Since gorging on traditional dishes in Bali I’ve tried with varying degrees of success to reproduce the flavours in my own kitchen. Most of which have failed to satisfy the exacting memories of my tastebuds!
On a much earlier visit to Indonesia my partner acquired the wonderfully helpful Indonesian Food and Cookery by Sri Owen. This modest and now somewhat venerable tome, first published in 1976, has become my guide. Usually I like colour photos in my cookbooks but this one, sparsely and delicately illustrated with pen and ink, inspires me simply with its wealth of information. I love the section describing traditional ingredients with its catalogue of exotic fruits and spices.
The modern world being what it is I could hardly claim surprise when I googled Sri Owen and up she popped. Nearly four decades after Indonesian Food and Cookery’s debut her books, recipes and presence are still going strong. As an adult working in England it was the unforgettable childhood recollections of Indonesia and her family’s cooking that inspired Sri’s first book. Her latest publication, Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food, came out in 2008.
Thanks to Sri I can now produce to my satisfaction at least this one mouth-wateringly sweat-inducing Balinese concoction: telur bumbu Bali. Bumbu means ‘sauce’ and this is apparently one of many Indonesian eggs-in-sauce dishes.
Bali chilli eggs are quick and easy to make and the bumbu is bursting with nutritious flavour and antioxidants. I love the colour of telur bumbu Bali and it’s delicious with rice and salad. I also savour its heat but if chilli’s not your forte, alter the quantity to suit.
2 cloves garlic
3 red chillies
4 ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup boiled water
salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Sri recommends seeding the chillies and pounding in a mortar until smooth, along with the garlic and shallots (peeled and sliced). This paste is then stir-fried for a minute before adding the tomatoes, soy, and water to the pan.
I have been known to double the number of tomatoes in an excess of tomato-enthusiasm (besides, I figure I can’t have too much lycopene). I also don’t bother to peel or seed them as I don’t like to waste any portion and enjoy the textures they offer. The sauce is absolutely superb if you can use your own homegrown tomatoes instead of the supermarket variety.
Sri suggests that once the mixture boils, you add the eggs (whole or halved) and allow to simmer for 8 minutes. Then: eat!