How to make chicken satay

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I remember “selamat pagi”, the morning greeting on the island of Bali. In my treasured world atlas I could see Bali was on the other side of the equator and only six-inches away from thailand and that was reason enough for it to lớn be the final destination for our Asian Adventure in 1997.

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We came to lớn see this picturesque island of forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches & coral reefs. We came lớn relax, but we wanted khổng lồ see it all; the floating temple of Tanah Lot, the traditional Legong dance, the beaches, the markets và the food. Especially the chicken satay.


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Indonesian Chicken Satay Recipe – photo credit Jim Little


We found all the elements of paradise not far from Sanur; wide stretches of sandy beach, clear xanh water, coconut groves, flowering hibiscus hedges và cascading bougainvillea. But the kích hoạt was there too. Calls for “massage today” or “transport for tomorrow?” From the shopkeepers it was “looking, looking”, “you look my shop”, “just looking is okay”. At the beach, “you want some watch”, “ride in a glass bottom boat”, “you go parasailing?” Yet every night we left the noise behind, floated in the hotel pool và gazed up at a clear sky filled with stars we had never seen before. Khổng lồ us it was a magical experience.

A Land of Temples

Indonesia has a rich and diverse history và the vast majority of Balinese now identify as Hindu. This is a land of temples. There are six important Hindu temples on the island, each village has three temples & every trang chủ has a temple or shrine. We saw shrines on the sidewalk in front of shops, in the centre of traffic circles and on the dashboard of the bemos we hired for transportation. The typical banana boat shrine was filled with strings of fresh flower blossoms and incense. The daily offerings were said to bring luck & appease the appetite of the demons.


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To the village temple for a special ceremony -Photo credit Jim Little


Traditional Balinese Dances

We made it lớn the popular Legong dance outdoors at a Hindu Temple in Ubud. The colourful costumes và highly expressive dance movements were unusual và entertaining while the music was captivating. A traditional gamelan ensemble consisting primarily of percussive instruments like metallophones, xylophones and bamboo flutes filled the air with sounds we had never heard.


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The Great Beast Barong – photo credit Jim Little


The Barong Dance involved Rangda, the witch, & the great beast Barong, an elaborate costume requiring two people lớn perform. Our guide gave us a detailed story of each dance.


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Kecak Dance – photo credit Jim Little


Our favourite was a mesmerizing evening performance called the Kecak (pronounced key-chak), where seventy-five men chant “cak-cak-cak” lớn create the music. Always performed together, the Kecak, Trance & Fire dances ends with a spectacular scene where a performer wakes from his meditative state, and runs through a pile of burning coconut husks. As the embers die down the audience exits in a hush led away by flashlight.


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Jim Playing The Metallophone -photo credit Cinde Little


We saw & heard gamelan everywhere so my husband, a guitar player and music lover, didn’t hesitate when he had the opportunity to join a group and try out the metallophones.

Made, The Second Born


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Made 145 – photo credit Jim Litte


I finally asked Made, pictured above wearing hat number 145 (the number of his boat), “why are so many people named Made?” Pronounced Ma-day, this is the name given khổng lồ the second born child in Indonesian culture. First born is Wayan, third Njoman và forth Ketut. The sex of the child does not matter. When the names are written the letter ‘I’ goes before the male name và ‘Ni’ before a female name. If there are more than four children the names are simply repeated with an additional word added lớn the name.

The Original Spice Islands

The original Spice Islands are a short distance from Bali & at one time they were the only place in the world where cloves & nutmeg grew. Although it is hard for us to lớn appreciate the importance of spices in ancient times this was the beginning of the spice trade and a power struggle that lasted for centuries. For me, I simply wanted khổng lồ see, touch and taste the spices right where they came from.

The markets were crowded with the freshest local food artfully displayed. My husband took pictures of perfectly stacked vanilla beans & freshly picked cocoa beans while I bought packages of spices khổng lồ take home. Some days we shared a knotted bunch of passionfruits, a branch of rambutans or the most luscious mangosteens. Other days we sampled local specialties until we had tried them all; Soto Ayum, Gado Gado, Nasi Goreng và Chicken Satay.

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Street vendor selling satay -photo credit Jim Little


One afternoon we walked up a path behind the market to Gitgit Waterfalls. Our guide was with us but two young boys tagged along skipping in và out of the forest with the spices I wanted khổng lồ see. The first boy grabbed a leaf, folded it & held it up lớn my nose. Fresh clove he announced. Then his friend did the same with lemongrass, và they took turns showing us coffee beans, cacao beans, cinnamon, nutmeg và more. At the kết thúc of our walk they were happy khổng lồ receive a few coins for their efforts.

Durian – A Raspberry Parfait In An Outhouse

Have you heard of durian? This exotic fruit, described as having a wonderful taste not lớn be missed, with a smell so offensive it can be hard to lớn take the first bite. Travel books warn tourists of the rule, ‘no eating durian in rooms’.

I hadn’t planned to lớn eat durian, I actually planned to lớn not eat durian.

Imagine my surprise khổng lồ learn we were in Bali at the peak of durian season. Every day we saw six-foot high piles of durian at the side of the road. Then one day, Made bought us a durian. My immediate thought was; he knows that no tourist in their right mind would buy a durian. I was suddenly reminded of the story my friend Martha shared. She thought durian was like eating the most heavenly raspberry parfait, in the smelliest outhouse you could ever imagine.

Alas my story is anticlimactic. I ate the fruit but the smell of that outhouse was overwhelming và I have no memory of the taste. My travel journal says I washed my hands & bought hard, coffee-flavoured candies but the horrible after taste lasted for hours.

Tasting durian was not on my bucket các mục but that day it was checked off.

Rice Paddies From Planting khổng lồ Harvest

As we drove along the north coast to lớn Singaraja we saw the breathtaking, iconic images of mountainside rice terraces. In Bali rice grows year round and we saw the fields in every stage of growth. Fields being ploughed by hand, flooded rice paddies sparkling in the sun and a single square of sprouted plants ready to be transplanted.


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A Sprouted Field of Seedlings & Flooded Rice Paddies -photo credit Jim Little


When the rice turns from green khổng lồ golden brown the harvest begins. At the edge of the road we saw only the peaks of large, round bamboo hats protecting workers from the hot sun. As we walked into the field we saw skilled women shaking the grains of rice from the dried plants in beautiful wavy patterns. Wow, that is the rice that someone is eating in their kitchen on any given day of the week. Now that’s food for thought.


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Harvesting Rice in Bali -photo credit Jim Little


Sacks of dried kernels weigh up lớn 40 kilogram and workers carry them on their heads from the field lớn the road. The final step is khổng lồ let the rice dry in the sun. To vày this they spread plastic tarps right on the street và cover them with hundreds of kilograms of rice. As a random chicken ran across the rice I could hear my sisters’ voice saying, “you know you should always rinse your rice before you cook it”. At that moment I understood why.

Thanks to Sue and Dave for the opportunity to lớn reminisce about my long ago vacation to the island of Bali. The photos are a little grainy but sharing them here brought back many memories from that Asian adventure. I will leave you with my Indonesian chicken satay recipe, the recipe I would make if you were coming lớn my place for dinner. You might need a trip khổng lồ the store for kecap manis and tamarind but I guarantee it will be worth it.