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Pigs blood and liver sauce

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While in Bali I decided to pay a visit to Hujan Locale, a restaurant that prides itself in serving lesser known dishes from all over the Indonesian isles. Even though we had a reservation, we had to wait quite a bit for a table, which was a bit of a bummer, but some inventive cocktails at the bar softened the blow. Looking at the menu, there were lots of interesting dishes, but one in particular caught my eye. A confit pork belly in a sauce made of pig’s blood and liver.

The dish was presented nicely with some pork crackling and a fern tip salad, though it did all look a bit gray. Dreading the taste of the sauce I nibbled on a few bits of pork and salad before I was brave enough to try it. My initial thoughts were: “Hey, this isn’t that bad.” that slowly merged into: “Hey, this is actually pretty nice.” The sauce, though slightly iron-y, was also laced with andaliman pepper and other spices and overall had a rich flavor that complimented the pork belly quite well.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 7

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Kluwak

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The kluwak is an unusual type of nut from Indonesia that is deadly poisonous when eaten straight off the tree due to high levels of cyanide. The locals have found a way around this, however, by cooking the nuts and then burying them in ash for over a month. This leaves the flesh of the nut very soft and black, not unlike black garlic.

I had tried some of it in a few different places in Bali, including the renowned restaurant Mozaic. Here it was used to make a sauce, which was really nice and rich, but that didn’t really mean I’d like the nut itself as so many other ingredients were used. The beauty of this restaurants is, though, that they place all the local ingredients they use on your table for you to touch and smell, and in my case taste. I opened up one of the nuts, and tried a bit on its own. It really didn’t taste nutty at all, but there was a deep rick umami flavor, that was almost meaty. I can definitely see how this is a useful condiment for all kinds of meat dishes.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Salmon and wasabi chips

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Salmon and wasabi is a now classic combination, bur in potato chips it’s a pretty new concoction. The question is: “Does is work?”. The answer, I would say, is no, not really. There was just the feintest trace of fishiness to these chips, hardly enough to label them as salmon flavored. There was some wasabi, however, and not too much to make your head hurt, so at least they got that part right. If they had named these chips wasabi flavored ones, rather than salmon and wasabi, I would probably have given them a higher score, but as it stands I don’t think they quite hit the mark.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 5

Durian filled chocolate

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Durian has been my nemesis since day one on this blog. I tried it in Bali and found it taste as awful as it smells. It really does remind me of rotting onions, even though I have never tried those. Over the two years of writing my blog I have tried a variety of durian flavored products. There has been the odd occasion where I didn’t mind the durian so much, such as a durian tart served during high tea in Bangkok. This is not one of those occasions.

Dove in China has recently released a set of filled chocolates ranging from rose flavored ones to wasabi. Amongst them was also a durian filled white chocolate. Chocolate usually pairs well with just about everything. Durian, however, is the exception. It only took me one careful nibble to realise I was defeated by the king of fruits once again. Needless to say I did not enjoy it and did not finish the rest of the package. The mighty durian reigns triumphant once again.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 0

Grilled kangaroo

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You can’t go to Australia and not eat kangaroo. Well, I can’t anyway. I know some people find it strange that kangaroo is eaten, but it is no stranger than eating pigs or cows. You eat what you have available in your country, after all. That doesn’t mean that kangaroo is hugely popular though. Chicken, pork, beef and lamb still reign supreme in Australia, but it is readily available and served in many restaurants.

I had eaten a kangaroo tataki before on a trip to Tokyo, but I didn’t hesitate to try it again when it was on the menu of the Queensland Art Gallery café in Brisbane. As part of a limited edition menu pieces of grilled kangaroo were served on a flatbread with some native ingredients such as saltbush, which I will write about another time. The meat was served medium and reminded me of beef. If I had no idea what it was, I would definitely have guessed beef. That’s not at all a bad thing. After all I do like a nice piece of beef. It was cooked with care and worked well with the other ingredients to make a nice, albeit light, lunch.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Coke orange

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If you follow my blog you’ll know that when it comes to drinking soda I’m a Coke guy all the way. They don’t often come out with new and exciting flavors though, at least not here in China. In Australia, however, I was lucky to find an orange flavored Coca Cola. As a kid I would often mix Cola with Fanta, so that was kind of what I thought I’d get. The taste was a little disappointing. Yes, you could taste some orange flavor in there, but it was a bit chemical, and I think the Coke and Fanta mix would beat this one any day.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Kenari nut

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A kenari nut is a kind of nut that grows on trees that belong to the genus of Canarium, which is found mostly on the southern hemisphere. Though not all of these trees bear edible fruits or nuts, the ones in Indonesia definitely do, which is why the kenari nut is sometimes called Java almond. I don’t generally like nuts very much, so I ended up giving this a slightly higher Fear Factor than most people would, but bear with me.

I didn’t actually seek this nut out. It was presented as part of a chef’s tasting menu at acclaimed restaurant Mozaic in Ubud. The chef had candied some of the nuts as a garnish and extra texture to go along a starfruit dessert. I soon found that kenari nuts are called Java almonds for more reason than one as they do indeed resemble an almond. That’s a good thing to me as I don’t mind almonds as much as I do other nuts. They had a similar texture but also a certain sweetness. Though that could have just been because of the sugar coating.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 7

Mint cream and cookie smash KitKat

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I’m always excited to find a new flavor of KitKat. Usually it’s Japan that helps me with that, but in Australia they have their own line of KitKats. This one came from that line, but I didn’t get it while I was in Australia but rather in Singapore if you follow. The wrapper described it as “mint cream and cookie smash”.
I can’t for the life of me say anything about the cookie smash part, as I couldn’t find that anywhere, but the mint cream was definitely there. The KitKat was stuffed with a mint flavored cream, hence the name, that made the whole thing resemble an After Eight chocolate. This just happens to be one of my favorite chocolates as a kid, so it’s safe to say that I was content eating my way through the entire block of KitKat without coming up for air.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Stewed emu

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On my recent trip to Australia I wanted to experience all the different aspects of Australian culture as I could. One of the most important sides to the local culture is undeniably the aboriginal influence. I tried to seek out native Australians and their culture wherever I could. One of the more interesting places is at Tjapukai near Cairns where aboriginals show your their costumes, dance, didgeridoo and fire-making skills.

Upon arrival we were served an array of canapes, one of which was braised emu. An emu is a bird that’s very similar to an ostrich, but perhaps a little smaller, and native to Australia. Like its big brother, emu is more comparable to meat than to poultry, and you can serve it as you would a steak. In this case however the meat was stewed down and very tender. It was served with a slightly sweet native plum sauce that was a great match for the somewhat gamey meat.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 8

Mango chocolate

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Dove in China has been known to bring out some more unusual chocolate combinations. A recent batch saw the arrival of mango flavored chocolate, a pairing I had never seen before. Where most of the Dove creations in the past had been made with white chocolate, the mango one was made with regular milk chocolate. In the end there was nothing to be concerned about as the combination of the sweet mango and the creamy chocolate did indeed work. You could definitely taste the mango and the chocolate, but luckily the flavors didn’t clash.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7