Thursday, January 30, 2014

Indonesia: Warung Kemba

I'm baaaaaaaaack!  And strangely not jet lagged.  (Go, me!)  It's been a whirlwind two and a half weeks and I have so much to share about my trip.

My sister and I landed in Bali a day earlier than CL and T.  It took a two hour drive from the airport, but we finally arrived at our bungalow in Karangasem in the late afternoon.  We learned quickly that Karangasem is a small village with not many tourists.  As a matter of fact, we didn't see any other tourists at all.  

We also learned that just about everyone in the village is related to everyone else.  Including the manager of our bungalow.  When we asked him what was a good place to get dinner, he pointed us in the direction of his brother's warung just down the street:
















A warung is slightly different from a restaurant.  It's usually small, much more casual, and often family owned.

My sister and I actually originally walked past Warung Kemba to see if there were any other food options down the main road.  When we found nothing but more road, we turned back only to see our bungalow manager (whose name sounds like "Alec" so that's what I'm going to call him here) at Warung Kemba on his motorbike, checking to see if we'd found the place alright.

We sheepishly entered the warung and were warmly greeted by Alec's brother.

We asked Alec's brother what was good and he told us there were basically two options: chicken and fish.  He added that the fish was just freshly caught that morning.  My sister and I looked at each other, shrugged, and ordered one of each.

Apparently both the chicken and the fish come either grilled or fried.  Feeling like going a bit more healthy (heh), we got the grilled chicken:
















And the grilled fish:
















What we didn't expect was for both to come as a set meal:
















There was a red bowl of water meant for washing hands (luckily Alec's brother showed us what to do with it because I thought it was for drinking), rice, some kind of baked or fried peas, and a dish of homemade sambal.

Ah, sambal.  Let me tell you about the beauty of sambal.  Sambal is a chili sauce typically made with tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and other magical stuff.  We told Alec's brother that we couldn't really handle spiciness, so he brought us a sambal with less chili.  SO MAGICAL.  We cleaned off all the sambal.  Forget the fish and chicken, just sambal and rice is enough.

Though the fish and chicken were great too.  There was just so much greatness in that seemingly simple spread.  The chicken was slightly sweet and oh, so juicy.  But while the chicken was finger licking good, the fish was two times more delicious.  So tender and you can taste the freshness.

Our entire meal cost 50,000 rupiah or about $4.  Wut.

The next night, when CL and T finally joined us, we brought them to Warung Kemba as there really weren't any other options in the area.  Plus we wanted them to try the awesome food.

We learned from CL, whose parents are from Indonesia, that "ayam" means chicken and "ikan" means fish.  If you add "bakar" to it, it's grilled.  If you add "goreng," it's fried.

My sister and I basically only wanted the ikan bakar.  CL and T decided to try the ayam bakar and the ikan goreng.  Here's the ikan goreng:
















Nice and crispy.  But not as delicious as the ikan bakar.

This time, instead of the fried peas (or whatever they were), we were brought fish soup:
















Very light, but also quite spicy.  At least to a weakling like me.

Besides the amazingness of the food, eating at Warung Kemba was an enjoyable experience because of the friendliness of Alec's brother and the other family members running the warung.  He was super helpful and gave us lots of tips regarding the area.

When T asked about a fruit market, he offered to take us at three in the morning since he was also heading there.  When we looked indecisive about the early hour, he grabbed a pineapple off his shelf and handed it to us.  T tried to refuse it, but he kept insisting.  When the back and forth got kind of awkward, I grabbed the damn thing and thanked him.

On our way back to our bungalows, we stopped by a convenience store and bought some beer (and lemon water for me).  We then dropped by Alec's hut to ask him for a knife for the pineapple.  He did us one better by taking the fruit, cutting it, and bringing it to us:























So much love.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

South Bay: Taste Buds

One of our goals in Bali is to get scuba certified.  The last thing we wanted was to waste precious time in Bali, so we decided to take care of the classroom theory and pool work portions before we left.  When our scuba instructor warned us that we had to pass a swim test, which consisted of swimming 200 yards and treading water for ten minutes, we were concerned.

Okay, we might have panicked.

What?  Ten minutes is a long time!  It also didn't help when my father reminded us that a football field is 100 yards.

My sister and I signed up for a free three-day trial at 24 Hour Fitness and on New Year's Day, we met CL at one in Sunnyvale.  (T didn't come because she felt more confident in her swimming skills.)  We awkwardly got into the pool and...practiced.

After a few laps and extended experimentation with different methods of treading water, we left the gym somewhat disheartened.

In a serious need for a pick-me-up, CL brought us to Taste Buds for lunch:
















Nothing like an Indian buffet to cheer you up.

The place was pretty empty, but it was New Year's Day and most people were probably still recovering from the night prior:
















Oh well.  More food for us!:
















There was only one buffet counter and while it doesn't look like a lot, there was a pretty good selection.  Two types of rice, tandoori chicken, goat biryani, pakora, and at least six types of curry:
















My favorite was the okra.  I couldn't get enough of that stuff.

Fresh naan was brought to our table:
















CL is on some kind of no carb diet and my sister isn't a huge fan of naan, so I basically demolished the entire basket by myself.

My sister wasn't that impressed with Taste Buds (she claims she's been to cheaper Indian buffets with bigger and better selections in Baltimore), but I enjoyed it.  For about $9 per person, I enjoyed it immensely.

After stuffing ourselves and effectively canceling out any exercise we may have accomplished at the gym, we went back to CL's place to start studying the scuba diving manual.  In the process of studying, we discovered that the treading portion of the swim test was more like a tread/float test.

Heh.  Once we realized we could float our way through the treading test, we relaxed considerably.

I am proud to report that all four of us passed the swim test.  We also passed the written final and the pool work portion.  We're halfway to becoming scuba certified!

My sister and I are leaving for Bali tomorrow night.  CL and T will be following us a day later.  SO EXCITED!  The next time I post, it'll be about my first meal on my grand Southeast Asia adventure.  Look forward to it!


Taste Buds
673 Grape Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 736-2837
http://www.tastebudsindianfood.com/

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Oakland: Napoleon Super Bakery

After saying bye to my Chitown gals, my sister and I swung by Napoleon Super Bakery for some buns before heading back to my office:























I'm a big fan of Napoleon Super Bakery.  I discovered it when my coworker and I were trying to find a birthday cake for our supervisor a while back.

It's always busy when I visit:
















And of course it is.  Just look at all the beautiful buns!:
















Buns lotsa buns lotsa buns lotsa buns!

When you enter the bakery, you'll see a small podium to the left of the door.  On it, you'll find trays, parchment paper, and tongs.  Grab a tray, line it with the paper, arm yourself with a pair of tongs, then browse away!  Just be careful...everything looks so good that you may accidentally find yourself with more bread than you originally planned on getting.

My sister and I filled a box to bring back for our parents:
















We got two long buns.  One was filled with coconut (the visible one), while the other was filled with durian (not visible because it's directly under the visible one).  We noticed a lot of people getting the corn and ham bun, so we snagged one too.  Then we got a bunch of mini-pineapple buns with different fillings, two sweet and one savory.  The sweets ones were custard and red bean paste.  The savory was BBQ pork.

My favorite is the BBQ pork mini-pineapple bun.  It's topped by the most perfect "pineapple" crust:
















Here's a view of the BBQ pork filling:
















I love the bread to filling ratio.  You're not overwhelmed by bread and there's quite a bit of pork inside.  I love how soft the bread is.  And I especially love the sweet and savory combo from the pineapple crust and the pork.  It's sublime.

So much bread, so little stomach space!  Multiple trips to Napoleon Super Bakery is a must.

Bring cash.  You don't need a lot though.  That box we got?  Only $5.

Woot woooooot!!


Napoleon Super Bakery
810 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 268-8883

Friday, January 3, 2014

Oakland: Cock-a-Doodle Cafe

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As a gift to us, our Executive Director gave us the week of December 23rd off.  Most of my coworkers took December 30th off, since the office was also closed on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. I, however, dutifully went to work on the 30th since all my vacay days are going toward my Southeast Asia trip.

I knew I was going to be the only person in the office, so I dragged my sister (who'd returned home for winter break before Christmas) along to keep me company.

Another great thing about being alone in the office?  Long lunch breaks.

Two Chicago friends were visiting the Bay, so we had a mini-Chicago reunion at Cock-a-Doodle Cafe:























The cafe was tiny and we were a party of six, so we had to wait a bit outside before finally getting a table:
















My sister and I split one savory and one sweet.  For our savory, we ordered the Oaxacan omelette ($11):
















The omelette was stuffed with slow roasted pork, tomatillo sauce, mozzarella, and green onions and topped with sliced avocado.  Of course we chose house griddle potatoes over the house salad.  The omelette was decent, though not exactly spectacular.  All I could focus on was how raw the avocado was.  The potatoes were quite nice, but again, the raw avocado kept me from enjoying them fully.

We originally wanted to order the fried chicken and graham cracker-crusted french toast, but our server broke our hearts when he told us that they were out of fried chicken.

Wut.

Instead, we had to settle on having the french toast by itself ($9):
















The bread was soft and the sesame seeds on the crust added a nice flavor.  My sister noticed that the french toast orders coming out of the kitchen after ours arrived boasted of significantly larger portions.  Sigh.  Guess we got the butt end of the loaf.  That sucks.

Anyway, while our server wasn't exactly the most friendly guy ever, the food at Cock-a-Doodle was good and the prices were reasonable.  A little bitter about the raw avocado, the fried chicken running out, and being skimped on the french toast though.

At least the company was fabulous.  It was great catching up with UK and MM.  And of course it's always great to see VT.

I still can't believe it's already 2014.  I'm not sure if I'm ready for this.  One week from now, I'll be in BALI.  I need more time to let that sink in.


Cock-a-Doodle Cafe
719 Washington St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 465-5400
http://www.cockadoodlecafe.com/
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