As an attempt to immerse myself in the local culture every time I travel, sampling local dishes is always on my must-do list. Many times I was impressed and delighted with the richness and uniqueness of the flavors I tasted. Or lahm in Laos and shish kebab in Turkey were some that left me wanting for more.
In my recent trip to Lombok with James, we embarked on yet another local culinary experience as we did on our previous journeys. Lombok, which coincidentally means chili in Javanese, boasts some of the most widely-known local dishes in Indonesia due to its bold and exotic flavors. Sasak people – Lombok’s indigenous residents – are quite adventurous in mixing the spices in their cooking.
“Where can we have local food in a restaurant nearby?” I asked Nella, the lady at the reception of our hotel.
“We have it here,” she responded with a big smile on her face.
Pelecing kangkung, a local salad made from water spinach, beansprouts and grated coconut drenched in fiery and sour mixture of chili and raw tomato dressing, takes salad to a whole new level. Meanwhile ayam taliwang, sweet grilled chicken in spicy coconut-based sauce, was so addictive that we had it almost every day, with gradually increasing levels of spiciness each day as I requested.
Other tasty selections of Sasak cuisine include sate pusut ayam, minced chicken grilled on skewers and served with peanut sauce; pepes seafood, frutti di mare steamed in banana leaves; and urap-urap, a mixture of steamed long beans, beansprouts, cabbages, and grated coconut seasoned with chili, garlic, shallot, and galangal similar to Javanese urap.
Third Moon Café, the restaurant at our hotel, proves to be a perfect place to sample authentic Sasak cusine, successfully making James put ayam taliwang on his list of favorite Indonesian dishes. Sasak dishes did not disappoint at all, but my journey to sample a wide array of traditional Indonesian food has only just begun.