11 October 2008

BBQ Pig in Hindu Ubud

One of my most favourite meats is pork. Any cut will do me, from their trotters to the legs, through its belly to it's ears and snout. I am a fan of nose to tail eating. Waste not want not is my motto. 

After travelling through Malaysia and not really seeing or eating any pork for 6 weeks. I was in desperate need of some good old hog. I had heard off several tele series, magazine articles and friends about this small restaurant in Ubud that serves one of Bali's best known dishes. Babi Guling. Bar-B-Q'd Pig. 

Ibu Oka is situated at the Northern end of Ubud right opposite the Royal Palace. It is an unassuming place, but then most restaurants in Asia are unpretentious. There are a few wooden benches outside for the oversized Australians who can not sit on the floor inside. The small tables nestle nicely in the cramped eating room, the straw mats are quite surprisingly comfortable to sit on. 

There is only one thing on the menu, but you can have it two ways. The "Spesial" is a mixture of all pig. You get a good mix of blood sausage, crackling, some choice cuts of juicy meat from different parts of the pig. I had some delicious ear and  it's crispy tail on one visit. Yes we made several visits here. This is all served on top of a good helping of rice. 

The "Pisah" is a bigger version of the above. The rice is served separately and really is large enough to share. Well we are finding that, as many months of noodle soup has shrunk our stomach considerably. Is that a good thing or a bad thing these days. When you have some fantastic juicy pork to eat, it's bad. 

Ibu Olak opens around 11 am and closes up shop around 4pm. I am not sure how many pigs they cook each day, but I have seen 3 being cut up and deposited onto plates. The pigs are stuffed with a special spice mix which is supposedly secret, but I am sure if you know the right people then it won't be that hard to find out. Bali is like that. Failing that there are many recipes for a Bali Spice mix that I am sure would do the job just as well. 

As I said the pigs are stuffed with the spice mix, sewn up and coked in a wood fired oven. This all takes place in the early hours, good reason for them to close early afternoon in my view. It's open seven days a week. The best time to get there is around noon, as the pork is still hot, the later you leave it, the cooler it will be and the less likelihood of you getting the choice cuts. 

There are also lots of little snacks to eat whilst you are waiting for the meal to arrive. Mainly deep fried crispy pig skin, which are sold in little bags and left temptingly on your table for you to try and resist. There is a wide range of sauces for you to spice up your rice or meat. Kecap Manis being my favourite sauce of all time. The chilli sauce they have is dangerous. Too much and it burns your mouth to the point of actually setting it on fire. Thankfully the beer is very cold there. Phew. You do get through quite a lot of it, as the dining room has no fan but is open to the elements. Sadly the wind does not wish to enter the place, I assume this is because it too would be tempted by the delightful pig on offer and never want to leave. 

Ibu Oka

Jalan Tegal

Sari Number 2


(Opposite the Royal Palace)


Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Via Via Cafe

It was a bizarre 24 hours that took us from Lombok to Yogyakarta via Jakarta. We had spent one night in Senggigi, Lomboks' premier beach resort. Well after the paradise of Gili Meno, anything was going to be second rate. You can not beat heaven that's for sure. 
We decided to get out of Lombok. So we took a taxi to the airport and asked how much fares were to Yogyakarta and Denpasar in Bali. Yogya was very expensive and Bali's next flight was in the late afternoon. So after much discussion and a flip of a coin that we have for making difficult decisions. We settled on Java. Then we noticed that the next flight leaving Lombok was to Jakarta. We asked how much, and it was not that much more expensive than flying to Bali and it left in less than 2 hours. Out came the credit card and off to Jakarta we went. 
We were counting on that we could get a train ticket out that night to Jogya. We however did not count on the fact that Ramadan was ending, and it's a time when every single Indonesian is on the move. 
We soon found out that the thought of leaving that night was but a dream. Apart from standing for 10 hours we were going nowhere that night. Asking in the information centre we found that we might have to stay at least 3 nights. Not a great thought. So we queued up to buy a ticket, when as by a  miracle 2 seats appeared for a train the next morning. Heaven sent. Pachamama was looking out for us. Thankfully noone brought those last two seats before we got to the front of the queue. Tickets in hand we found a hotel, ate, slept and arrived back in the train station 12 hours later for a fantastic trip through the Java countryside. 
I was expecting something similar to Ubud in Yogyakarta. Well it is, but only about 100 times bigger and busier. But still as loveable. Well almost. 
Yogyakarta has 2 sides for tourists. The part by the train station with its small lanes and cheap hotels and restaurants and a slightly plusher side 3 km's South. In the plusher side we found 2 very good places. One to satisfy my addiction to caffeine and the other my desire to eat some good tasting food. A happy soul I was.
The Ministry of Coffee (Great name) sells the best cup of coffee I have tasted in Indonesia. Actually the best since we left Vietnam. Java coffee at its best. Quite strong but with some great nutty taste to it. I was in coffee heaven. It was quite a trek to go there, but as the local cyclos were so cheap it was well worth it. 
The other place ViaVia Cafe, which was a bit further up on the same street satisfied my belly. Indonesian food is good, but like the food in Malaysia, everywhere sells the same and after a while a change is called for. 
It's a pretty cool place. There are about 10 of these cafe's dotted around the Globe in the most random places. They are owned by a Belgium group who believe that travellers should be able to get a good feed plus a nights sleep at these rest stops. Great idea in my view. A modern day inn or Ryokan if you are Japanese. This particular one also sold tours arranged by local guides and sold locally produced handicrafts. I imagine they all do the same, but do not know for sure. 
For lunch or for dinner, we did both, it fitted our need for some good and different food. I have to say though that it wasn't the best food I've had on this trip, but they did a pretty good job of it though. Looking at the photos the salad is a little chunky, like the onions with the fish, but all was cooked pretty well. Well the kebabs could of done with a bit of cumin to spruce it up a bit, the fish we had was a tad over cooked, hey ho. All in all t'was pretty good food they delivered, and that is all that matters, and they saved us from another meal of Nasi Goreng and the like. We needed saving for a time. 

Monday, 6 October 2008

Gili Meno - Island Food

We were not sure what to expect from the Gili Islands. They seem to be very touristy as everyone always goes to the Gilis. We chose to goto Gili Meno the quieter of the 3 for some well deserved R'n'R. As if we haven't had enough of that over the last 6 months. 
The boat trip which was in a smallish boat bouncing around in some rather choppy water did it's best to see me sitting on the deck with my head in my hands and looking rather pale and in a cold sweat. This is how I cope with sea sickness.
The good fun was when we arrived to our Gili and we changed into a smaller boat to take us ashore. The sun had set already and darkness was upon us when we were told we had to do a beach landing, as there was no jetty there. Now I know what it is like to be a smuggler. Being taken ashore under darkness very quickly at the most secluded part of the island. Very pirate like. 
We chose to goto Gili Meno in the end because Sunset Gecko was the only place who replied to our email (via Tokyo). Thankfully, the places on the other 2 islands still haven't replied. Our gain. 
The food on the island is very much travellers fare. Some places do it well, some do not. Sunset Gecko does it very well. Things looked good from the off, as we were given a coconut cream milk shake with a sprinkling of green tea powder on top as a welcome drink. They are owned by some kind folks from Japan, hence the reply from Tokyo. Their food has some Japanese twists and turns in it, especially in the sauces because of this. 
Actually everything they did was a cut above everything else on the island. Not only in quality of the cooking but also the quantities, which once or twice left us with the feeling that we would not need to eat the next day. 
Thankfully breakfast was not included like most other places we have encountered in Indonesia. This allowed us to get into a routine of not waking up till about 10am. Wandering out to the beach, ordering an ice coffee. Drinking this while we pondered what we could do that day. Which was always to wander to the Northern part of the island, as there was no wind there and sit in the sea and look at the marine life until we were hungry. Then we'd stroll down the Eastern side to one of the many places there and eat some lunch, nothing to heavy, until we felt like making the intrepid journey through the centre of the island to Diana's for a couple of sunset beers. Life sometimes is best when it's not complicated. 
We'd either eat at Gecko's in the night or stroll back to the Eastern shores as every night the restaurants there line up the days catch of fabulous looking fish. Some fresher than others. It's simply cooked over charcoal, and depending which restaurant you goto you could get just rice or with one we got sweetcorn, jacket potatoes, salad and sauces. Heaven. 
I never got to try the Barracuda, but I was told it was very good. I seemed to always settle for either a Red or White Snapper grilled over coals and washed down with a cold beer. Life is so simple sometimes. Why complicate it. 
Geckos did the best Nasi Goreng, Nasi Campur and the best creamy Coconut Curry ever. I never got to try their fish dishes but I was reliably informed they were pretty special. Every dish we had with them was presented very well. Presentation is half a chefs job done. I forgot to ask where the Chef came from, I am sure she was not Indonesian when I said goodbye to her. She looked faintly Japanese but I could be mistaken. 
Sometimes I'd like to have a small place on the beach cooking unfussy food for people using good fresh ingredients, instead of the small town we will be in one day in Colombia. Not sure how the local population of Paisas will take to my style of cooking. Only time will tell. If I can do as good as Sunset Gecko, I will be a happy man.