If you’re squeamish or vegetarian- turn away now…you’ve been warned…
‘It tastes just like bacon.’ Oleg, our guide for the night had a cheeky grin on his face. It made me dubious. What was in the plastic bag he was holding up for inspection looked nothing like bacon. Indeed, it looked nothing like it could have come from any part of a pig.
It looked like a thinner, curlier, spicier version of the beef jerky I once saw in Macau. Sadly, it wasn’t that either.
Hubby wasn’t as worried. ‘What is it?’ he asked eagerly.
‘Rice paddy eels. Want to try some later?’
‘Sure.’ Hubby and B, the male half of our travelling companions for the night, were both keen…although it could have been testosterone- who could tell.
B’s wife F, was with me- not quite as keen. I think I might have even said ‘eeeeeeeeeeuw.’
We were at Gianyar Night Markets on a tour organised by Casa Luna. There were just the 5 of us: Hubby and I, B and F from Brisbane, and Oleg, our guide. We knew were in for something quintessentially local when the toilet stop was a stand and hover- with a dipper and a sink full of water for “flushing.”
And local it was. This also meant that there were no hawkers and no hassling- just people going about their business.
Gianyar Market is just 20-30 mins drive from Ubud, yet off the tourist trail. It’s where the locals go to eat. Most dishes on offer were between 10,000- 20,000IDR- that’s $1-$2 per serve. Entire families were there for their evening meal- some choosing to take theirs home in what hubby called an ice cream cone bag. Meals were assembled in cone shaped wax paper bags- rice first, then vegetables or beans, meat and sauce- and sealed with folds and string.
There were warungs- small food stalls- specialising in single dishes, some in fritters, some just selling drinks, all setting up each night, and clearing away at the end of trade to allow the space to revert to car parking during the day.
There were vegetables
and things that I couldn’t identify.
What did we eat?
After walking through the market, Oleg telling us about the food, cooking methods and ingredients, we started with fritters- vegetable, banana, tempeh, chilli, fermented cassava- all surprisingly good.
Then plates of babi gulang- the suckling pig that Bali is famous for- turned up…but with all the accompaniments- and I mean ALL the accompaniments.
There was a little blood sausage, something else with a texture I didn’t want to think about, and a little skewer with bits that I also didn’t want to know about, but which hubby told me was heart…etc. I pretended not to hear as I tried it. While I didn’t enjoy the bits, B and my Scottish born husband had no such squeamishness.
As for the pork itself? It was close your eyes and inhale the spice time. Just fabulous. Then there was the crackling…oh the crackling!
Next up, Oleg brought over a plateful of satays- satay lilit- little morsels of mincey yumminess wound round and around the stick.
It was at this point- way after the offal, and while the memory of an extra plate of crackling was still dancing around our tongue- that Oleg produced the bag of paddy eels.
We all tried them- some of us more enthusiastically than others. They were surprisingly crunchy, super spicy, not at all unpleasant, and absolutely nothing like bacon.
On our way out of the market we stopped for dessert- little jellies with condensed milk and these rice thingie bobbies (hubby’s description).
I sympathised with the goldfish for sale in plastic bags waiting to go to new homes (I hoped)- by the time we’d left, they’d nearly sold out.
We also marvelled at the ladies still busy making offerings for sale by the bagload.
Before getting back in the car, we stopped for murtabak.
We watched him flip and twirl the pancake with skill.
He then fried it in what looked like a gallon of all, and spooned in the filling.
He then folded it
With the queue of motorbikes stopping for takeaway, this is obviously a little like Balinese late night kebabs…and a fitting end to a great (and educational) night out. It may not look pretty, but (aside from the offal), boy did it all taste and smell great.
If you’re interested in this tour, here’s the linky thing.