Fried duck egg

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A duck egg might not sound all that unusual to you, but I had never eaten one before as it’s not a common ingredient in Holland. During my trip to Bali earlier this year I had breakfast at a little restaurant that’s run by the same people as the famous Locavore restaurant. Here I ordered waffles with bacon and fried duck eggs.

The first thing I noticed was that the yolks were considerably bigger than those of regular hen’s eggs. Though for some reason I was expecting a more orange colored yolk. Tasting it, I could not distinguish any difference from a regular hen’s egg. I know other people say they can, so perhaps I just have bad taste buds. Anyway, the dish itself was really nice with the combination of chewy bacon, fluffy waffles and velvety eggs.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

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Saltbush

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Traveling is always a great opportunity to sample some of the local products. This has been definitely the case for my visit to Australia with plenty of locally sourced ingredients up for grabs such as kangaroo, emu and wallaby. However, it wasn’t just the protein that was intriguing, but the herbs and spices as well.

One of the more widely used herbs is saltbush. It is a leaf that is known for its salty taste, hence the name. I came across it on several occasions, but it was most prominent in that flatbread with kangaroo I wrote about earlier.

The leaves were fried till crispy and then scattered over the kangaroo for flavor and added texture. For texture, it definitely made sense. The crisp and crunch was a nice addition to an otherwise chewy experience. Flavor wise, however, I was a tad underwhelmed. I was expecting to be smacked in the face with salt, but there was hardly any of that. Maybe by frying it, it loses some of its saltiness.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 6

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

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

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

Soft shell crab

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During my recent trip to Bali I ended up in a Spanish tapas restaurant called Cuca which was awarded by Tripadvisor as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world. My friend and I decided to order the chef’s tasting menu and saw dish after dish arriving at our table. At one point we were presented with a tempura fried soft shell crab along with a dipping sauce.

Soft shell crab is not a separate species of crab, but rather a crab that has just shed it’s skin leaving with a soft outer shell. It is at this point that the whole animal can be eaten, including its outer shell. The crab meat was very nice and a little sweet and the tempura coating gave it a nice crunchy texture. I do think, however, that the eating the shell is mainly an aesthetic thing as it doesn’t really add much flavor. It’s just interesting to get to eat a whole piece of crab, rather than a spoonful of shredded meat.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Torch ginger flower ice cream

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During my vacation in Bali I came across torch ginger flower in my food a couple of times. At one restaurant the waiter explained that this flower does not actually stem from what we know as ginger root. It is a big red flower, bigger than a human hand, that grows in South East Asia and is often used in savory dishes.

In a restaurant in Ubud called Spice, which is owned by the same chef as the highly established Mozaic, it came in a sweet form instead of savory. It was used to flavor some ice-cream that was served with a rather lovely crème brulee. The taste of the ice-cream. However, was a bit generic. It was a good ice-cream, but I would never have guess the magic ingredient. I think this one just needs a little more work.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Braised wallaby tail

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When people think of Australia often the first thing they think about is the native animals such as kangaroos and koalas. Some people find it strange that Australians would eat kangaroo because they are so cute, but as always “you eat what you have” and for Australia that includes animals such as kangaroo, wallaby and emu. Having said that you might find it difficult to find any of these animals on a restaurant menu as most people have converted to the usual suspects of beef, pork, lamb and chicken. There are even less restaurants that put their entire focus on native.

One of the forerunners of cooking with native ingredients is Kylie Kwong whose award winning restaurant Billy Kwong is closing in a few months. I’ve known Kylie for years now through her appearances on Masterchef Australia and was eager to taste her fusion of Chinese cuisine and native Australian ingredients and booked seat at the bar. They were running a couple of specials that night of which I ordered the braised wallaby tail in a red pepper sauce.

Wallaby is a species of marsupials that look very similar to kangaroos. They are often seen as small versions of them. They use their massive tails just as much as they use their feet, which is why they are of a subspecies called macro pod. The best cuts of meat often come from parts of animals that have been used regularly which is definitely the case for the wallaby tail. It was braised for 8 hours and was presented on the bone much like an oxtail. To me it even tasted like beef with just a hint of sweetness. The meat was extremely succulent and I had no problem getting it off the bone using only chopsticks. It’s a shame the restaurant is closing but also exciting to see what the future holds for Kylie.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 9

Quandong

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It’s difficult to really tell what Australian food is. It’s mostly British food such as meat pies and fish ‘n chips or  food with an Asian influence. More and more however, restaurants around the country are starting to cook with native Australian ingredients like the Aboriginals have done for thousands of years. During my visit to Cairns I went to a restaurant called Ochre that tries to highlight local ingredients.

One of such ingredients is the quandong. A quandong is a fruit that is said to resemble a peach and has a brain-like nut hiding inside its fleshy exterior. This is a favorite food of emus and the aboriginals would go and pick out the nuts from the emu droppings. I didn’t get to try the nut, but the fruit itself. It was used as a base for a crème brulee with a few pieces of the fruit on the side.

Personally I thought the quandong fruit was much more like a plum. It was quite tart with a hint of sweetness. It was also a little chewy as if it had been dried a little, but not so much that it resembled a prune. The crème brulee itself was really smooth and the tartness of the quandong worked really well against the sweetness of the dessert.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test  – 8

Goat liver mousse

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A few entries ago I wrote about a visit to the amazing restaurant Locavore in Bali where I was served dried goats heart as part of a tasting menu. That dish actually had a few more twists up its sleeve. It consisted mostly of a goats liver mousse.

I love patés and liver mousse in general, but had never even heard of using goats liver. Goat can have a real barnyardy flavour which I don’t always enjoy. In this case there was still a small hint petting zoo, but it was perfectly countered by the richness of the liver mousse. It was really creamy and delicious with just enough barnyard flavour to remind you that you’re eating goat.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8