Lombok: A Trip South to a Very Different Kuta Beach

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DC and I had a rental car and we took it down south to the very sleepy Kuta Beach. We passed by lots of gentle-eyed buffaloes grazing along the road…

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… and ogled at the cute, lighter-coloured calves obliviously munching away.

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At a cafe, there was a sleepy dog that epitomised the laidback atmosphere of the beach. It lay on the trademark peppercorn sand of Kuta Beach.

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Look closely at the sand and you’ll see that the little granules are round, like miniature white peppercorns.

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We later went for a walk along the beach and found more of the peppercorn sand.

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It wasn’t a fantastic white beach, not quite even up to the (not that great) standard of Kuta Beach in Bali. But there were still great views and it was a lovely walk just before the rain started coming in.

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We walked up to a rock outcrop partway out of the beach and found some slightly macabre sights, like the remnants of a heron, perhaps…

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… and the lifelike remnants of a crab’s moult.

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Luckily, there was still some life out here, as evidenced by this cute little lizard skulking its way stealthily along the rocks.

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It was then time to make the bumpy, pot-holed trip back to Mataram. We took respite from the bad road conditions by stopping at a Sasak village to have a look round. The Sasak are the indigenous people of Lombok. They are mainly Muslim and traditionally live in huts with packed-mud floors and roofs thatched with the local long grass, alang-alang. The huts in which they lived I felt were rather nondescript, and the only structure of interest was the bale, or storage shed. Its characteristic structure is the symbol of Lombok and is replicated in concrete and wood all over the main city.

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What’s a village without chickens? This cute little chick was poking around the village grounds with its brothers and sisters, learning how to fend for itself.

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And having had our fill of sleepy beach and equally sleepy village life, we headed back to Mataram. Ibu Rosa at Villa Sayang recommended Restaurant Taliwang, a local place serving up Lombok specialties. I started off with a jumbo-sized coconut drink with honey. It was really good and such a godsend because Lombok food is very spicy!

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We ordered a whole array of dishes like deep-fried tempeh (I couldn’t get enough of it), deep-fried squid, grilled gurami and vegetable soup. All of this was accompanied by copious amounts of the fiery chilli sauce made with local belacan, a kind of fermented prawn paste.

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Belacan, the smelly delight, really came into its own when turned into the local delicacy, kangkung pelecing. Here, toasted grated coconut is piled on top of toasted peanuts, and boiled beansprouts and kangkung. The kangkung is a more tender, heart-shaped leaved version of the Singaporean kangkong. Toasted belacan is worked into a spicy sauce of chilli and tomato (and probably other secret ingredients) and then poured on top of the mound of veggies. The result? An in-your-face explosion of sour, sweet, spicy and fishy that hits the taste buds with a one-two (POW!) blow. Amazing. This is one dish that I have to attempt to recreate soon.

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Rumah Makan Taliwang I
No. 20 Jalan Ade Irma Suryani
Mataram, Lombok
(Ask at Villa Sayang for exact directions)

Indian at the Esplanade

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DC and I needed some dinner before seeing the opera (how chi-chi!) at the Esplanade. We didn’t have particularly high expectations of the selection at the Esplanade. The Kebab Factory seemed interesting, so it was a whole load of carbs and curry before sitting through La Boheme. Definitely not a very wise choice, but we’re led by the tummy not really the brain. It was surprisingly good!

We started off with an interesting drink of lime, mint and cumin seed called jaljeera. It was a refreshing aperitif to prepare us for a good meal ahead. Our first dish was a palak dish that tasted a whole load better than it looked! Pushing aside the thought that it looks like gloopy baby food, the pureed spinach was smooth, creamy and quite rich. For a vegetable dish, it sure wasn’t a healthy option but at least we were eating our greens!

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The tandoori salmon I felt was a bit of a weak link. It was competently executed and the spices were fine. Too bad it was overcooked as is quite typical for Indian cooking. It resulted in a rough and not particularly pleasant texture. I liked the side salad of shredded daikon and beetroot much better.

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My favourite dish of the evening was the one with chicken balls stuffed with lamb mince. It’s not often to have something that incorporates two different types of meat. The chicken breast on the outside, quite surprisingly, wasn’t overcooked. The lamb stuffing was flavoured with tomato and it was a bit like bolognaise sauce, a very nice twist – very Indian and very Italian at the same time.

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We tried one of the wholemeal breads but that didn’t turn out too good. It was too tough and didn’t taste that great. The plain naan, on the other hand, was flavourful and fragrant. We’ll go for just the naan next time.

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Mirchi’s Kebab Factory
#02-23 Esplanade Mall
Tel: 6334 5590

The Malt Vault

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Fishball was introduced to a little place in Ann Siang Hill that specialised in single malts. The Single Maltoholics congregated at the very aptly named Malt Vault. It’s a small place, cosy with soft seats round low tables and some space by a short bar; all augmented nicely by nostalgic jazz videos playing on two screens behind the bar.

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The whisky menu was staggering. It was divided into the requisite regions of Scotland: Islay, Speyside, Island, Lowland and Campbeltown, each section replete with an eyeboggling array of whiskies. Faced with the paradox of choice, we asked the owner for recommendations. To his question of what sort of whisky we liked, the responses “peaty,” “smokey,” and “Islay” all came up. We started name-dropping our favourites from Ardberg and Laphroaig to Lagavulin. Three of us girls were very taken by the recommendation of the 1979 Caol Ila, while Mfluder had the Bunnahabhain, Jeff the Ardberg 15 and DC the Laphroaig 1998.

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Our drams arrived in proper tulip-shaped glasses that I thought very pretty. We then merrily tasted each other’s whiskys, the proceedings getting merrier the more we tasted. The Laphraoig didn’t disappoint with its characteristic wood and hospital (!) nose, smooth smoke and salty finish. My favourite of the evening was my own Caol Ila. At a whopping 60%, this fella came with a sledgehammer alcoholic kick, but oh the vanilla, honey and spice start. Chased by refined smoke and finishing off with mild salt, this was definitely a keeper. After a few sips, some orange peel came through. Such a good one to savour.

Tricia, Jeff and I scored a coup. As we tasted Jeff’s Ardberg 15, Tricia thought it tasted like cheese, while Jeff thought it was more like smoked bacon. I detected vanilla. When the owner came over to give us some pointers on the tasting, he gave exactly the same words right back to us! Now all we need to do is keep drinking together!

Aside from whiskys, Malt Vault also does exclusive Scottish beers. James and his girlfriend had Belhaven Scottish Ale, which according to Tricia is probably the smoothest, creamiest ale she’s ever tried. When Fishball finally turned up, he asked for his bottle of  Bruadar whisky liqueur. It was honey and sloe berries spiked with whisky and at first sniff was something like a body wash from The Body Shop! It was straightforward (the expected honey and berry nose and sweet taste) and very easy on the palate. Not a bad way to end the evening.

Malt Vault
Basement No. 12 Ann Siang Road
Tel: 9026 3466
mr.malt@maltvault.com.sg

Tart at Toast

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Toast, like its sister joint Marmalade Pantry, is another one of those dependables that shouldn’t go too wrong if you’re stuck in the Orchard area. A bunch of us went shopping, first just me and G, then we picked up Misa and finally HM. When the troops were assembled, we thought tea would be a good idea and wandered over to the little corner of Taka that’s Toast.

I normally go for the ice lemon tea, it’s quite different from the norm as they blend it with whole pieces of lemon so the zest flavours it nicely and it turns slightly cloudy, almost milky. I like how fresh it tastes, though I’m on the fence on the latest less-sweet formulation.

I liked the lemon meringue tart. For something that’d probably been sitting around all day, the pastry was still quite short, unlike the slightly soggy texture you invariably get with stuff that’s not fresh out of the oven. I’m quite fussy about meringue and am not keen on super high spongy peaks. This version was nicely thick with smaller air bubbles and had lovely burnt tips. It contrasted very well with the sweet-sour lemon curd. A winner.

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Toast
#02-11 Ngee Ann City
391 Orchard Road
Tel: 6733 8489

Welcome to eat.drink.cook.travel.

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Hello everyone!

I started this blog to record and share my experiences eating, drinking, cooking and travelling. I’ll document meals I’ve had at home and at restaurants in Singapore and overseas. I’ll tell you about wine tastings and wine evenings I’ve had, with forays into the world of whisky and other liqueurs. I’ll share my recipes together with thoughts on cooking and baking. I’ll also show you where I’ve travelled and share with you the adventures of being on the road. Expect  a post a week, with more in the beginning.

Enjoy!

Wai San