March 24, 2009

Bali wedding day 5: Thanks a lot, Tony Bourdain!

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Last day in Bali, and I woke up with beautiful views of the greenery in Ubud. I am finally able to look out from my terrace and enjoy the view and the tranquility, but not for long...

We decide to take breakfast at Uma Ubud's restaurant, since we weren't able to on our last visit. It's a nice breakfast that's designed to be healthy. The nasi lemak was so upscale I didn't even recognize it... Guess I'm too used to the ones that come in a banana leaf and costs next to nothing... I did notice that we were the only Asians having breakfast, and that 80% of the patrons were from Australia and knew each other. Maybe these are the guests from the wedding they had just finished hosting.

The focus of the day is on lunch, but first we needed to do a bit of shopping. A friend asked us to buy some vanilla so that she could make vanilla crème brûlée. We of course are only too happy to oblige, as long as we get to taste some of the finished product! After visiting a number of stalls and bargaining the price down, we finally bought about 100g of the longer pods which looked like they were in decent condition.

We head for lunch at Ibu Oka's. This is a famous restaurant which serves only babi guling - roast pig. It has been at the corner of Ubud's main crossroad next to Ubud Palace for a long time, but we found that they had moved. It is now in a larger, more beautiful compound hidden in an alley. The new digs are much, much nicer.

We sat down and ordered a regular portion of the roast suckling pig on rice, as well as an extra portion of the crispy crackling. While it has been a few years since our last visit, the prices have gone sky high during this time. What used to cost IDR 10,000 is now listed as IDR 25,000. And IDR 30,000 buys you just a few pieces of crackling. Whoa! I know that food prices - particularly the price of pork - has gone up worldwide. But I immediately thought of another factor - Tony Bourdain. Since our last visit in 2005, Tony has visited Ibu Oka's and introduced it to the Western world on 'No Reservations'. As a result, there are now only tourists at the new location, whereas we were packed amongst mostly locals in 2005. The complete absence of locals - other than tour guides accompanying tourists - tells me that prices are now so high that locals no longer give Ibu Oka their business.

The food arrived and we dug in. The meat was still tender and the wafer-thin crackling still yummy. But we noticed a reduction in the amount of spicy sauce given. The combination of everything was still tasty, but certainly much less spicy than before. I think this is in response to the changing customer mix, as tourists are less likely to be able to handle the heat. I remember that I found it difficult to take the spices on my last visit, but was completely OK this time around. I did enjoy the couple of pieces of fried pig intestines, although I thought the blood sausage was a bit too dry.

In spite of all this, we ordered a large portion of the suckling pig with rice to take away. This could very well be our dinner on the flight back, if we didn't find the food in cattle class to our liking. The pig was good, but we probably won't be back for a while as we search for another spot with better value for money.

We were dropped off in front of the McDonald's at the airport, and I promptly checked out the menu for anything special that isn't available elsewhere. Unfortunately there weren't any, so I didn't get my overseas Mickey D's fix this time around. On a brighter note, we were upgraded to Business Class for the flight back. This is probably my last upgrade before I lose my current tier status at the end of the month, and we were pretty happy to have a bit more space and a better menu. I guess the box of babi guling would make it back to Hong Kong after all...


Lambda said...

Cooking style and the intense favours are the DNA of good local food. If that's being stripped away or diluted down, it's no longer the same. Traditions should be upheld!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Peter, sounds like you had a great time in Bali. I've never been - mostly because I hate the beach. But the food sounds delicious although it's a drag about the pig.


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