Balinese cooking is all about balancing sweet, savoury, sour, and spicy. All recipes will usually contain these 4 elements and the trick is to find the right combination to bring out all the aromas. So what are ingredients used to bring out these “4S”?
- Sweet: Usually palm sugar, or palm sugar syrup (could be substituted with golden syrup or maple syrup)
- Savoury: Sea salt, soy sauce or shrimp paste
- Sour: Tamarind or kaffir lime
- Spicy: Chillies of various strengths
I found it really helpful to know that because it enables you to play with recipes, and easily find substitutes for ingredients you might not have in your pantry, as long as you know what their function is. So if I don’t have shrimp paste, I can always replace it with some soy sauce for example.
Try and spot the 4s’s in this recipe of green beans in coconut sauce! I like that one because it makes an original side dish, easy to replicate at home, with ingredients you can usually find at the supermarket. I never thought of pairing green beans with coconut milk.
Base: 250 g fine green beans (snake beans) – 2 tbsp fried shallots – 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded – salt to taste – 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying – shredded coconut to taste (about 4-5 tbsp) – 1 lime.
Suna cekoh (garlic and ginger paste): 2 cloves garlic – 1.5 tbsp aromatic ginger – 2 macadamia nuts – 1 tbsp turmeric – water. You can also add some red chillies for extra spiciness.
Normally you use candle nuts instead of macadamia nuts, but candle nuts can be a bit hard to find. They are used as a thickener and for that purpose macadamias (or if not cashews) will do the trick just fine.
Kua Suna-Cekoh (coconut milk sauce): 1/2 stick lemongrass, (knotted), 2 lime leaves, a pinch of white pepper, 1 cup coconut milk, 1 tbsp fried shallots, 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
1. Start by making a “suna cekoh”, an garlic and ginger paste. For this you can either use the traditional method with a mortar and pestle, or (much much easier and faster) a blender. Blend the garlic, aromatic ginger, macadamia nuts and turmeric in your blender with 30 ml water until it forms a thick paste.
Note: aromatic ginger is different from ginger in taste and is stronger. There is not really a substitute for it. So if you can’t find any (the teacher would kill me for saying that) just use galangal or ginger.
2. Saute the paste in a wok with vegetable oil over medium fire for a minute or so, then add the lemongrass and lime leaves.
3. Add the coconut milk and fried shallots. Then stir over low heat until the mixture thickens. Don’t stop stirring or the mixture can separate.
4. Trim the beans, boil them and chop roughly.
5. Mix the shredded lime leaves, the fried shallots and the sauce with the grated coconut. Add the cooked beans. Taste the food and add some extra salt, fried onions if necessary. Finish by adding the juice of a kaffir lime (in the class they even left the whole lime in the salad after juicing it).
Enjoy with some grilled fish for example, or some chicken satay (recipe soon!)
Check this link for another Bali recipe: Rujak – a sweet and sour fruit salad