Monday, July 19, 2010

Bali High - Two Days, Two Lunches

Bali can be many things to many people. For some, Bali is about being at a luxury hotel on the beach and fine dining. For others, it can be a spiritual haven while staying a basic homestay. I definitely experienced this kind of contrast on different days during two different lunch experiences : "local" Bali and a little more "touristy" Bali.

Eating at local and authentic restaurants in Bali occurs primarily in local warungs, or open air restaurants where locals eat a variety of Balinese dishes ranging from crispy fried duck to roasted suckling pig. I didn't want to leave Bali without at least having the opportunity to eat totally in the same manner as the people who live there.

What I'm going to call our Warung Lunch #1 happened when we went to view Gunung (Mount) Batur and Lake Batur.

Gunung Batur is an actual active volcano. There have been multiple eruptions in the 20th century including one in 1917 that killed a thousand people; one that started in September 1963 and ended in March 1964; and the most recent in 1994 which apparently still happens from time to time (glad I missed it this time around). It's not always a full lava flow though, so don't worry if you're planning on making a trip there.

Right next Gunung Batur is Lake Batur.

Purty, ain't it?

On our way up to the Mount/Lake Batur area, I asked our guide for the day NOT to take us to any buffet or anything like that, which is readily available to tourists who make the trip to that part of the island. Instead, I asked for a local, cheap and presumably good warung. So did I get the authentic warung experience? Let's see...

It's got a great view of Lake Batur.

Well let's get a checklist going:

-open air - Check!
-a plastic covered menu - Check!
-no pictures, descriptions or translations of the food - Check!
-plastic tablecloth - Check!
-waitress that didn't really speak much English - Check!
-a few flies buzzing around - Check!

A Balinese warung experience...priceless.

A happy me

Husband J's choice for lunch was Cap Cay, a vegetable casserole with a chop suey-like consistency that often includes chicken, seafood, beef, tofu or pretty much any protein you want. It is influenced by Chinese cooking although it's a pretty common Indonesian dish. Husband J's version was spicy and as you'll soon see not his first Cap Cay of the trip.

For me, I had the Ikan goreng bumbu bali. So how did I pick that? Well I know the "goreng" means fried, and I took a quick look at our guidebook and realized that "ikan" means fish. I wasn't sure about the rest, so I figured that I'd just be surprised.

I knew I was getting fish, but I was pretty shocked to see a whole one. I guess when your warung overlooks a lake, fish is pretty easy to come by? I loved the fish. Underneath all of that sauce, was a nice crispy fried fish (what kind I couldn't tell). The sauce was of a thick spicy peanut variety, and a welcome level of fiery flavor from what we'd be getting from more tourist oriented places. Yay! Real Balinese folks' food. Woo hoo!

I didn't take me long to get through it.

Sadly, I don't even know the name of this place; but if you're in Kintamini on the road overlooking Mount Batur and Lake Batur, definitely stop in. For a basic meal for two including drinks for 88,000 rupiah (about $9 USD), it was pretty darn good.

From super cheap where the locals hang to a more well-known tourist friendly restaurant in the heart of Ubud, Husband J and I stopped in for lunch at Cafe Wayan. Cafe Wayan is very much an institution in Ubud having pioneered the art of making authentic yet tourist friendly Indonesian dishes. This place even had a write up in Food & Wine magazine (I guess I should now divulge the fact that I have been a Food & Wine subscriber for over 7 years just in case I mention it too much.) I don't blame tourists for wanting to come here. Wouldn't you want to eat somewhere that looked like this?

Yes, folks, this is a restaurant.

Each individual hut/"bale" has one to three tables.

Husband J never really got used to sitting on the floor.

Oh yeah, we actually ate too. :)

Husband J's Cap Cay, similar taste as the warung's version just much less spice. To me, it was more like a stew/soup, and I made sure that I sneaked a few bites for myself.

I had Cafe Wayan's version of Nasi Goreng (fried rice). Just like mie goreng, you can find nasi goreng all over Indonesia. Again, as with most dishes, everyone has their own way of preparing and serving a dish. Cafe Wayan's version includes shrimp crackers, chicken satay and some very interesting fritters (I think they were vegetable), and what seemed to be a potato salad. The fried rice was very light and nothing was too spicy. I was a happy tourist, but I definitely added some sambal (chili sauce) to the rice for extra kick.

Chicken satay

What sets Cafe Wayan apart from many other restaurants in central Ubud is their wonderful selection of pastries. They are known for their Death by Chocolate cake. I'm not a big chocolate person, but this worked for me totally. No cloyingly super sweet chocolate here. Just moist, rich cake with a pretty decent frosting made even better some chocolate sauce on the side. I highly recommend it.

So there you have, two very different ways to have a great lunch Balinese style!


BigAppleNosh said...

Nasi goreng!!! Yumm. I love the contrast between these two restaurants - they both look delish!

M and C said...

WOW!! The trip looks amazing. We've been trying to decide where to go next year and you may have added Bali to the list. Everything looks delicious!


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