A sampler of Sasak cuisine
From the comfort of my seat I watched as our waitress carried a clear plastic bag of chillies into the kitchen, presumably to be chopped up and used in the sauce for our homemade ayam taliwang. As we came down from our three-day trek on Mount Rinjani, during which we were fed vast quantities of banana pancakes, spaghetti, and even a burger with fries, Bama was excited about the prospect of returning to the rich flavours of Indonesian fare. “I’ve been craving something spicy!”
Arriving in Kuta, we were thrilled to learn that Third Moon Café – the restaurant attached to our small hotel – served a good selection of local dishes. Washed down with tall glasses of blended pineapple, mango and papaya, we would try out every single one over the next four days.
Ayam taliwang, a sweet and spicy grilled chicken slathered in an addictive blend of coconut, chilli, garlic and shrimp paste, was the perfect introduction to Lombok’s Sasak cuisine. It instantly became one of my favourite Indonesian dishes, so much so that I would sometimes enjoy it twice a day. Pelecing kangkung looked deceptively tame, a veritable mound of water spinach, beansprouts and grated coconut served with raw tomato and chilli sambal – packing a secret punch that seemed to explode off the tongue.
We could not resist the pepes seafood, a delightful jumble of fish, shrimp and squid, wrapped in banana leaf and held in position by several strategically-placed toothpicks; or the skewers of sate pusut ayam dipped in a rich peanut sauce. Ikan bakar pelecing, grilled fish cooked in sambal, proved much milder than I had anticipated, while urap-urap was a pleasure with its heaps of freshly shredded coconut, infused with an aromatic blend of spices. One of the many joys of Indonesia is its culinary diversity, and Lombok clearly did not disappoint.