Back in the mid-1970s I found myself along with my partner and six-month-old son – the future CW Stoneking – ensconced in a homestay in Bali, Indonsia. Called Pak Adur’s, it was located just over the bridge at Tjampuan, across the road from where Walter Spies had worked and lived prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Back in those days there had only been one car on the island of Bali and it was more or less confined to the streets in Singaraja. Pak Adur had been Spies “houseboy”, gardner and companion; and when I met him in 1974, he was still gardening and ever the best of companions, though he spoke not a word of English and I spoke almost no Bahasa. Pak made great pancakes, but if you wanted a proper meal, the best places to go in those days were in Ubud, about a kilometre away from Adur’s. We’d walk down in the early evening and eat at either Oka Wati’s – who had great black bean soup – or at Tjanderi’s, a losman-cum-eating place named after its extraordinary owner, a rather ageless and beautiful woman – funny, smart, capable, strong and wise.
Over the intervening years and visits I spent many hours in her company, and can say unequivocably that she had a very powerful affect on me at a time in my life when it was most needed. Same with Pak Adur. Both of these human beings taught me so much about storytelling, and listening and the art of service, of being of service to others – they taught me a lot about love. When I was there in ’74, CW was a round, pale blond baby. He would often disappear for hours, trundled off by either Pak Adur or Tjanderi, who would take him in their arms and show him giant hibiscus flowers or ancient carvings, or feed him delicacies by hand as they cooed to himin Balinese. He became rather legendary during that first visit because he was such a new baby and so different. In those days, tourist babies were exceedingly uncommon, and CW’s sudden presence earned him a degree of noteriety, as well as the moniker, “the White Buddha”.
All that seems like such a long time ago now, and it is, but Tjanderi – like Pak Adur – goes on and on – at least in my imagination. They became part of me, and have remained part of me and what I am.
So, today, I got to thinking about how I might share something of Tjanderi with my readers, with you, even though you might never have been to Bali. And I rmembered what a great cook she was, and thought why not share some of her culinary genius – so that no matter where you are you might indulge at least in some of the smells and tastes that formed a small part of the atmosphere that one found at Tjanderi’s (BTW, she is mentioned in the song “(I’e Been To Bali Too” by Redgum”. If her name sounds familiar, that might be where you heard it.)
LISTEN to I’ve Been To Bali Too
Tjanderi’s menu was always an adventure, and one hardly knew where to start or end. I have to confess, I ODed on her food every time I stayed in Bali, more times than I ought to admit to. But it was so good, and, when washed down with a Bintang, well, it was like dying and going to heaven.
So, let’s start with her famous Nasi Campur, and then move on to the Gado Gado
1 large chicken (1½ kg)
3 tablespoons oil for frying
4 lime leaves
3 salam leaves
2 knots of lemongrass
3-4 cups water
4 red shallots
7 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
5 large red chilli, seeds removed
5 small chillies
2 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Â¼ teaspoon sesame seeds
2 stalks of lemongrass
3 tablespoons galangal
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons kencur
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons tamarind, seeds removed
I tablespoon palm sugar
Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Place the spices in the container of an electric food processor and blend to a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary. You can use a coffee grinder to grind the seeds and nuts.
Alternatively, chop the spices with a cleaver.
Heat the oil in a wok over a medium flame and sautÃ© the spices until fragrant and glossy or for about a minute, pushing the spices back and forth in the wok. Add the aromatic leaves and toss around together for half a minute.
Add the water and the whole chicken.
Simmer for an hour or until cooked. Check seasonings.
Serve with steamed rice and topped with fried onion.
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 200g snake beans, cut into 4cm lengths
- 200g Chinese cabbage, shredded
- 250g choy sum, roughly chopped
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, halved
- 250g bean sprouts
- 2 peeled potatoes, boiled, cubed
- Peanut sauce (see related recipe), to dress
- Blanch the beans, cabbage and choy sum separately in boiling salted water until just tender. Refresh briefly in cold water, then drain. Gently toss with eggs, sprouts and potatoes, and serve drizzled with the peanut sauce.