Adventures living as expats.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kinawa, Komodo, Rinca Islands - Dirty 30 part 1

Jeff planned THE BEST EVER birthday trip for my dirty 30 this year.  We set off last week for our 6 day trip to Flores, an Indonesian island east of Java.  We flew into Lebuan Bajo which is launching point for going to Komodo National Park, home to the Komodo dragons.  Since the park and surrounding water has been protected from destructive fishing, the coral and marine life are pristine and extremely diverse.  

After we arrived, we took a boat to our bungalows on the small Kinawa Island.  There are maybe 20 bungalows and 1 restaurant on the island.  We arrived and had a beautiful but unsteady walk to the beach along the rickety dock.  The water was incredibly clear and there was a bunch of sea urchins waiting below to add a little excitement to the walk.
Hati-hati (careful)
Our first night was a bit of a bummer after a long day of travel.  The restaurant ran out of chicken, fish, and pizza so we had white rice with soggy veggies and a plate of bland pasta.  They did have cold Bintang though which was a relief.  Next, our fancy new camera broke (after a little googling we discovered that there is a recall for the specific problem).  Luckily Jeff threw in his trusty old point and shoot that's managed to survive a lot of abuse including a dive from bleachers onto concrete.  Finally, in the middle of the night Jeff had a huge cockroach (I mean literally 1.5 inches long) fall on top of him.  It turns out mosquito netting is great to keep little bugs out, but makes a perfect ladder for giant roaches.  Well Jeff completely smashed the guy and one of his friends and we were never bothered again.  Guess they learned their lesson.

Our last pictures before the dreaded "Lens Error"
The rest of the trip only got better and better.  We spent the next 2 days boating, exploring, and snorkeling.  We saw Rinca Island and spotted about a dozen Komodo dragons.  They are ugly and scary, but so fascinating to watch.  It was the time of year that the mama dragons are guarding their eggs so we got to see a few nests.

Next up, tons of snorkeling!  We were so lucky to see a squid, octopus, puffer fish, stingray, turtle, lion fish, and sea snake.  The squid was swimming around and changing colors with the different coral.  Sometimes he was really dark, other times blue, and could even disguise himself with spots.  The turtle was just cruising around, and had a large fish following him everywhere rubbing against his shell.  Maybe he was cleaning him off?  The grand finale of the trip was Manta Point where we saw about 8 manta rays.  They were so big and majestic.  Watching them swim was incredible because they would barely move their "wing" fins, but they were swimming along pretty fast up-current.  I would kick with my fins as hard as I could and still not keep up.  

We also went to the famous Pink Beach on Komodo Island.  The red coral just offshore has turned the sand pinkish.  

The Kinawa part of the trip was fantastic, but after 3 nights I was getting a little island fever (and was seriously craving a glass of wine).  For the second part of the trip we headed to Lebuan Bajo, for now here are the pics of the trip.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to make Rendang Ayam

A CNN poll posted on Facebook ranked Rendang as #1 of the 50 World's Most Delicious Foods.   Rendang is most commonly made with beef, but can also be made with chicken, duck, or eggs.  I learned how to make the chicken version this week and left the class stuffed.  I can see why so many people like it - it's decadent and similar to curry, but with very Indonesian flavors.


  • 1 chicken - cut into 10 pieces
  • 1 liter coconut milk
  • 5 cm galangal - peeled and sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 turmeric leaves (see pic below) - tied in a knot
  • 2 lemongrass stalks - tied in a knot
  • 2 salam leaves
  • 3 T oil
Spice Paste Ingredients:
  • 1 T coriander seed
  • 10 sliced shallots
  • 10 candlenuts
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 7 long, mild red chillies
  • 3 small, spicy chillies
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  1. Combine the spice paste ingredients in a food processor and grind to a paste, adding a little water if needed to keep the mixture turning.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok and stir-fry paste for 3-4 minutes (a little longer if you added water in step 1).  
  3. Add the galangal, lime leaves, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, and salam leaves and stir-fry a few more minutes.  
  4. Add the chicken and cook for 5-7 mins, stirring to fully coat with the spice paste.
  5. Add coconut milk slowly, stirring often to keep it from breaking.  Bring to a boil.
  6. Cook, stirring often until the coconut milk has thickened ~ 20 mins.  Typically the sauce is reduced significantly, but I prefer a little more liquid.
  7. Serve with rice.
Turmeric leaves
Step 4
Step 5

Friday, October 12, 2012

Yam Woom Sen and Tom Kha Ghai

You may be tired of the cooking posts, but I've found that writing that recording the recipe here helps me a ton when I try to make the dish later on.  So hang in there.  :-)

I think our teacher for Thai cooking has saved the best recipes for the last few classes.  This week we made Yam Woom Sen (glass noodle salad) and Tom Kha Ghai (chicken and coconut milk soup).  This was the first time I've tried the glass noodle salad, but found a new favorite dish.  It is very light and refreshing, perfect for the weather here in Jakarta.

Yam Woom Sen

  • 1 cup dry mushrooms
  • 200 gram glass noodles
  • 150 gram small shrimp, boiled and halved
  • 150 gram cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 5 T fresh lime juice
  • 5 T fish sauce
  • 4 T sugar
  • 1 onion diced 
  • 1/2 cup green onion julienned (white part only)
  • 1 cup mild red chili, seeded and julienned
  • 1/2 cup gram chopped cilantro
  • Lettuce leaves for garnish
  1. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes and rinse with cold water
  2. Soak the noodles in hot water for 10 minutes and drain well
  3. In a large bowl mix the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar.  Add the chicken, shrimp and noodles and mix well.  Stir in the mushrooms, onion, green onion, red chili, and cilantro.  
  4. Place lettuce leaves on serving dish and pile salad on top.
Tom Kha Ghai
  • 250 gram chicken breast, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced diagonally
  • 3 cm galangal sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1 fresh finger length chili, seeded and julienned
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Heat chicken stock, coconut milk, and galangal in stockpot and bring to boil.  Simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Add lime leaves, chicken, fish sauce, red chili and simmer until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Stir in lime juice and cilantro, remove from heat, and serve.  
Note: Don't eat the slices of galangal or lemongrass.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Make Gado-Gado

Gado-Gado is a popular Indonesian salad found at many gerobuks, food courts, and restaurants here in Jakarta.  It consists of boiled vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, carrots, and green beans and is covered in copious amounts of peanut sauce, then topped with fried shallots, fried tofu, fried shrimp crackers, and a hard boiled egg.  The sauce is delicious but in small quantities - typically Jeff and I prefer to pick out the veggies that escape the flood.  Of course I had to try it at home and put a little healthier twist on it.

Peanut sauce ingredients

  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 cup green beans cut into 1" lengths
  • 1/4 head cabbage thinly sliced
  • 1-2 hard boiled eggs sliced (if desired)
  • Sauteed tofu (if desired) 
Peanut Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 finger length chilies (mild), deseeded and sliced
  • 1 bird's-eye chili (spicy), deseeded and sliced
  • 1" fresh kencur root, peeled and sliced (substitute ginger since this may be hard to find)
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 3 T kecap manis (sweet soy sauce - substitute regular soy sauce and a bit of brown sugar)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 t fresh lime juice 
  1. Make the peanut sauce by coarsely grinding the peanuts, garlic, chilies, and kencur in a food processor.  Add a little water if needed to keep the mixture turning.  
  2. Add the peanut mixture, lime leaf, kecap manis, salt, and water to a saucepan and simmer on low for about 1 hour stirring every 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.
  3. Blanch the vegetables in salted, boiling water for the following times: green beans - 5 mins, cabbage - 3 mins, carrots and bean sprouts - 2 mins, and spinach - 1 min.  Add them to the pot in order listed so they are finished at the same time.  Remove from heat and drain well.
  4. Arrange the salad on a serving dish and top with a few spoonfuls of the Gado-Gado sauce.  Add eggs and/or tofu.  Serve the remaining sauce on the side for those that want extra.  Selamat makan (bon appetit)!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Birthday Trip to Krakatau

For Jeff's birthday trip, we went to Krakatau this weekend. Krakatau erupted in 1883 destroying 2/3's of the island and causing a tsunami that killed over 36,000 people. The noise from the eruption is thought to be the loudest sound in recent history. In 1927 Anak (child) Krakatau emerged from the ocean and has been growing and erupting ever since.

During the boat ride we saw a group of dolphins but were too far away to get a picture unfortunately. After viewing Krakatau, we stopped at Anak (child) Krakatau for some snorkeling. It was amazing how different the coral was from what we saw at Nusa Lembongan, maybe it's from the sulfur and ash of the volcano. We even spotted a purple starfish!
Fishing boat along the way to Krakatau

Next we went looking for a place to camp. The main camping area on Anak Krakatau was crowded so we set up around the corner thinking we had found a secluded spot under the volcano. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing all the fumes right through the camp though so we packed up and headed to Mother Krakatau instead. When we got there, we were so glad we moved because the scenery was gorgeous.

We had a beautiful, lush black sand beach all to ourselves with views of Anak Krakatau smoking and steaming.

View of Anak Krakatau
Through cunning and stealth, we evaded our 4 tour guides (yes 4 guides for 2 people??) and set our tent up ourselves.  Next, we wandered around the beautiful beach for a few hours and relaxed.

We had a grilled fish dinner on the beach by the campfire. After some more relaxing, they brought out a birthday cake for Jeff and even sang to him. It was a perfect evening.

Our breakfast of champions the next morning was instant mocha coffee, white toast, and BBQ chicken flavored Kraft cheese singles. Afterwards we packed up and set off for a trek on Anak Krakatau. The hike was short but difficult because the footing was mostly volcanic ash/sand. Think hiking on the beach straight uphill.

We cooled off afterwards with some more snorkeling and tested out our waterproof camera case.

After arriving back at the dock, we shared the rest of Jeff's birthday cake with some local kids that were brave enough to practice their English with us.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Green Chicken Curry & Som Tam (Papaya Salad)

Green curry is one of my favorites.  In fact, I rarely order anything else in Thai restaurants because I'm so addicted.  It's an understatement to say I was excited to learn (and taste) the dish in cooking class this week.  Everyone in the class loved the dish as well and I think it was the first time we finished all the food.  

  • 850 gr chicken - sliced thinly
  • 2 cups baby eggplant - quartered and soaked in salt water
  • 1 stalk chopped lemongrass
  • 3 T chopped coriander (leaves and stems)
  • 3 T chopped spring onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 5 green chilies seeded and chopped + 3 diagonally sliced
  • 1 cm galangal chopped
  • 2 t ground coriander seed
  • 1 t ground pepper
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 400 mL coconut milk
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 C basil
  1. Combine the lemongrass, coriander, spring onion, garlic cloves, 5 chilies, galangal, ground coriander seed, and pepper in a food processor and grind to a paste.  Use a small amount of coconut milk if needed to keep the mixture moving.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry curry paste until fragrant (4-5 mins).  
  3. Add coconut milk, lime leaves, and fish sauce.  Simmer for 5-10 mins.
  4. Add chicken and simmer for a few minutes.  Add eggplant, salt, and sugar and simmer until cooked through.  Add sliced chilies and basil at the last minute.  Serve with rice.
I immediately went to the store and got the ingredients so I could make if for Jeff.  I simmered the coconut milk in step 3 for the full 10 minutes and the sauce reduced a little too much so next time I will lower the time.  The flavors were still fantastic and its a new favorite recipe.

My version
We also made papaya salad which I'd never had before, but may have to start ordering in restaurants.  It was very refreshing and went well with the curry.


  • 500 gr green papaya peeled and cut in matchsticks
  • 50 gr dried shrimp
  • 50 gr sugar
  • 5 T fish sauce
  • 5 T fresh lime juice
  • 4 t mashed garlic
  • 4 T sweet chili sauce
  • 50 gr chopped peanut
  • Lettuce, cucumber, green beans, red chili, and cabbage to garnish
  1. Wash the papaya in cold water and drain.  Repeat several times.
  2. Soak the shrimp in hot water for 10 minutes.  Then drain, clean, and chop.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and sweet chili sauce together.  Add the papaya and chopped peanut.
  4. Arrange garnish veggies on plate and top with papaya salad.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Weekend Getaway to Bandung, Lembang

Well I was starting to get a bit of cabin fever again, so we decided on Thursday to go to Bandung for the weekend.  It's a city about 2.5 hours from Jakarta and at a higher elevation so the weather is cool.  We left around 6:30 AM to beat the traffic and were lucky to get to our first stop ahead of the crowd.

We drove straight to Mt. Tangkuban Perahu to see Kawah Ratu (Queen's Crater).  We could really hear and smell the gases coming from the crater.

Next we hiked to Kawah Domas which is another crater that has several hot springs.  One is supposed to be really good for your skin, so I dipped my legs in to try it out.

Another one of the springs is hot enough to boil eggs in 3 minutes and you can walk right up to it, no fences or protective barriers like the States would have.

For lunch we tried some Sundanese food, which is a cuisine common in West Java.  We sat on the floor and had ayam bakar (grilled chicken), ikan bakar (grilled fish), and stir fried veggies (similar to spinach).  The food was so delicious and we were both stuffed.

Wikitravel recommend a hot springs nearby, so we went to try it out.  At first we were extremely self conscious because we were the only bulai's there and my bikini was in sharp contrast to the typical female swim gear that covered everything from head to foot.  Once we got in the water and drank our coconuts we were feeling much better though.

When we drove into our hotel later, we couldn't help cracking up with laughter.  The architecture was styled after a Roman Kingdom, but not in a subtle way.  The pictures don't do it justice.  A few beers helped improve the view luckily.

For dinner we headed to what we thought was going to be a romantic dinner overlooking the lights of Bandung at a restaurant called The Peak.  Getting back to our hotel after dinner turned into a fiasco.  We ended up having to beg some nice ladies leaving the restaurant for a ride to Bandung where we could catch a cab back up the mountain to our hotel in Lembang.  Hitchhiking in Indonesia - check.

Sunday morning we headed to Dago Pakar for some hiking and waterfall viewing.  We got lost on the way and ended up taking the scenic route which included several very steep dirt roads.  Off-roading in our minivan - check.  Once we got there it was well worth the drive to see the beautiful scenery and try some grilled corn mid hike.
Great views along the hike
We were asked about a dozen times to take pictures with people along the way

Our corn didn't last long
Maribaya Waterfall
We're rested and recharged for another week in the big city.