In the midst of my world travel sabbatical, I’ve somehow found myself settling into one place for a relative while. Happily and unexpectedly, Ubud, Bali has become my home for the month. I live in a 2-story bungalow gazing over rice paddies and motorbike to “work” everyday (yeah, work…I took a temporary job at a raw vegan ice cream start-up in town…Sacred Scoops, check em out!).
I also get to eat the most delicious organic food and fresh tropical fruit and raw chocolate treats and that might explain why I’ve been so captivated by this place actually.. I just feel so nourished here. Almost all produce is locally grown from the bountiful Balinese soil and prepared with true love and care.
There is a deep connection in this place between land and heart and appreciation for food is palpable everywhere from the Indonesian warungs to the organic food stores to the homemade offerings of food that sit outside homes.
Excited to again have a kitchen- albeit it a super shitty one- I’ve started doing some cooking. If nothing else, it helps me to feel at home and gives me an excuse to properly explore all of the tantalizing food markets.
There’s quite a divide here between locals and ex-pats, in terms of stores and restaurants and taste and price in general (although both coexist peacefully). The resounding theme though, is healthful, nutritious food. It’s truly everywhere.
The Balinese do their shopping at the Ubud market – all between 6 and 7 am. You’ll notice all the women driving through the city in the early morning with stalks of spinach and bamboo and heaps of fruit coming out each end of their motorbikes.
Several upscale, organic restaurants and niche shops, on the other hand, cater to expats – still offering reasonable prices in my book, but the selection is perhaps different. In addition to produce and spices, you can find all the amazing western health foods that I’ve so missed from home, from delicious chocolate cashew granola to brown bread to coconut kefir drinks.
Anywho, inspired by the Japanese eggplant I found at one of the organic markets and also by the delicious-looking red rice and yellow split pea dish my neighbor made the other night (kitcheri- which ill be making soon) and finally by all of the Indian restaurants here- tonight I made a spicy eggplant curry dish. It came out wonderfully, in spite of the shoddy pot and baby pan I have to work with.
1 Japanese eggplant
1 bunch spinach
Red rice – 2/3 cup
Water – 4-6 cups
Split peas – 1/2 cup
Ginger – 1-inch cube
Garlic – 4 cloves
Green chilies – 3 small
Curry powder (mild) – 2-3 tbsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Honey – 1 tsp
Soybean oil (coconut would be tastier if you have on hand though) – 2-3 tbsp
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot on low heat.
2. Chop ginger, garlic and chili pepper. Put aside half of each to use later. Add the remaining half to pot.
3. Stir spices til golden and fragrant, being careful not to burn. Around 2 minutes.
4. Add rice to the pot, stirring to coat in spices. 1-2 minutes.
5. Add 3 cups water to the pot, and turn heat to high.
6. Add split peas once water is boiling.
7. Cover pot and reduce heat to bring to a simmer. While working on the eggplant mixture, continue stirring and add water as needed (you shouldn’t need more than 1 cup more though).
8. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the eggplant and sprinkle each open-faced half with salt. Allow eggplant to sit out for 10 minutes, until you see it releasing moisture.
9. Once eggplant has sweated, dice into chunks.
10. In a new pan, heat 2 tbsp oil on low. Add remaining garlic, ginger and chili pepper, again stirring til fragrant.
11. Add eggplant and 1/4 cup water to the pan, keeping mixture at a simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 or so minutes, covered, and add water as you notice the eggplant sticking to the bottom of the pan.
12. Add 2 tbsp curry powder to the mixture, along with 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp salt. Stir for 5 minutes longer.
13. Chop spinach and add to eggplant mixture, once again covering. Steam for another 5 minutes, still adding water as necessary. You should see the eggplant mixture breaking down into a more mushy paste.
14. Add 2 tbsp curry powder to the rice and pea mix. It should be nearly done at this point, having simmered for 40-45 minutes.
15. Taste test both dishes, adding more curry powder and salt as necessary. Remove both from heat when rice and peas are cooked through and eggplant has lost all its bitterness and has dissolved into a sweet soft consistency.
16. Combine both in one bowl, garnishing with lime or herbs or fried egg (highly recommend the latter). Done!