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Grilled fish Bali style

"Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it's a start."

Anthony Bourdain

This is a lucky dip because I am completely uninspired today. And I suspect that I shan't have much to say about this one, other than "oh to be in Bali eating whole spiced grilled fish" which was going to be my original title for the post.

I have discarded it because I'm not sure I actually want to go to Bali. Well not in a Melbourne summer anyway. I have been to Bali - twice - and stayed in sumptuous hotels because both times were sort of business trips - once at Club Med - which is, well, Club Med - and the other at one of the big Nusa Dua hotels. The latter was one of those prize trips but the difference was that David was organising it. Well not literally - there were professionals doing that - but he was responsible and so there was a certain amount of anxiety associated with it all.

We did eat some Balinese food - I remember one memorable meal in the interior perched in a restaurant high above one of the river gorges, down which we had all been treated to a little bit of white water rafting. I cannot remember its name but I remember the view and that the food was 'authentic' and delicious.

I think, as part of the special treatment that David and I - as the hosts - received we were given this cookbook. And I see that the book was published in association with the Hyatt hotels - which is probably where we stayed, although somehow or other I thought it was the Sheraton. One of the big chains anyway. Beautiful of course, tasteful, luxurious and I vaguely remember them making a big thing about recycling water and sewage and all that. So maybe not too evil.

It was a long time ago - before the bombings and before COVID. My son tells me we should go again and rent a villa somewhere away from the worst of tourist Bali. Maybe one day although I have looked at it a few times - it's tempting because of the bargain prices - but it's such a long way away. Not as far away as Europe I know, but far enough to be a pain. You lose two whole days getting there and back.

But back to the lucky dip. I'm sure I have done the book before as it's located on one of the shelves I have dealt with in my First recipe exercise. No, today I am lucky dipping and incidentally the recipe I chose is actually the cover recipe - Be Pasih Mepanggang.

Honestly what is there to say about this delicious looking snapper? You get your fish. You smother it in Be pasih spice paste (I think this link will take you to the identical recipe in this book). Leave it for a few hours it suggests, for the spices to sink in and then barbecue it over charcoal. That's it. Couldn't be simpler. Even the spice paste ingredients don't pose too big a challenge these days - maybe the candlenuts.

It's not that other Indonesian/Malaysian dish Ikan Bakar but that's because there is a subtle difference. For the Ikan Bakar you wrap the fish in banana leaves before grilling - so not as charred. The one shown here is a delicious. recipe from Diane Chan so semi authentic I guess. And honestly when you compare pictures of my book's fish and pictures of Ikan bakar there often doesn't seem to be much difference. In appearance anyway. There is probably a world of difference in taste. Maybe the spice mix is totally different.

Mankind has been grilling fish over coals since forever - since he first caught a fish almost. And by the time of all those ancient civilisations they had learnt that they were tastier if smothered in stuff - herbs, spices, nuts, lemon juice, oil, yoghurt ... Anything you can think of. And to this day people are dreaming up new spice mixes. I'm guessing that like virtually all spice blends in the world there is not one master recipe for the Balinese spice mix for fish. Indeed I think it was Meera Sodha - some chef whose work I have been reading recently anyway - who said that you should never use a ready-made spice mix. Make your own. Which is what every chef in the world seems to be doing at the moment. And I do occasionally have a go myself I suppose. Nothing complicated but over the years you learn what goes with what and so you can experiment a little.

Like I said - uninspired today. Apologies.


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