Thursday, February 27, 2014

Indonesia: Street Food in Ubud

After lunch at Warung Ibu Oka, Made took us to Goa Gajah and then to Tegenungan Waterfall.  I made the mistake of climbing down the stairs with CL and T to reach the foot of the waterfall.  Bad idea.  Especially after having hiked up and down a volcano earlier that same day.  My sister was smart.  She elected to stay at the scenic outlook and enjoy a bottle of cold water.

By the time we climbed back up the damn stairs from the waterfall, we were done.  We just wanted to eat...and then eat some more.

Apparently a lot of places close early in Ubud.  As in 5:00pm early.  CL really wanted es teler (the rest of us had no clue what it was), so Made took us to a small stand that he knew would still be open:

There was one small table tucked on the side and it provided the perfect behind the scenes view into the dessert stand:

We noticed that the posted menu displayed three types of desserts.  There was the es buah, the es teler, and the es campur.  So we ordered them all.  Heh.

Here's the es buah:

Es means ice in Indonesian.  Buah means fruit.  And es buah is exactly what the name sounds like.  It's made of different kinds of fruit topped with ice and some kind of milk (maybe evaporated and some condensed as well).  The fruits in this particular es buah included dragonfruit, mango, avocado, and more.

The es teler was a bit less colorful:

It consisted of avocado, jackfruit, and coconut milk.

The es campur was the party animal of the three:

Watermelon, papaya, grass jelly, other jellies, and lots of other stuff.  All topped with ice and coconut milk.

To be honest, I think I prefer my fruit and ice separate.  Once the ice melts, each of the desserts just taste like watery fruit with a hint of coconut.  Watery avocado was a new experience for me, one that I'm not sure I would ever recreate for myself.  I like my avocados either dry or creamy, but not...wet.

I think Made felt a little bad about us treating him to food at every stop because not only did he try to pay for our ices, he also dropped by the food stand next door and picked up some fried fritters:

There were fried bananas and fried sweet potatoes.  So good when hot.  Less satisfying once cooled.

We rested for a bit after we got back to our homestay, then it was back onto the streets for dinner.  The night before, we'd passed by all these interesting warungs and food stands on our walk home and we wanted to check them out.  We decided that we would buy everything to-go and eat it all after we got back to our homestay.

Our first stop was Warung Mandhi's:

Made had pointed it out to us earlier and told us that it makes great mie goreng or fried noodles, so that's what we ordered.  All four of us plastered ourselves to the chain link fence around the kitchen area to watch the master at work:

The noodles came wrapped in parchment paper.  When we opened the package after we got back to our homestay, the noodles had been shaped into the cutest little noodle block:

The texture of the noodles was utter perfection.  So Q and seasoned well and wow, yea, it was good.  (For those of you who don't know, "Q" is the Taiwanese slang word for when you bite into something and it has the perfect amount of chewiness to it.)

After Warung Mandhi's, we stopped by a little collection of food carts.  We started with the satay one:

We got the lamb skewers and quite a few of them at that:

Super cheap.  How could we resist?  They smelled so good that we ate a few while we were waiting for the rest of our food.

Right next to the satay cart was this martabak one:

A nice young man prepared our martabak for us:

The final result was a crispy pancake stuffed with egg and green onion:

We enjoyed the food so much that we were back again the next night.  This time we decided to give the other stalls a whirl.

This one was next to the martabak cart:

It had no menu and the owners didn't really speak English.  We ended up breaking dishes down to the main ingredients and I think certain things might have been lost in translation.

T was really excited when she found out they had eggplants.  She tried to ask them how they prepared the eggplants, but couldn't figure out what they were trying to say.  She asked if they were fried and got confused looks in return.  But they gave us what she asked for:

Straight up fried eggplants.  So oily they even made me cringe.  I think they're typically included in another dish.  Fail.

Everything else was fine though.  The fried rice or nasi goreng was much easier to understand:

I love nasi goreng.  I don't think we got a single dud nasi goreng our entire time in Bali.  For some reason, it just tastes better wrapped in parchment.

The fried chicken or ayam goreng also came out as we expected it to:

At the far end was a stand that offered mie ayam or chicken noodle soup:

We had some mie ayam at a warung earlier that day (will post about it later) and we loved it so much that we wanted more.  It came in a bag, which we dumped into a bowl after we returned home:

Indonesians just know how to make noodles right.  The noodles are never too soft, but always have the perfect Q-iness to them.

CL actually wasn't feeling well, so instead of taking a risk on all the street food, she elected to buy some Indomie from a convenience store:

I'd never heard of Indomie before I went to Bali, but apparently it's available in the States.  There are many different flavors.  The one that opened my eyes to all the wonders of Indomie was its mie goreng.  You prepare the noodles, drain the water, and then mix in the seasoning.  Simple.  And freakin' delicious.

So delicious that I didn't even bother to take a picture of it after it was cooked.  So delicious that I immediately bought a bunch after I returned home to California.

My life has been changed.  I can never go back to my days pre-Indomie.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Indonesia: Warung Ibu Oka

For lunch, Made asked us if we'd had suckling pig yet.  Uh, yes we did, but that's irrelevant.  We're always up for more suckling pig.  We asked Made to take us to the best suckling pig in Ubud and he in turn took us to Warung Ibu Oka:

Warung Ibu Oka was made famous by Anthony Bourdain and No Reservations.  It got so popular that it now has three locations.  Made took us to the two story one.

The first floor is taken up by regular tables and chairs while the second floor consists of low tables and floor mats:

Definitely not super crowded, but still quite a lot of tourists.

I was really excited about eating at Ibu Oka because that episode of No Reservations has always been my absolute favorite.  Whenever I feel down, I think about that giant pig on a spit being bathed in coconut juice and my lips can't help but curl into a smile.  I also inevitably start to salivate.

Every single one of us, including Made, got the special (55,000 IDR or almost $5):

For once, we all agreed not to share.  It wasn't even up for debate.  Everyone got their own.  The special came with rice, veggies, pork meat, fried fat, a sausage (tasted like blood sausage), and of course, pork skin.

Having learned my lesson the first time we had suckling pig or babi guling, I asked to have mine not spicy.  Apparently "not spicy" to Indonesians means "mild tongue burning."  T laughed it off as me being my usual drama queen self.  She'd ordered spicy but she couldn't taste the heat at all.  It was only after I forced her to take a bite off of my plate that she conceded that mine was in fact, quite spicy.  Looks like they got our orders mixed up.  So much paaaaaain.

Thank goodness I ordered something to drink.  While everyone else went for fresh coconut juice, my sister and I got an avocado juice and a melon juice:

Sadly, I think Warung Ibu Oka was overly hyped up for me.  I expected to be completely blown away, but I wasn't.  Don't get me wrong, the pork was excellent.  So juicy and tender.  The pork skin was oh-so-crisp and the gorengan, which Made explained to us was actually just fried fat (see red crispy matter in lower left corner of photo above) was hands down genius.  I just...expected more.  I wanted to drool over a huge sheet of pork skin and all I got was a dinky little circle.  And it didn't taste better or worse than what we had at Depot Melati, where it was certainly cheaper.

I'm not saying you shouldn't go.  In fact, you really should.  If you want to check out Warung Ibu Oka, make sure you go earlier in the day.  We actually tried to go again for dinner the next day since we were in the area, but as we started walking up the street, a man walked toward us and informed us that Ibu Oka had sold out of pork and was closed for the night.  Don't let that happen to you!

Warung Ibu Oka
Jl Suweta/Tegal Sari 2
Ubud, Bali 80571, Indonesia

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Indonesia: Bali Pulina

After we left the volcano, we had some time to kill before lunch.  It felt weird accomplishing so much all before 10 in the morning.

Our driver, Made, was the best.  He was younger than us, so we treated him like a kid brother.  He'd probably never had to drive around a group quite like us.  When my friends and I are together, we regress until our mental maturity hovers closer to around that of a six year old.  Our priorities are also kind of skewed.  We explained to Made that our number one priority was food.  We really didn't care where we went in-between food stops.  We were completely fine with letting him decide where to go next as long as we got to eat tasty stuff.

Made was taken aback at first, but he quickly grasped how we rolled and soon he was joking right along with us.

The first place Made took us to was Pura Tirta Empul, a beautiful water temple.  Balinese people take their ceremonies very seriously.  According to Made, the Balinese perform ceremonies just about every chance they get.  When they buy a new car, when they open their business in the morning, etc.  Pura Tirta Empul was packed the day we visited because there was to be a full moon that night.

After the water temple, our next stop was Bali Pulina:

Bali Pulina is a luwak coffee plantation.  If you haven't heard of luwak coffee before, boy, are you going to enjoy this.

The place is obviously designed for tourists.  Upon entering, a guide greets you and takes you through a quick tour of the luwak coffee process.  First comes the arabica coffee berries:

Then comes the luwak.  What's a luwak, you ask?  It's this little guy:

In English, it's called the Asian palm civet.  This cat-like animal eats the coffee berries and then...poops out the beans.  The pooped out beans are collected, dried, shelled, and roasted:

Then it's ground and made into coffee or kopi as the Indoneasians call it.  Kopi luwak is known as the most expensive coffee in the world.  That's right.  The most expensive coffee in the world is cat poop coffee.  Or as our guide calls it, cat-poop-cino.

Hardy har har.

After our little tour, we were taken to the tasting area:

The only tasting that costs money is the kopi luwak.  One tiny cup costs 50,000 IDR or slightly over $4:

The rest of the tasting is free.  And refillable.  You get an array of teas and coffees to try:

From left to right: lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, pure cocoa, vanilla coffee, and Bali coffee.

Everything besides the kopi luwak, pure cocoa, and Bali coffee were super, super sweet.  Serious coffee drinkers like CL and my sister weren't too impressed.  Whereas I, a certified coffee hater who only likes it in ice cream form, was in heaven.  It was like drinking melted coffee candy from a cup.

After trying the Bali coffee, we realized that the coffee we'd had every morning at Jepun Didulu was actually prepared correctly.  All along we'd assumed that we'd been given instant coffee that hadn't been dissolved all the way.  We didn't say anything because we didn't want to offend Alec and his wife.  But when we found the same thick sludge at the bottom of the Bali coffee at Bali Pulina, we realized our error.  Apparently Bali coffee is supposed to be like that.  You carefully drink the coffee and leave the sludge alone.

The whole point of the excursion was the kopi luwak.  I sipped it just so I would be able to say that I've tried it before.  I kind of wish I hadn't.  It was so...strong.  And it tasted like no other coffee I've ever had.  I can't explain the taste.  Pungent?  Nasty?  Even CL and my sister wrinkled their noses at the taste.  Adding sugar to it only made it worse.

The one thing all of us enjoyed was the palate cleanser:

The flavor of the spices on these sweet potato chips was just divine.  We asked our guide if we could buy the chips and he looked at us like we were crazy.  The world's most expensive coffee in front of us and we only wanted to talk about the chips.  When he told us that they weren't for sale, our faces must have been extremely woeful because he later came back with two bags of the stuff:

We were so touched that we insisted on taking a picture with him.  And the chips.

And of course we had to buy something from the gift shop to show our immense gratitude.  A tiny bottle of luwak coffee beans set us back $25.  Ah, well.  It's all part of being a tourist, right?

Thank you, Bali Pulina guide!  I don't know your name, but you were awesome!  Just another example of the kindness and generosity of Balinese people.

Bali Pulina
Banjar Pujung Kelod
Tegallalang, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Indonesia: Mt. Batur

I should never have told T about the volcano.

Once T heard that we could hike up Mt. Batur to see the sunrise, it rose to the top of her must-do list (right after swimming with a sea turtle).  Which is how I found myself blearily trying to keep up a conversation with our homestay owner's son, Made, as he drove us toward the mountain at 3:30am.  CL, T, and my sister had given up the fight within the first 15 minutes of our hour-long car ride and were sleeping away, leaving me to make awkward small talk.  Those traitors.

We were told by our homestay owner, Ketut, that a tour guide up the volcano cost about 400,000 IDR (around $33) regardless of group size.  But when we arrived at Mt. Batur, we found out that the cost was actually per person and that there were different prices according to what route you wanted to take.  This discovery caused a bit of panic as we didn't think we had to prepare that much cash.  Luckily we had just enough on hand to cover the shortest route.  Taking the short route turned out to be the best choice for us anyway since we starting quite late (most people start their treks at 4:00 and we were getting close to 5:00).

The guide assigned to us was named Ketut, just like our homestay owner.  When we asked our guide if his name was really popular among the Balinese, he explained to us that in Bali, children are given names based on the order in which they are born.  The fourth born child is named Ketut.  Whereas the second born child is often named Made (which made sense because Made, our driver for the day, was the second of two sons).

Anyway, enough on that.  Let's get back to the volcano.  And how we were hiking up in total darkness:

There was absolutely nobody else around.  We were the last group to head up the mountain.  It was windy and dark and miserable and we were rushing to catch the sunrise.  Ketut told us that the hike usually takes two hours, but because of our late start, he wanted to try to make it in one.

T and CL were wearing flip flops, but they bounded ahead with Ketut like a bunch of mountain goats while my sister and I struggled behind.  We moaned and groaned the entire way.  Multiple times, my sister and I thought about stopping and just waiting there for the rest of them to finish the hike and return.  But Ketut kept coming back to drag us along.  He actually took us by the hand and pulled us up.  He joked with us that he was going to call a taxi for us and then squatted to offer us a piggyback ride.  I told him thanks, but I would rather have a helicopter.

We asked Ketut if he ever had people complain as much as we did and he laughed.  He said that in his ten years of working as a guide, he had never had a single person complain.  Well, then.  We told him he would never forget us and he replied, definitely not.  Heh.

In the end, we didn't beat the sunrise.  But it was so foggy that it basically didn't matter.  At the top, we saw a bunch of people hanging around a cafe of sorts.  Ketut led us past the cafe to this little shack further up the mountain:

He left us on a bench outside and went in to prepare breakfast for us.

Breakfast was part of our tour package.  We could have gone without it and saved a bit of money, but we figured we would be starving by the time we got up to the top and elected to keep it in.

When it got too cold outside, we followed Ketut into the shack.

Breakfast was simple and perfectly so.  There were sandwiches with roasted banana inside:

As well as the most delicious peanuts ever and hard boiled eggs:

The peanuts were brilliant.  They were sweet and crunchy and we went all fancy by putting them into our banana sandwiches.

Drinks cost extra.  We ordered one coffee and one hot chocolate:

At 50,000 IDR or about $4 each, they were most certainly tourist prices, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.

We took our sweet time finishing us breakfast.  Afterwards, Ketut took us to look at the giant crater nearby.  Since we weren't in a hurry to start back down the mountain, we took our time taking photos and exploring.  As the sun rose higher in the sky, the fog started retreating.  And as the fog started retreating...the monkeys started appearing.

I remember talking to someone, seeing something move over their shoulder, and then yelling like an idiot, "MONKEY!  MONKEY!"

Make that monkeys, plural.  There was a whole troop of them:

When Ketut spotted the monkeys, he sprinted for the breakfast shack and ran back with a bag of food scraps.  We got to feed the monkeys bread crusts and fruit by hand.  The monkeys were in no way shy.  I even got attacked by one.  Some sneaky monkey grabbed me by my forearm, swung himself up, and then launched himself off my chest.  It was over before I even knew what hit me.  I looked down to find two dirty paw prints on my jacket.  What the hell?  I didn't even have any food in my hand at the time!

Once we went through all the scraps, we meandered back to the front of the volcano.  By that time, the fog was completely gone and we were treated to this spectacular view:

Thank goodness we started late.  All the people who started on time had already started down the other side of the mountain before the fog lifted.  We would have missed this if we'd started any earlier.

We ooh'd and ah'd and took silly photos (Ketut was kind enough to take quite a few for us) for a while longer before finally starting back down.  Because we chose the short route, we went down the way we came.  Going down was almost scarier than going up.  With all the loose rocks, we slipped and slid our way down.

Ketut, on the other hand, practically ran all the way down.  He told us that to qualify to be a tour guide, you have to be able to make it up the volcano in 45 minutes and down in 30.  Holy moly.  That's insane!

Climbing a volcano is definitely a once in a lifetime thing.  As in I'm only going to do it once.  The view was great, don't get me wrong, and Ketut was the best guide ever, but I'm never going to willingly put myself through that kind of torture again.  And of course, now that I've said that, I can guarantee that I'll find myself on another volcano someday.  It'll probably be T's fault then too.

Strenuous exercise is not for me, but for all you hiking junkies out there, don't miss Mt. Batur when you visit Bali.  And make sure you ask for Ketut by name.  Except there are so many guides named Ketut that our Ketut advised us to bring a photo of him.  If you need a photo, let me know and I'll send you one!  I can't emphasize enough how awesome Ketut was.

And just in case you're curious, Mt. Batur is owned by the Indonesian government and even though they charge over 400,000 IDR per person for the tour, the guides themselves only receive 100,000 IDR total per group.  So tip your guide well!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Indonesia: Warung Kayana

Instead of staying in central Ubud, where all the tourists are trying to eat, pray, and love, we found a homestay via AirBnb in a village by Ubud called Payogan.  We got to spend time in an actual Balinese family complex and get to know our host, Ketut's lovely family.

Ketut is a licensed tour guide and he gave us some handy advice, such as how much a taxi should cost from central Ubud (no more than 40,000 IDR or slightly over $3) and where to eat in the area.  Naughty Nuri's is quite famous in Ubud for its barbecue ribs, but according to Ketut, we could find the same ribs at Warung Kayana for a much cheaper price and with none of the crowd.  (Apparently a former cook from Naughty Nuri's left and started his own warung.)

He totally had us at "cheaper price."  What?  We're Asian like that.

Anyway, after exploring central Ubud for a bit and trying our hand at bargaining, we got a taxi to drive us to Warung Kayana (for 40,000 IDR of course):

Definitely no wait for a table:

And definitely not a tourist trap.  We were the only non-locals there and though there was a semi-English menu, our young server spoke basically none.  She sat at the table with us and we slowly pointed out what we wanted to order.

The four of us each got a drink.  It wasn't until they arrived that we realized we ordered half the rainbow:

From left to right: watermelon juice, papaya juice, herbal drink, and "mint lemon fresh".  The first two are pretty self-explanatory and were 5000 IDR each (around 50 cents).  The herbal drink tasted like salted plums while the "mint lemon fresh" was exactly that, an icee made of fresh mint and lemon.  Both cost 7000 IDR each (closer to 60 cents).

I love Asia.  Where else can you get fresh drinks that cheap?

Anyway, of course we had to get the ribs (25000 IDR or about $2):

And the ayam bakar or grilled chicken (14000 IDR or slightly over $1):

And the sausage bakar (16000 IDR, also slightly over $1):

Besides these obviously Western dishes, Warung Kayana also offered a couple Indonesia options.  While we usually always go with the local cuisine, we had to make an exception here for obvious reasons.

Everything was freakin' delicious.  The ribs were fall off the bone tender, as was the chicken.  The sausage was meaty and yummy.  And best of all, the barbecue sauce.  The sauce on the meats themselves was slightly sweet while the side dish of sauce had a bit of a kick to it.

I've never been to Naughty Nuri's, so I can't say whether or not Warung Kayana is better.  But I can say for certain that it's damn good.  Damn good.

And it's also damn cheap.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Thanks, Ketut, but the great tip!

Warung Kayana
Jl. Kedewatan Raya
Ubud, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia 80571

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Indonesia: Depot Melati

It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Jepun Didulu and loaded ourselves onto the car.  Our driver had been given strict instructions by Alec's brother-in-law to take us wherever we wanted along the way to our next destination, Ubud.  There was really only one thing we wanted: suckling pig.

So for lunch, our driver pulled up to Depot Melati:

Located across the street from the Gianyar market, Depot Melati shares the first floor of the building with other vendors selling all sorts of things.  But never mind them.  What's important is this:

Suckling pig.  Oh, baby.

We didn't really know how to order, so we just asked for everything.  We were expecting to share two plates between the four of us, but we somehow ended up with one per person:

According to Alec, babi guling or suckling pig is THE thing to eat in Bali.  I won't disagree with that.  In fact, the whole reason why I wanted to visit Bali was to try babi guling, thanks to an episode of No Reservations that I will never be able to forget.  We eventually made it to the restaurant that Bourdain graced with his presence, but that's for another post.

Back to Depot Melati.  The suckling pig was ridiculous.  The skin, so crisp.  The meat, so succulent.  My only complaint is that there could have been much more pork.  I was nowhere near satisfied.  I needed more.

Oh, and another thing.  A little warning about how spicy it was would have been nice.  My mouth seriously felt like it was on fire.  All those little green bits that I thought were green beans were actually chopped green chilies.  Ack.  I was in so much pain that I guzzled down all our water bottles and physically couldn't finish the entire plate.  Holy moly.

T, on the other hand, was in spicy heaven.  She even asked for more chilies:

She's just not human.

Depot Melati
Jalan Ngurah Rai No.37
Gianyar, Kecamatan Nusapenida, Bali, Indonesia 80581
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