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Main l Exotic Cuisine
Exotic Cuisine

A few years ago, the only chicken to be found was the skinny, sinewy kampung (village) variety, but nowadays there are juicy drumsticks, Javanese-style fried chicken, ayam suharti, ayam chichi, and ayam timbungan with curry. When in Denpasar, try the ayam taliwang, a superb chicken recipe from Lombok. Beef consumption is limited in Bali because cows and buffaloes are needed as draught animals in the paddy fields. Pork is, however, consumed avidly by Balinese, the urban Chinese and the non-Malay population. The favorite animal protein of Bali's Indian population is mutton. Other main sources of protein are fish, poultry, eggs and soybean. Soybean produces hearty organic foods such as tofu and tempeh (fermented soybean cake).

The centerpiece of any Indonesian meal is steamed or boiled rice. Any dish with the word "nasi" in front of it means that it is prepared or served with rice. Nasi Campur is the common fare in Indonesia, which is actually a heap of steamed rice topped with vegetables, meat, pickles and krupuk (crackers). Krupuk is a large, crispy, tangy, oversized cracker made from crab meat, fish flakes, shrimp paste, or even fruit mixed with rice, flour or sago flour. It is first dried to resemble thin, colored plastic and then deep fried in oil.

Very popular is nasi goreng, a soft and crunchy fried rice dish presented by countless restaurants as a standard dish. Mie goreng signify wheat-flour noodles fried in coconut oil, with eggs, meat or seafood, tomatoes, cucumber, shrimp paste, spices and chilies. Both nasi goreng and mie goreng are common breakfast dishes. If you see "istimewa" or special written after either dish, it usually means that it is topped with a fried egg.

Another widely available snack is Javanese-style sate, which is included in most menus. These are savory, marinated mini-kebabs of chicken, beef or mutton that are impaled on skewers of coconut palms, grilled over an open charcoal fire, and dipped into a spicy peanut sauce before consumption. Balinese sate are made from minced meat laden with freshly grated coconut, prawn paste, garlic, chilies, lemon leaves and salt to compose a sticky, dough-like mixture. This is then wrapped around a thick vein of bamboo or sugarcane and eventually charcoal-grilled and served with either a mild or peppery sauce. Shrimp, pork, intestines, eggs, turtle or dog meat are popular.

There are two Balinese specialties that should not be missed. 'Babi Guling' and 'Bebek Betutu' are must-tries. The former is pieces of grilled suckling pig with delicious crispy skin and the latter a duck delicacy, where the fowl is marinated with many different herbs and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and then baked over a low flame.

Dutch influence can also be found in Balinese cuisine. A dish frequently encountered in hotel restaurants is 'rijstaffel' (rice table), which is a sort of Indonesian smorgasbord. During the colonial days, a ceremonial rijstaffel could embrace as many as 35 courses. Today, five to ten courses are normally offered. The total meal presents a variety of dishes, some sweet, others spicy, and all to be eaten with boiled rice and condiments. Balinese-style rijstaffel consists of well-seasoned regional fish, vegetable and meat dishes, completed with black rice pudding for dessert. The rijstaffel items are served in handmade pottery, and generally accompanied by a haunting tingklik orchestra.

Gado-gado is a healthy Javanese salad with a combination of potatoes and vegetables, smothered with a hearty quantity of spicy peanut sauce - a boon for peanut butter enthusiasts! This would cost around Rp. 5,000 to Rp. 15,000. Moreover, gado-gado is of plant origins, thus suitable for vegetarians. Soto, usually served for breakfast, comprises of santen or coconut cream that is added to a soup. On the other hand, sop is synonymous to a meat and vegetable stew except that only water is added. Chinese cap cai is another widespread, nourishing dish, which is a type of meat and/or vegetable chop suey.

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