Bali Round up

Technology meets tradition

Well life has settled back to normal a few weeks down the track, after our brief but enjoyable visit to Indonesia. As promised, I have put together a post of the highlights (and the odd low-light) should you ever wish to venture over. Although this was our fifth visit to Bali, it was my first as a vegetarian and just like in Australia, some cafés/restaurants had excellent options for vegetarians, while others had slim pickings. Virtually all dishes would need to be modified slightly for Vegan diets. The great thing about the hospitality industry in Indonesia, is that they really love to keep their customers happy and won’t be offended if you wish to leave something out of a dish or add something else in.

One dish I could always count on being on the menu was Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice). The vegetarian version comes chock full of tasty tender-crisp vegetables and an optional fried egg on top.

Nasi Goreng

In our little party of four, I was the only vegetarian, so in Bali none of our meals were at restaurants serving purely vegetarian fare. There were some pleasant surprises along the way which I expand on below.

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Bianco Restaurant & Bar
Jl Padma, Kuta, Bali

Bianco Restaurant

On Bianco’s website they mention that they are the first known Indonesian/Italian restaurant in Bali and I guess with a name like Bianco there had to be an Italian influence somewhere! For the veggies as with most places, the Indonesian options proved the most friendly and didn’t rely solely on cheese and eggs to provide the protein source. We chose to sit out on the balcony where you can watch the world go by and enjoy the balmy breezes.

Gado Gado

For entrée I couldn’t go past the vegetarian spring rolls, which may sound a bit pedestrian, but I have to tell you, these were among the best I have EVER eaten. The rolls were filled with an abundance of veggies and great flavours and the pastry was delicately crispy without a hint of sogginess. For my mains I was served up a very delicious Gado Gado, which is pretty much a salad consisting of raw and cooked vegetables with a boiled egg and tofu, albeit with prawn crackers; these were hastily removed from my plate by my dining companions! This came with a very tasty satay sauce and another smaller bowl of chilli sauce to up the heat if required.

With great staff and located just a short walk from Kuta Beach, Bianco was a lovely escape from the heat of the day.

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Indus Restaurant
Jl Raya, Sanggingan,
Ubud, Bali

Indus Restaurant holds happy memories for Jayson and I; we spent the morning of our honeymoon 12 years ago enjoying a very decadent breakfast on the balcony of Indus while taking in the stunning views of the Tjampuhan River and lush surrounding hills. We also discovered a love of lounge music and whenever I hear this song now, it instantly transports me back to that time. Ah memories…

Indus Restaurant

So, no trip to Ubud could be complete without a breakfast at Indus. This time around we all chose the very indulgent French Toast, bursting with the flavours of banana, cinnamon, spice and all things nice, complimented by a side serve of natural yogurt and maple syrup. They unfortunately didn’t offer soy milk so I was unable to partake in my usual latte. I did however go for an Avocado Juice – if you haven’t tried this before you will be amazed (and possibly addicted)! It isn’t technically a juice as such, probably closer to a smoothie or milkshake if anything. The avocado is usually blended with milk (this would work well with rice, soy or nut milk too), a dash of sugar syrup and sometimes chocolate as well.  It wasn’t a good time of year for avocados in Bali, so while still very drinkable, the avocado juices of this trip were not quite as mind-blowing as usual.

We have only ever had breakfast at Indus, but I have heard mixed reviews about the dinner menu. The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere and is worth a visit just to check out the glorious views.

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Cinta Grill
Jl Monkey Forrest
Ubud, Bali

Cinta Grill

Cinta Grill, was quite a favourite on our last trip to Bali in particular for their daily Mojito happy hours! On this visit to Cinta I wasn’t overly hungry, just in need of a couple of snacky things to see me through the evening. There is a fairly substantial selection of vegetarian meals to choose from on the menu here, but I turned straight to the starters.

First pick was the Vegetarian Samosas with Tamarind Chutney. A fairly stock standard samosa, nicely cooked with the chutney providing a good tang to cut through the starchiness of the potato in the filling.

The Fresh Rice Paper Rolls with Thai Herb Dipping Sauce on the other hand were amazing and unlike any others I have eaten in the past. The emphasis on these was definitely the mint, and lots of leafy greens which was extremely refreshing on the palate, however if mint is not your thing I would probably give them a miss! The Mojito happy hour was still in full swing although this bar and many others in Bali have taken to using lime cordial instead of fresh lime juice in their Mojitos making them cloyingly sweet and not so refreshing. After the first round we asked if juice could be used instead of cordial and they were happy to oblige, so no complaints here. I’m guessing most of their customers prefer the cordial over the real thing hence the change in ingredients.

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Clear Café
Jl Hanoman No. 8
Padang Tegal Kaje, Ubud, Bali

Clear Cafe

Hot and bothered after walking around the streets of Ubud and very much in need of some drinks and a light meal to keep us going, we literally stumbled upon Clear Café with its impressive facade and pile of shoes at the front door.

Clear Café is a very unusual eatery in Bali both in terms of decor and cuisine. Focusing on Organic, Raw, Vegan and Seafood, it has a “shoes-off inside” policy and a very modern eco style. I’m thinking a lot of money was spent on the fit-out and the table wear (check out the glasses!). Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling too crash hot the day we visited so I didn’t take as many shots as I would have liked, but you can check out the gallery on Clear Café’s website for a closer look at the gorgeous interior.

A good ice coffee is hard to find in most places, but even more so in Bali; usually its just a tall glass of cold black coffee with a few ice-cubes thrown in for good measure! Clear Cafe have an impressive array of refreshing drinks on offer and a substantial selection made with Mylk (a cashew nut milk extracted from locally grown produce).  I wish there had been more time so I could work my way down the menu! As I was craving coffee (and something cool) I went for a Mocha Shake made with Mylk which was ice-cold and absolutely delicious!

Clear Cafe

We also ordered a plate of Majestic Mushrooms which were pleasant enough although probably a little too cheesy. The Indo Spring Rolls with tofu, would have been great if they hadn’t been covered with the very over powering tamarind “dipping” sauce. It was very sour and in need of some sweetness for balance; this would have been much better served to the side as the menu suggested. Top marks for presentation, all the same!

Although we weren’t blown away with the two dishes we ordered, Clear Café would have to be one of the most vegan friendly and innovative restaurants I have encountered in Indonesia. Take a look at their menu; it really does have the potential for some fabulous meals.

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Casa Luna
Jl Raya Ubud, Bali

Casa Luna comes in at No.3 on Lonely Planet’s 138 things to do in Ubud. Run by Australian expat Janet DeNeefe and her Balinese husband Ketut Suardana, it has topped many lists over the years and is just one part of a mini empire in Ubud which includes Indus Restaurant (of the french toast fame, above), a Cooking School, Guesthouse and Emporium.

Janet is also author of the memoir Fragrant Rice which chronicles her love affair with Bali.

Casa Luna

On previous trips to Ubud, we have frequented Casa Luna for leisurely lunches and avocado juices while on the way to someplace else. This time, we decided on a visit for dinner and unfortunately we were all a little disappointed with the meals we ordered. My pumpkin soup was under-seasoned and lack lustre, with the chickpea, beetroot and avocado salad being rather bland and weighed down by soggy croutons. My fellow diners had similar gripes with their meaty orders so this time around Casa Luna didn’t rate highly at all for me.

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Three Monkeys
Jl Monkey Forest
Ubud, Bali

Three Monkeys Cafe

Three Monkeys was recommended to us by a friend via facebook, so we were keen to try it out for breakfast one beautiful morning. From the front the cafe looks quite cosy but on walking through you enter a very inviting and substantial alfresco area along side rice paddies – just lovely!  The variety of fresh juices were abundant and delicious with suggested combinations or could be made to order.  I had my favourite blend of fresh apple juice with a good dose of ginger – just the thing to awaken the senses first thing in the morning. I also couldn’t resist ordering a latte and it turned out to be a very satisfying one. Three of us ordered the buckwheat pancakes with bananas and syrup but these were sadly not up to scratch, although they looked very appealing. The batter was very dry, powdery and tasted strangely like camphor…these were all returned to the kitchen and the staff cheerfully replaced them with something else off the menu. I went for the yogurt, muesli and fruit combo which was bursting with flavour and goodness. All in all a good experience and I would definitely give it another go on our next trip.

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Stay tuned for the Java roundup to follow soon!

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Off to Beautiful Bali!

Sunset over Tanah Lot

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting from Bali and Yogyakarta, keen to explore Balinese and Indonesian cuisine from a vegetarian viewpoint. This will be our 5th trip to Bali over the last 12 years and I am greatly looking forward to the relaxing and rejuvenating effect that this magical place has always had on me in the past.

It’s been a challenging year so far which has left me somewhat drained, so bring on the renewal of energy and inspiration!

Vegan Challenge wrap up: It’s easy being green!

Green Apples

Well, time sure flies when you’re having fun! I have now officially been a vegan for 31 days. They say it takes around 3 weeks to form a habit and judging by how normal it feels to be eating this way now, I would have to agree. The thought of eating eggs and dairy is now quite strange and I have done so well without these foods that re-introducing them seems somewhat pointless.

It’s been a very rewarding month in many ways including

  • starting this blog and seeing the number of visitors grow on a daily basis, so I’m not just talking to myself anymore 😉
  • making new ethically minded friends online from all parts of the world while discovering a whole community of individuals on the same path and sharing the journey via blogs and online forums, in particular the VeganEasy forum. I am looking forward to meeting some of these lovely people face to face in the future
  • Realising that a lot’s changed in the past 15 years since I was last a vegetarian – there are so many more options in terms of good quality natural products to supplement my diet and a wide range of vegetarian options at regular restaurants, as well as a growing number dedicated to a vegetarian menu; gone are the days of being served up a bowl of steamed veggies with a cheese sauce on top!
  • Learning to be more inquisitive about exactly what is in that can of soup I pick up at the supermarket or in that “vegetarian” pasta at a restaurant.
  • Feeling less bloated and having more energy in general despite having a few minor ailments this month. I even managed to drop a couple of unwanted kilos along the way. Bonus!

I am looking forward to the journey of discovery ahead. Whilst I am sure that I will remain a vegetarian for the rest of my days  I cannot expect everyone else to follow the same path, although I am happy to give a gentle nudge in that direction whenever possible. I am also a realist and understand that not everyone sees things the same way. My best option moving forward is to research and present the most ethical options for meaties and veggies alike. It’s been a steep learning curve and I feel that I have only just scratched the surface so far, so I hope you’ll stay with me for the ride 🙂

Day 25: Friday Lunch Treat

Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu

Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu

Friday lunchtime I decided to treat myself with a visit to a new Asian takeway in my area call Joyhut.  It opened its doors for the first time a couple of months ago and I’ve made one previous visit just for a simple stir-fried vegetable dish which was nice but very basic. I’d been eyeing off the Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu on the menu so that was my first pick and I went with the vegetarian black bean noodles to follow. The tofu was amazing! I’d always loved salt and pepper calamari in my seafood eating days so this was a very pleasant surprise. Beautifully spiced and delicately crispy without being overly greasy, it was just what I had been hoping for.

Vegetarian Noodles in Black Bean Sauce

Vegetarian Noodles in Black Bean Sauce

The vegetarian noodles were also delicious with plenty of flavour in the black bean sauce. I only managed to eat half of the serving after scoffing the tofu first. Oh well, more for later 🙂 I will definitely be returning to Joyhut – plenty of tasty options for diets of all persuasions, great value and just around the corner 🙂

JoyHut on Urbanspoon

Day 23: A quick bite in St Kilda

Roast Vegetable Paella

Roast Vegetable Paella

With the vegan challenge into it’s fourth week it’s interesting to discover what the options may be in an unknown restaurant. On Wednesday night, we had about 45 minutes to eat a quick dinner before going to see a concert at the Palais. After a quick scour of a few menus we settled on Amigos in Acland Street; Mexican is usually a safe bet for vegetarian food.

After a chat to the waitress and a visit to the kitchen on her part to consult with the chef on which menu items didn’t contain dairy, I settled on the Roast Vegetable Paella. It arrived on a sizzling plate, had an inviting aroma and did not disappoint in terms of flavour. The Paella contained a rainbow of different veggies and was quite nicely seasoned. In fact it was so filling I only managed to get through just over a third of the plate. Jayson also enjoyed his chicken burrito and was pleasantly surprised at the overall standard. The service was good too – staff were attentive and the meals arrived fairly quickly. Not bad for a fairly random pick.

Amigos on Urbanspoon

Tasty Tech: Waiter there’s a 621 in my soup!

Ok, so you’ve decided to cut the nasties out of your diet and you’re reading labels like there’s no tomorrow.  It’s all good, until you come across a slew of numbers to decode, or a list of strange ingredients you’d need a science degree to begin to understand. Sure, there’s those handy little books you can buy at health food stores and bookstores to decode these numbers and words, but do you always remember to take them shopping with you? If you’re anything like me, not a chance. Well, did you know there are now several apps for i-phone to assist you every time you go shopping?

First of all there’s the Food Additive Assistant available for a very affordable $2.49. Just punch in the number and the Food Additive Assistant will define the ingredients and the possible hazards associated with consuming certain additives. This app is fairly no frills and doesn’t allow for customising, but is pretty good for the price.

Next up there’s the Foodditive – Food Additive Guide. This one allows you to select your particular dietary restriction eg. Gluten Free, Halal, Kosher, Vegetarian, Vegan etc. It’s a little pricier at $3.99 but has more options and a great looking, easy to navigate interface as well. This one is my personal pick.

For the gluten intolerant folks, in particular sufferers of Coeliac Disease, the Coeliac Society of Australia  have released this useful app to aid shoppers in identifying ingredients containing gluten. This one is priced at $9.99.

Well, between an additive app and the ethical consumer guide, my grocery shopping is sorted, although a little more time-consuming, till I am able to recognise the additives on sight.

Thanks to Jayson for lending a finger (in the above pic) to the cause 🙂

Day 8: Dinner – Aubergine (Eggplant) Curry

Aubergine Curry with Ginger & Chilli / Nutty Quinoa with Greens

Tonight it was time for me to stop resting on my laurels and make something new. Lately I have been enjoying Middle Eastern and Indian inspired meals so decided to go for something along those lines. Jill Dupleix’s Lighten Up cook book is full of fresh ideas for the veggies and carnivores alike. I have had success with most of my attempts from this book so it was time to give these two recipes a whirl: Aubergine Curry with Ginger & Chilli and Nutty Quinoa with Greens.

Both recipes are quite uncomplicated – perfect for a midweek meal. The eggplant had a lovely velvety texture with a fairly nice balance of flavours, although next time I will add a small amount of sugar to even out the acidity. The Nutty Quinoa was a great match for the curry; the pistachios adding a lovely crunch and the mint and lemony dressing was very refreshing. I have to say I haven’t cooked a lot of quinoa in the past so mine wasn’t as fluffy as it could have been, but you and live and learn. If anyone has some tips on how best to cook quinoa, I would love to hear them! Here are the recipes:

Aubergine Curry with Ginger and Chilli
3 medium-sized aubergines (eggplants)
2 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 green chilli, sliced
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 level tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped + extra to garnish

Prick eggplants with a fork and place on a baking tray. Bake for 20 mins in a preheated oven at 220 deg cel. to char the skin. Peel away the skin and roughly dice the eggplant. Heat the oil in a non-stick deep frypan or casserole dish. Cook the onion until soft, then stir in the chilli, ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, tomato paste, cayenne, coriander, cumin and sea salt, stirring well. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a low heat. Scatter with extra coriander and serve.

Nutty Quinoa
300g packet of quinoa
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
100g baby spinach
2 tbsp pistachios
2 tbsp sultanas
3 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
3 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fennel
sea salt and pepper to taste

Wash the quinoa, drain and place into a saucepan. Cover with 1 litre of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until al dente. Drain well and cool, then fluff up the quinoa with a for. Add the cherry tomatoes, spinach, pistachios, sultanas, mint and parsley. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and fennel and season with the salt and pepper. Toss into the quinoa and serve.

Now to tackle the dishes 😦