It is one of those hot Summer days that came way too early and lingered on too long. Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month) has started 5 days ago. With 38C days and the sun torching your skin if you’re out too long, all I want to do it soak in a pool of cold water sipping a big pitcher of lemon-mint-cucumber water on ice. Alas, that is not to be, not for another 25 days anyway.
And of course, the Indonesian Festival out at Yoyogi Park has to happen right on this weekend. Boo hoo.
Much to the non-amusement of my visiting Indonesian friend, I stirred our stroll to the Indonesian festival direction. My objective was one: scoring a portion of my favorite Balinese dish a la Cafe Bali Campur called Lawar Ayam for my early morning breakfast.
What is Lawar Ayam? It is a green bean (traditionally you use snake beans) salad with shreded chicken and grated coconuts. The spices used in the magical concoction are things like garlic, pearl onion (bawang merah), chiles, bird eye chiles, shrimp paste, lime/lemon juice, pepper. The flavor is very fresh and intense and best serve with hot jasmine rice.
Mmmm. My mouth is already watering with the thought.
Purposefully, I walked to the stall where Cafe Bali Campur was located. Could I have some lawar ayam to go, please?
“Sudah habis! Harus datang pagi-pagi, sekarang sudah tidak ada lagi!” said the good Bli.
The good Bli (Older Brother) – chef/owner of the cafe – then told me that the Lawar dishes were gone within 2 hours after he opened shop and told me to come again tomorrow, but to be there EARLY. Like at 10 am, so I can get a few portions for my enjoyment. His Lawar Ayam has clearly lived up to its reputation, so I better listen to what he said!
One can have a strong will all he/she wants, but I should know my own limitation when at 10 am I discovered that I could not even stand the heat out when watering my plants at the balcony. I spoke with my friend Dana and she mentioned her very fit husband went for a jog this morning and came home feeling very lightheaded because the heat and humidity is unbearable.
That does it. If Zach couldn’t tolerate the heat, then maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate. I am fasting after all, and I am looking for another 9 hours of heat with no possibility of cold water.
I told myself that if I want that lawar so badly, then I should just make it myself. It may not be as addictive as The Good Bli’s, but I had given it a fair try several times before and it was delicious.
Recipe source: Adapted from “The Food of Bali”
3 cups blanched long beans cut in 1/2 – 1 cm slices (you can use kacang panjang/snake beans, buncis/green beans, for this recipe I used Morroccan green beans)
1/2 cup (50 grams) grated coconut, roasted
2 tsp Base be siap (see below)
Fried shallots for garnish
250 gram boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 cm cubes (or you can simply use mince chicken)
2 Tbsp Base be siap (see below)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed black peppercorn
- Combine beans, roasted coconuts, Base de siap in a bowl. Mix well and leave to rest
- To prepare the dressing, combine chicken with Base de siap and mix well. Place chicken in a steamer case and steam in microwave for 8 minutes – don’t do it too long otherwise the chicken will cook too dry. (If you don’t have a microwave steamer case, then use the following method: Place chicken lengthwise in center of banana leaf and roll up very tightly. Place the banana leaf roll on aluminum foil and roll up again very tightly. Steam the roll for 20 minutes)
- Remove chicken from the steamer and break up meat with a fork to its original minced/cubed form
- Combine chicken with bean mixture, season to taste with salt, pepper and lime juice. Garnish with crispy fried shallots.
- Serve with steamed white rice and Sambal Matah for added kick.
*Chicken can be replaced by beef, pork or shredded young jackfruit or mushroom
BASE BE SIAP (SPICE PASTE FOR CHICKEN)
Recipe source: Adapted from “The Food of Bali”
14 shallots (Indonesian red onion), peeled
26 cloves garlic, peeled
10 bird-eye chiles, finely sliced
2 1/2 cm kencur root, peeled
4 cm laos/galangal, peeled
10 candlenut/ macadamia nut
5 cm turmeric root, peeled and chopped (or 5 tsp powder)
4 Tbsp chopped palm sugar
4 Tbsp canola oil
2 stalks lemon grass, bruised
2 salam/bay leaves
- Put everything from shallots down to chopped palm sugar into a food processor and grind coarsely
- Heat oil in a small pan and saute all ingredients until very hot, stirring frequently until the paste changed into a golden color
- Cool before using
*Extras can be kept in the freezer for future use. Keep well for up to 3 months.