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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Treat for The Taste Buds

Cold cherry lemonade with raspberries and freshly picked mint... Oh my!!

My husband made the delicious drink for our lazy Sunday, it was a perfect complement for such a beautiful summer day. I thought, how fun life could be! Then I thought, will I miss it when I return to Bali? Will I nag and whine for such treat during our Bali visit?

In Bali there are a huge numbers of restaurants that sell Western food. Come to think of it, even in the small dingy restaurant they will inadvertently sell fries or spaghetti. They are inexpensive, easy to cook (viva frozen food!), and in such  high demand. The locals love their little western treat once in a while, the tourists just wanted to eat, and the expatriates are homesick. But if you are in a foreign country for just a few days, wouldn't you like to be more, ah, adventurous?

For tourists, it was not always easy to explore (and enjoy) the local food to its fullest potential. Hygiene seemed to be one of the main concerns, if not the top. Then there is the gastric incompatibility, as Balinese food use a whole lotta herbs and chili and coconut milk and various local vegetables that the westerner probably never heard of. And of course, the strange, strange taste. I had to convinced my husband that the Indonesian mutton curry (gule kambing) he cooked for us was just perfect, as he kept asking me: "Are you sure it's ok? Is the taste correct? Did I messed it up by putting too much coconut milk?" when in fact his curry was so good it reminded me of home. 

But let's just say, let's play pretend that you, a tourist, manage to stay in a good hotel where food hygiene is not a problem, or you found a good restaurant that you are comfortable with, wouldn't you like to try and let your taste buds experience the sensation? After all, why only let your other four sense hogging all the fun of your trip? If you are not comfortable with getting a full portion, ask for a half portion, or even a sampler. And if you are still not convinced with cooked traditional food, be adventurous with traditional fruits instead: manggis (mangosteen), salak (snake fruit), jeruk bali (pomelo), apel malang (local apple), wani fruit (a kind of mango), and the real tropical papaya. These are only a few of the wide fruit selection available in Bali. If the so-called tropical fruit tray in your supermarket excites you, this is your chance to experience the real thing and to understand why Balinese settled with fruits instead of "desserts". 

Eating locally is not only fun, it also helps the local farmer and the earth. I had a mango and a Hawaiian papaya once, and they tasted so different than the one I had at home. Why wouldn't it? Each land has different soil, different amount of minerals, different textures. That is why one area can produce a more superior, say, grapes than other. Heck, I guess that is why some tap water tastes better than others. The farmers can make their living, and mother earth wouldn't get that extra carbon footprint to jet off imported fruits from a different country. As a matter of fact, eating whatever produce that grows or obtainable near you is a neat way to show your appreciation for the earth and the community you visited. If you insist on going green, it kinda killed off the purpose to order your vegetarian meal with that specific berry only found in the mountain of Andes (or something similar), unless of course you lived in that specific mountain. 

If money is your concern, rest assure that the 99 cent you spent on nectarine or sunkist in your local supermarket translates to at least a couple of mangosteen or a big ripe papaya or 2-3 snakefruit. You will definitely get more for your money. $6 may get you a combo of cheeseburger, fries, and soda; but in Bali it can also get you the suckling pig combo that consists of rice, REAL pork in Balinese spices, vegetable side dish, soup, and even es teh manis (sweet iced tea).  As for the $34 you spend on that steak house for a rib eye steak with lobster tail and baked potato, add up another $15 and that can be easily translated to meal for two with total of 15 dishes at the Bumbu Bali Restaurant in Nusa Dua. Seriously, delicious meal with fancy presentation for $25 per person? Our Independence Day dinner at a Tucson's hotel costs almost $40 per person and it was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

If you are not keen on spending your money, there are many other places where you can get good local meal with only $5 or less. Be adventurous, be inquisitive. If haggling for fruit at the traditional market is too much for you, go to supermarket or a dedicated fruit shop that has fixed price. You can utilize travel forums and websites to get info on where to eat traditional food, but do note that chances are these "recommended places" are chock full with tourists and already have the tastes tampered to suit western taste buds. If you are comfortable with it, so be it :) . But if you want something different, you can always ask the locals. Try to get connected and plan ahead: you can ask the hotel you are sleeping with, or try to get in touch with the local Balinese from website like BaliHub or the expatriate veterans at BaliPod. Afterall Facebook and e-mail are actually penpal made simple ;) .

You have allocate your time for this vacation, and spend so much money for the accursed plane ticket, and sat uncomfortably on that plane for about 12 hours straight or more. Your skin thank you for the warm sea water, delicious sea breeze, and tantalizing sunlight. Your eyes thank you for the beautiful view of hot babes an/or dudes, erm I mean the beautiful view of the beach and mountains and nature in general including the awesome temples and such. Your ears thank you for that beautiful gamelan music and fun happy laughter all round. Your nose thank you for the sweet smell of flower and incense and salty sea air and delicious cooked meals. Your brain thank you for the temporary getaway it gets, away from the daily monotony of the job you didn't like and from socializing with people you can actually live without (what a bliss if it comes true!). Now it's time to spoil that taste buds of yours. Go on, they'll thank you.

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