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A feast at Bali Asli

I wanted F’s first trip to Southeast Asia be a memorable one, so I put in considerable effort in planning our holiday. Not a rigid hour-by-hour schedule, mind, but enough to have a good idea what we could do each day and what were the alternatives should we fancy a change. It was during this research phase that I came to know about Bali Asli.

“Asli” refers to something genuine or authentic, and Bali Asli strives to promote the food tradition of East Bali by using own-grown or locally sourced fresh produce for its constantly changing menu. Not only the ingredients used are indigenous to the region, the cooking method is also preserved (wood-fired mud brick stoves!) so to showcase the best East Bali has to offer. More significantly, Bali Asli serves a menu that is based on the concept of megibung, where food and drink are presented as communal platters to be shared, a tradition that harks back a few centuries ago where the King of Karangasem would sit down with his soldiers for their daily meals.

This was the restaurant we “dropped a cool half million for lunch” ;)

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Located, well, in the middle of nowhere, part of the appeal of Bali Asli is actually its location. Tucked away in a green and lushful setting, overlooking Mount Agung (the clouds obscured the view when we were there) and paddy fields, and not a sound of bustling traffic – it was perfect. We could sit here for hours just looking at the landscape before us. Penny Williams, chef-owner of Bali Asli, has certainly a wonderful vision for the place and executes it well.

Chef Penny is Australian who trained in London, honed her skills in Sydney, and fell in love with Balinese cuisine. After holding the helm of Alila Manggis in East Bali for a few years, she was ready to realise her dream. Her origin doesn’t make her less savvy about local food and its culinary customs; her curiosity naturally pull her to constantly learn and transform her knowledge into delectable dishes. Our chats with Chef Penny was interesting and insightful, and her passion for Bali Asli unmissable. She works not only with local producers, her entire staff consists of locals too.

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

We settled in to a table on the terrace and was each served with a very refreshing glass of drink. It was salak, also known as snakefruit, that has been cooked in a syrup together with cinnamon and cloves, topped up with soda water and served with a sugar cane stick. Curious as I was, I asked about snakefruit and Penny promptly returned with the fruit, explained some of its characteristics, and invited us to taste the fruit as it was. It was sweet, with a semi-dry texture that felt as if we’ve eaten something raw, and somehow reminded me of jackfruit. (Following this introduction, F and I ended up eating snakefruit any time we saw it in Bali!)

We were also served a selection of keropok (including spinach crackers) with three different kind of sambals and a large vat of roasted peanuts. This was the moment I said to myself, I am truly back in Asia. Crackers with spicy condiments, that’s how we do it at home. Actually, just about everything with spicy condiments would be how we do it in my family. How I’ve missed chilli-based paste that doesn’t come with a taste of sharp vinegar but of subtler, sweeter marinate… or those that’s happily married with shallots, onions, garlic, lemon grass, and other herbs.

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Never one to not try everything if the possibility is offered, F and I ordered the full megibung. The meal started with an aromatic soup of kara beans, baby spinach and paddy herbs, which was flavoursome and one I wish I have the recipe to because it would be so good on a chilly autumn day in Paris. Getting the paddy herbs may be tricky though…

A beautiful platter of savoury dishes arrived soon after, consists of saffron rice to be served with: a vegetable salad with Balinese spices and coconut, a beansprout salad with fresh onion and Balinese spices, a coconut and cucumber salad with red beans and Balinese spices, steamed banana leaf parcel filled with spiced fish and coconut, grilled fish saté with lime and shallot, and grilled garlic and tomato sambal-marinated chicken. Each biteful was delicious, with a good balance on the spicier and non-spicy dishes, and varying texture from the tender steamed fish to the crunchy beans.

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Half-way through the meal, we also added a couple of glasses of home-made salak beer, which really was more like a cider given its natural sweetness. Both F and I agreed we could drink bucketful of this, but we also lamented the lack of our ability to try the other home-made beers on the menu. There’s simply so much one can eat and drink in one seating without ruining it by going overboard.

In that spirit, we also reluctantly called a halt to the main part of the meal, with a small amount leftover. We were stuffed. To my relief, the staff told us it was possible to have a doggie bag (and they packed it up really nicely for us). Otherwise, I fear we may have to continue eating for wasting food is not in my vocabulary, and wasting tasty food is a downright no-no in my book.

Bali Asli

Bali Asli

Luckily, dessert was fruit-based – steamed coconut, banana fritter, mandarin and water apple – so it provided a few fresh bites to end the meal. I did wonder though, if there could be more traditional cooked dessert to be had (black rice pudding come to mind) but I was also glad to not have to enter into a new dilemma on whether I could fit more food in.

Nursing a couple of pots of tea (ginger for me) we sat at the terrace for a little more, smiling wistfully. This was a treat for my birthday, and what a feast we ended up having, in terms of visuals and gustatory. Perhaps I have one small regret – not bringing my camera to the restroom. It was rather unusual to have the facilities open to the nature and boast a view as good as from the terrace. Now, isn’t that something?

We paid 500,000 Rp (~ €33) for the lunch (megibung, salak beer and tea for two) plus tips. Certainly, this is not within the budget of an average local but given the quality (and quantity), the commitment for sustainable produce and local hiring, and the idyllic setting, the experience worth a lot more to us than what we had paid for. I’d like to go back given a chance, in the future.

Bali Asli
Jalan Raya Gelumpang, Amlapura, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia
Tel: +62 8289 703 0098 / +62 8123 816 051 (Penny)
Daily, 10am – 6pm, for morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea
Reservation also accepted by enquiry form on the site of Bali Asli

 

All posts in this series:
Bali: First impression
Bali: Postcards: Tirta Gangga
Bali: A feast at Bali Asli
Bali: Postcards: Masceti and Candidasa
Bali: Pura Lempuyang
Bali: Postcards: Amed and Tulamben
Bali: Pura Besakih
Bali: Pura Tirta Empul
Bali: Postcards: Inlands of Bali



Category: Asia, Cuisine, Food & Drink, Indonesia, Travel

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2 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    oooooo….yummy lunch ;) think i will love the crackers hehehe

Scribble a note to med × Cancel reply


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