I go through phases where I am so inspired that I will stay up well into the morning painting or furiously scribbling down ideas. Other times, the well is dry. Some trips take longer to unpack. I'll write about a place and the post will sit there, half-finished for weeks or months. Semi-rendered illustrations lie scattered between the pages of several notebooks. Hundreds of photos pass my eyes but I don't see them- not really. How could I possibly deal with them when I don't feel anything while looking at them? They are nothing but ideas-in-waiting as I wait for the inspiration to return; feeling ashamed or lazy every day that it doesn't. But why? What's the rush? There isn't one, so instead of impatiently forcing something that isn't there I'm trying to let things to happen in their own time.
That is why I love cooking so much, it still allows me to create something even on days when I'm not feeling particularly motivated, and that keeps me sane.
"When you're not creating something, Something else is creating you" - j. birdsmith
And then, just like that, with a glimpse of a pretty sculpture, or the start of a delicious new book, or an email with an exciting new opportunity landing in my inbox (which I can hopefully share with you all soon) IT comes back and I'm buzzing about again. Phew.
Before leaving for Indonesia, the weather forecast led me to believe that I would be greeted with rain showers, so I booked a cooking class for my first full day there. It also happened to be the day after the US Presidential Election, and I also happened to be the only American in a class full of people from Australia, Singapore, England, and Italy. It was really fun while I was busy chopping up chili peppers to have people randomly say "Trump?!" , eyebrow raised, to see my response (I was kind of hoping I had accidentally ended up in some alternate reality or dimension during the flight and was sure that when I got home all that I was seeing on the news would not be true; unfortunately not the case). I made a mental note to tell everyone I was Canadian for the rest of my time abroad.
After the driver plucked me out of my villa bright and early in the morning, we stopped by the local market on the way to cooking class to learn about some of the ingredients that we would be using in our dishes. Bali is not only sweltering but also has a thick, dense humidity as well; the market is held indoors in a dimly lit building which I'm sure helps keep the fruits, veggies, and meats from frying in the sun.
Outside of the market entrance, you can find flowers and woven palm leaves for sale for offerings to the Gods.
Different chili pastes and citrusy basil:
Snakeskin fruit not only looks like snakeskin but feels like it too! Since I had never seen or eaten one before my first thought was "can we make purses and shoes with this?!", and then, "what does it taste like?!". Snakeskin fruit has the texture that is a cross between an apple and pineapple, and has a very mild pineapple flavor.
AFTER OUR TIME AT THE MARKET, IT WAS TIME TO USE SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS WE LEARNED ABOUT IN A FEW RECIPES...
Cooking class was held in a traditional Balinese kitchen:
We had a small breakfast of a few different Indonesian sweets and snakeskin fruit before getting started.
No food processors here! Chili peppers, garlic, onions, shallots were all ground by hand with a mortar and pestle to make the pastes that we would use in several different dishes.
I was so slow at grinding this paste (my mind tends to wander while doing a repetitive task) that the instructor had his assistant take over towards the end. The finished paste was fragrant, glistening, and worth all the [half]work.
Wrapping some of the meat we marinated in banana leavess, to be steamed later.
Indonesian stir fried noodles, or Mie Goreng. My favorite dish of the day! (other than dessert of course)
Fried rice, or Nasi Goreng, which you can find on the menu of nearly every restaurant in town.
Gado Gado is a vegetable salad dressed with peanut sauce. Luckily I picked up some peanut paste at the market, so I can recreate this dish at home!
Our completed feast.
And finally, dessert! These thin crepe- like pancakes got their vibrant green color from Pandan, which are tropical leaves typically used in south and southeast asian foods for their color and flavor. They were stuffed with shredded and caramelized coconut. We had a second dessert of black rice pudding with coconut milk.
Out of all the 8 (!) dishes we made, the Mie Goreng was my favorite because it really reminded me of Filipino Pancit. Many of the dishes we made included a thick, mollases- like sweet soy sauce called KECIP MANIS, and the aforementioned lots o' work chili paste; so it differs from pancit in that it is slightly sweet as well as spicy.
I adapted this recipe from my fellow MasterChef alum Seonkyoung Longest. (her youtube channel is full of easy to follow Asian recipes, so definitely check her out)
For the sauce:
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. Kecap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 tbsp. chili paste
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
1/2 c. chicken stock
For the stir-fry:
16 oz. egg noodles (I used fresh, but you can use dried- whatever your preference)
2 tbsp. cooking oil, divided
4 oz. chicken thigh or breast, cut into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrot
3 generous handfuls green leaf vegetable such as box choy or green cabbage
1 cup beansprouts
* 3 eggs (optional, to fry and garnish Mie Goreng)
1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for sauce, and set aside.
2 . Prepare your egg noodles by following directions of package you are using.
3. Heat oil in a wok or cast iron pan over high heat; add chicken seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook chicken until it is no longer pink. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. In same pan, add remaining oil and sliced onions. Cook until slightly translucent; about 3-4 minutes. Add chopped garlic and shallot. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes, watching garlic carefully as it can burn real fast in such a hot pan. Not that it ever happens to me!
5. Add carrots and green leaf vegetable, stir fry until vegetables are soften, about 1 minute. Stir in prepared egg noodles and pour sauce we made earlier. Toss and stir until everything is combines, about 2 to 3 minutes. There shouldn’t be any liquid on bottom of wok.
6. Add in beansprouts and cooked chicken, stir until combined. Remove from heat.
7. For garnish, you can fry up a few eggsand put right on top of Mie Goreng. You can also scramble the egg after you add the cooked noodles.