Since returning from my weekend in Bali earlier this week, I have been constantly thinking of my very humble but exceedingly delectable meal of babi guling at warung Karya Rebo, a simple eaterie at Kedonganan in Jimbaran. Babi guling, as many would know, is one of the most iconic dishes of Bali — suckling pig marinated in turmeric and other spices, roasted over a charcoal fire until the skin is crisp, and the meat juicy and tender.
This warung, or local eaterie, isn’t fancy. There’s no aesthetics to speak of, but it is clean and comfortable. It serves only babi guling, for which it is well known among locals in Jimbaran. Sure, lots of people would have heard of Ibu Oka in Ubud, but there are other good places to find this iconic Balinese dish which is just as good. Rebo is one of these. This is my second time there, and both times, the food was consistently delectable.
When you enter, just find a table and tell the ladies behind the counter how many are eating. The food comes quickly — rice, a small portion of babi guling with crackling, a side dish of long beans and a lemongrass and shallot sambal. This simple meal is a playground of flavours — piquant, spicy, sweet, umami, fiery, light and low. Depending on how you combine and pair the little morsels with the rice, you get a different combination of taste sensations.
The pork was good – tender, moist, discreetly flavoured by the spices. But it was the sambal that really struck me. I spent the next few days trying to first identify what it was, then look up the recipe. I think I found it, and tried it yesterday. It isn’t very pretty but the flavours are lovely — sweetness from the shallots, tangy fragrant from the lemongrass and lime juice, a touch of fiery from the chillies, depth from the garlic, and all pulled together by a good lashing of oil. Have this as an accompaniment to white rice, or serve it on the side with slow roasted pork belly or grilled chicken.
(The bill came up to 220,000 RP which is about S$22 or US$16. We are quite sure it was the ‘tourist price’ but it’s still an inexpensive meal for three.)
Lemongrass and Shallot Sambal
1 bulb garlic, skinned and chopped fine
5-6 shallots, skinned and chopped fine
3 lemongrass (only the tender white ends), sliced fine
2 chilli padi, sliced fine (remove seeds)
3 kaffir lime leaves, middle vein removed, then sliced fine
3 slices galangal, chopped fine
4 Tbsp oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of lime
Combine all the ingredients and serve raw, or sauté all the ingredients except the lime juice, in a pan for about 5 mins. Add the lime juice last and serve.