Feed me Bali

I watched Eat Pray Love when my boyfriend was away on business one time – shitty Julia Roberts movies are among my many guilty pleasures (Teen Mom 2) reserved for Jo only days. I got caught on this one though – I did NOT know about the Netflix content tracker – I tried to pass this watch off as “research on food” for our forthcoming trip to Bali in September, but he totally didn’t buy it. Regardless, the film made me super excited for Indonesia, even if Elizabeth Gilbert opted to stop the “eat” part in Italy – her loss.

I’ve had Indonesian food once before – on a trip to Amsterdam with my friend Harriet at around this time last year. I liked it so much that not only did I come away eager to try making some of it myself, but couldn’t wait for the time when I’d reach this point in the alphabet so I could give it another go. Since another trip to Amsterdam wasn’t exactly on the table, Harriet and I decided to keep it closer to home and head to Warung Bumbu on Lavender Hill.

Indonesian food is so diverse that I couldn’t even begin to try to provide any kind of synopsis. Also I’d only had it once before last Friday night – I am no connoisseur. There are, however, certain dishes which are commonly associated with Indonesian cuisine, such as sate, nasi goreng, and gado gado.

A warung is a type of traditional foodstall, usually family-owned and which sometimes doubles as both a cafe and a shop selling sundries. Bumbu is a municipality in the Funa district of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also a herb mixture used in Balinese cuisine. Confusing, I know.

So what was I to expect then, of Warung Bumbu in Clapham? Situated in a slightly out of the way location, the restaurant is housed where the former Battersea incarnation of my favourite Japanese canteen, Fujiyama, used to live. If you’re not local, you probably wouldn’t happen upon it – in fact I once marched Duncan and my out of town parents all the way from Clapham Common down to Fujiyama’s sister Miyajama, only to discover it was no longer there.

Luckily for us, when we showed up at 7 pm, Warung Bumbu was still there. Good sign. I’d actually called for a table in advance, if only  to make sure of the fact. Probably not necessary – we brought the total number of diners on a Friday night up to four when we arrived. Bad sign.

Although the restaurant filled up quickly, it wasn’t all smooth sailing ahead. The one thing I knew I wanted was a nice cold bottle of Bintang. Of course, they were all out.

“We order two boxes every month,” our waiter told us. “You would be amazed at how fast they go – this month they were all gone in three days!”

Surely that’s a sign that you need to order more boxes?

I was pretty keen to tell our waiter that I was going to be going to Indonesia later this year. Call me excited, but I thought that maybe if he knew about it, it would make it come faster.

“Oh, you will love Bali,” he exclaimed. “Just make sure you leave several days at the beginning for your sickness.” He had just been home to Jakarta, and had been ill for five days. “Everyone gets sick when they go to Indonesia for the first time,” he explained. “Sometimes it is the pollution, and the food – sometimes they have problems with hygiene.”

Great. I opened my menu.

To start, we selected the obligatory sate and an order of perkedel – otherwise known as potato cakes, which were good, but didn’t exactly set my world on fire. The sate was lovely – the peanut sauce which accompanied was so delicious that I would have licked the little bowl clean if Harriet had let me.

For the main course we ordered ayam bumbu rujak – a mild chicken curry, garnished with crispy shallots and galangal, served wth nasi kelapa, or coconut rice. Up until this point, sitting on one side of a long shared bench, I could well have been at Wagamamas, but all similarities ended there. While Wagamams and other Asian chains often leave me walking away thinking that I could have made their dish better on my own, this one was tender, fresh and cooked to utter perfection – could have used a smidge more spice, but I live with a man who buys hot sauce with health warnings on it, so my tolerance for heat is higher than most.

We also shared the gado gado, a vegetable dish served with tofu, tempeh, boiled potatoes, egg, spicy peanut sauce and kecap manis. This was the very dish I’d had in Amsterdam, and which made me an Indonesian food convert. I tried making it myself after my trip – in this instance, I do actually think mine was better, but that could be partly because I think tempeh tastes like feet.

The verdict: A solid choice for a good bite to eat if you’re in the area, but not life changing. (Where’s Javier Bardem when you need him?)  Still – did leave me wanting more of the same, so it’s a good thing that the street food scene in Seminyak is meant to be awesome, and it’s a good thing I don’t have much longer to wait. Watch out Bali – this girl can eat.

Need to know:

Warung Bumbu

196 Lavender Hll

020 7924 1155

Nearest tube/rail: Clapham Junction

www.warungbumbu.co.uk

Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday Noon-3pm, 6-10:30 pm, Sunday-Monday Noon-3 pm, 6-11 pm

 

 

Gado gado!

For those of you who have been following, I went to Amsterdam a few weeks ago, and tried Indonesian food for the first time. I liked it so much that I decided to try to recreate it for your pleasure and mine, but mostly mine.

Another recipe courtesy of Yolam Ottolenghi: GADO GADO

Gado gado is a substantial Indonesian meal/salad consisting of boiled eggs, vegetables and peanut sauce.

Ingredients

For the satay sauce:

4 garlic  cloves, peeled

1 lemongrass stalk, chopped (oriental grocery stores sell these in large packs, freezes well)

2.5 tbsp sambal oelek (Indonesian crushed chili paste)

2 small pieces of galangal (ginger is a good substitute if you can’t find this)

4 shallots, peeled

80ml vegetable oil

3/4 tbsp salt

90g sugar

1/2 tbsp paprika

2 tbsp thick tamarind water – I used tamarind stock, and this worked just fine.

225 roasted unsalted peanuts – I didn’t read the unsalted bit until after I went shopping, and I did not die.

450 ml water.

200ml coconut milk – use half fat if you want to make this healthier but really, what’s the point? You’re making a salad anyway.

For the rest:

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 medium cabbage, chunked

a generous handful or two of beansprouts

100g french beans, trimmed

1/2 medium cucumber, thickly sliced

4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered. Top tip: there’s an iPhone app for egg making now, I kid you not!

100g firm tofu cut into thick slices – I fried mine lightly in sesame oil first.

cassava chips, plantain chips or something else crunchy

3 tbsp coriander leaves

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Optional: one small, disobedient black cat.

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Directions

1. Make your satay sauce – be forewarned, this takes forever, but is really really worth it. Make sure you read through this recipe before you get started, too – there’s some multitasking involved!

a) Combine the garlic, lemongrass, sambal oelek, galangal and shallots in a food processor until they form a paste. Add vegetable oil, if needed.

b) Heat up oil in a medium saucepan – add the paste, and cook gently for approximately 40 minutes or until the oil starts separating from the paste.

c) Add salt, sugar, paprika and tamarind water – cook for a further ten minutes.

d) While the paste is cooking, crush peanuts in your food processor – according to Ottolenghi they should be chunkier than ground almonds, but I’m not super sure what this means exactly – your call. Put them in water, and simmer  for 20-25 minutes or until peanuts are soft and most of the water has evaporated.

e) Add the peanuts and the remaining water to the cooked paste. Stir in the coconut milk, et voila! Taste and be amazed at your own culinary genius.

2. Boil two pots of water – add turmeric to one of them.

3. Cook the potatoes in the turmeric water until tender; drain.

4. In the other pot, blanch the cabbage for 1 minute – remove. Blanch the beansprouts for 30 seconds – remove. Blanch the beans for 4 minutes and drain – keep everything warm.

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5. Pile the vegetables, eggs, tofu and cassava/plantain chips on top of a large plate or salad  bowl. Top with the satay sauce – as much or as little as you like – you’ll probably have some leftover, good for marinating some chicken for the barbecue for tomorrow, if England will ever let me have a barbecue.

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Thanks again Ottolenghi – what an inspiration!