Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Gluten Free Bali Adventures: Part 3 – Seminyak

Amazing sunsets poolside at the W Retreat & Spa, Seminyak

After travelling to Nusa Dua and Ubud, our next stop in beautiful Bali was Seminyak – one of the trendiest parts of Bali with great boutique shopping, high-end restaurants and bars, as well as some great day spas and hair salons! However being just north of Kuta, there can be a fair bit of traffic. You will see plenty of people on motorbikes, and when I say plenty, I mean almost everybody! Parents will even carry their babies on motorbikes! (Cringe!).

Our home for the next 7 nights was the W Retreat & Spa, Seminyak. This resort was stunning! It was very modern, the rooms spacious, and as it was situated right on the beach the sunsets were just beautiful (always with a cocktail in hand)! The W had some great restaurants, which were all very accommodating for gluten free dining. I hit the jackpot third time lucky with gluten free bread being available!

Breakfast at Star Fish Bloo, in the resort was fantastic. Although it was buffet, you could order anything you wanted from the a-la-carte menu and it was included in the buffet price. There were quite a few interesting breakfast dishes which could all be made gluten free and I made sure to try out a few! Dishes included eggs benedict, French toast, scrambled eggs with lobster and mascarpone, and croque de monsieur, which was GF bread served with prosciutto, a fried egg and a creamy cheese sauce. Oh and the hash browns were also gluten free!

Scrambled eggs with lobster and mascarpone, hash browns and GF bread

There was also a selection of Asian breakfasts although the GF selection was minimal. I have never been a big fan of eating Asian for breakfast so I wasn’t too fussed, but just for the sake of trying something, one morning I did give the rice porridge a go. This was rice boiled in coconut milk and to be honest it just tasted like salted boiled rice. Not my kind of breakfast, sorry.

While we are talking breakfast, we did venture out of our hotel a few mornings and were extremely pleased with the food we found. The Deck, part of the Semara Resort & Spa Seminyak, is a casual dining restaurant and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. GF bread is available and they can make a variety of dishes GF, just ask the waitperson.

My gluten free BLT and scrambled eggs at 'The Deck'

Petitenget Café was another favourite. They too offered GF bread! I had a delicious breakfast of potted eggs, with streaky bacon and sweet chilli jam salsa. Yum… it was so good!

Potted eggs and GF bread at Petitenget Café

The shopping in Seminyak is fantastic! I cannot stress this enough, take a half empty suitcase so you can fill it up! Majority of the shops are boutique style so you will find it a bit of a challenge to bargain. Usually the prices are set, and that’s what you pay. I picked up some beautiful dresses, bags and shoes. The homewares are also to die for! I would love to be able to decorate my house in Balinese style furniture!

GF Nasi Goreng by the pool at the W Retreat & Spa, Seminyak

After watching the sunset at Ku De Ta – a beautiful open bar situated right on Seminyak beach – while sipping delicious cocktails (try ‘The Monk’ – an exotic combination of vodka, lychee and guava), we decided it was time for a feed. Ku De Ta does have a restaurant however the menu was quiet modern and seemed very westernised. We were craving Indonesian flavours so we headed out, on the hunt for a good gluten free Indonesian meal.

Delicious cocktails at Ku De Ta

We found a place called “The Living Room”, and luckily for me, when I asked about gluten free they understood straight away! The setting was absolutely gorgeous. It was like being inside a grand master suite. The food is more towards the fine dining end, but so worth it. For starters we had Beef Carpaccio with wasabi miso oil. For main I ordered a more traditional dish of Duck legs prepared in a tasty Balinese Betutu sauce, served with fragrant lemon yellow rice and baby beans. So delicious!

Delicious GF dinner at 'The Living Room'

The next night we decided we wanted to check out the much talked about ‘Sarong’, which was not far from the resort we were staying at. I recommend making reservations for dinner as it can get quite busy and you don’t want to get turned down from such an amazing place like this! It doesn’t surprise me that Sarong has been voted as one of the top 5 restaurants in Asia! So already being impressed, when I asked the waiter if he could recommend some gluten free dishes and he brought back a GF menu, you can only imagine how ecstatic I was! In my head I was jumping up and down with excitement and doing somersaults around the room.

After ordering our cocktails (number one priority) we decided on our entrée. We ordered the “Raw tuna betel leaf with lemongrass shallots & lemon basil” and “Salt & pepper squid with Vietnamese dipping sauce”. Yes people, the salt and pepper squid was gluten free! The entrées were equally as delicious, with the betel leaves absolutely bursting with flavour!

Amazing entrees at Sarong!

For mains we shared a “Snapper with chili jam, long beans, baby corn, red chili & Thai basil” and “Chili beef with shitake mushrooms, snowpeas, capsicum & green shallot”. Both were just as good as the entrées. The food was delicious and fresh, the service was immaculate, and the décor beautiful. We could not find a fault in this place.

Snapper with chili jam

Chili beef with shitake mushrooms

Needless to say we also returned here on our second last night because we just enjoyed the dining experience so much! This time we shared the “Raw tuna betel leaves” as well as tasting the “Chicken betel leaf with flat leaf coriander, lime, roasted chili and capsicum relish”. And for main I had a “Light green curry of snapper with Thai eggplant, oyster mushrooms, coconut cream and sweet basil”. Wow wow wow! Both times I was completely satisfied!

Green snapper curry at Sarong

We watched many sunsets while in Seminyak. The most famous place at the moment is “Potato Head Club”. It’s a great open bar, overlooking the beach. Set out with daybeds and a pool, as well as a sheltered bar seating area. Potato Head Club was not as fantastic as we had hoped it would be. Admittedly we were there in the low-season so it wasn’t as busy as expected. But there was also a pretentious vibe about the place. There were a few restaurants in the bar, however we didn’t find them overly appealing. The Asian style restaurant “Lilin” didn’t have a very exciting selection of gluten free food, and when we enquired at “Tapping Shoes” the French cuisine restaurant, we were told by the waitress that the chef could accommodate us but not tonight because he was too busy. Needless to say, with the amount of amazing food we discovered elsewhere I would not rush back.

Another great place for viewing sunsets is the “SOS Rooftop Bar” at the “Anantara”. This bar is not very well known, which is a shame because the setting is gorgeous and the cocktails were delicious. All that was missing was a bit of atmosphere. After our drinks we headed to the restaurant downstairs “Wild Orchid” who were also very accommodating to my GF needs. For entrée I had a Balinese style soup, and for main satay skewers of chicken, beef and lamb, which were still sizzling on the plate! We were lucky enough to be there on a night where they had a traditional Balinese dance show.

GF satay skewers at 'Wild Orchid'

We decided to give our stomachs a small break from Indonesian cuisine and headed to “La Lucciola” one night. A beautiful Italian restaurant located right on the beach, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At night the restaurant is lit up with candles and fairy lights, and looks gorgeous. We had to wait for our table, as we didn’t have a reservation. This wasn’t too bad as we ordered cocktails and some bar food and by the time the food arrived our table was ready.

Yummy Pan roasted barramundi at 'La Lucciola'

There wasn’t a huge selection of GF from the bar menu but the waiters were kind enough to make me some fresh grilled calamari, which was a nice start to the meal. For mains there was a larger selection of meats and fish to choose from. I ordered the “Pan roasted barramundi with prosciutto, celeriac puree, snow peas, and red wine reduction” which the chefs were able to make GF for me. The staff was very accommodating for my needs and very friendly. To end the meal on a high, I ordered a trio of Watermelon and Mango sorbet, and Coconut gelato. The entire meal was delicious!

A sweet and refreshing end to my meal!

Our last meal we decided to stay local, and dine at “Fire”, a restaurant at the W, as we had a late flight to catch. The staff was very helpful, not only for my dietary needs but getting the food out fast, as they knew we had a plane to catch. Although had we known Jetstar was going to cancel our flight, we may not have bothered eating so fast! The food was lovely. I ordered scallop ceviche to start, followed by pork belly served with corn on the cob, coleslaw and a delicious special GF dipping sauce.

Fueling up for our flight home - massive pork belly from 'Fire'

We arrived safely home with no signs of Bali Belly – however a bigger belly? Perhaps!
Terima kasih (meaning thank you in Balinese) for re-living my gluten free adventures in Bali with me, through my last three blogs. I hope you have enjoyed it and I have inspired you to travel.

Here’s a list of places I recommend when visiting Seminyak, Bali.

Star Fish Bloo
@ W Retreat & Spa Seminyak

The Deck
@ Semara Resort & Spa Seminyak

Petitenget Café
Jl Petitenget, Seminyak

The Living Room
Jl. Petitenget 2000, Kerobokan

Sarong (An absolute must!!!)
Jl. Petitenget No. 19X, Kerobokan Bali

Wild Orchid
@ Anantara Seminyak

La Lucciola
Jl. Kayu Aya, Seminyak

@ W Retreat & Spa Seminyak

Bali Bakery
Jl. Kayu Jati No.1 Seminyak Square, Bali

Bali Deli
Jl. Kunti 117 X  Seminyak

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Gluten Free Bali Adventures: Part 2 – Ubud

Our beautiful pool at the Alila resort!

Bali was never on my travel wish list, well not until recently that is. It wasn’t until my sisters raved on about how amazing it was that I decided I had to check it out. Okay so maybe the book (and now movie), ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ had something to do with it too!

And boy, were they right! Bali was absolutely amazing! Our first stop was Nusa Dua (read all about it here), next it was Ubud!

Ubud is situated in the middle of the island and is surrounded by lush rice fields and mountains, and is the heart of the fine arts and culture of Bali. WOW what a place! It is picturesque and peaceful, a breath of fresh air from city living, a place to really unwind and escape.

We started our Ubud experience at the gorgeous Alila resort, which overlooks the lush mountains and villages of Ubud, and has been voted as one of the top 50 most beautiful swimming pools in the world. During sunset the monkeys entertained us by coming down from the trees to play. The Alila was very accommodating to my gluten free needs, by supplying bread and even hosting a traditional Balinese banquet dinner on our first night all made gluten free!

Our traditional Balinese banquet dinner made gluten free just for me!

If you are headed to Ubud town, Café Wayan is a great spot for lunch as the tables are outside and surrounded by luscious green gardens. They were very helpful with my gluten free requests, but I’m glad I had my translation card with me as they came in handy. Once the chef had read it, they were very helpful and I ate a beautiful chicken and potato curry served with brown rice.

GF Chicken and potato curry at Café Wayan, in Ubud town

However it wasn’t all smooth sailing! On a couple of occasions when clearly the language barrier was a challenge, the translation card was pulled out. And on two occasions I was told that I couldn’t have a dish because it was high in cholesterol. Lost in translation I guess, but please don’t be discouraged or give up! I did manage to get around this and was fed a nice meal in the end :o)

The fresh juice combinations we had in Bali were delicious. It’s very rare you will find just the standard apple or orange juice. Here you will find gorgeous juices, such as paypaya, mango, watermelon, rockmelon, and then exotic mixes of juices.

Fruit shops along the side of the road

When in Ubud, be sure to do the touristy things like visiting the volcano and many rice fields. Trust me, the next time you pile up a big serve of rice in your plate, you will appreciate it more! You can also visit the plantations where they grow and make tea and coffee. You may even be given the opportunity to sample these (and of course buy some) however be careful of the Kopi Luwak coffee! This is a special and very expensive coffee. A little animal, called an Asian Palm Civet, is bred to eat coffee berries. The animal then passes these berries and this is processed to make coffee. Yep… coffee made from the animals pooh! I think I’ll pass!!!

Kopi Luwak coffee is made from this little guys pooh!

The majority of the Balinese population are Hindu. They honour the gods and ancestors and pray many times a day. You will see these offerings on the streets of Bali. These are gifts to the gods, and are a way to present their gratitude. Palm leaf trays are prepared, containing flowers and some form of offering as a token of thanks. Some of these offerings include rice, fruit, meat, or as witnessed by myself, cigarettes. Be careful not to step on these, as this is considered very disrespectful to the Balinese people.

Fresh coconut picked straight from the tree!

The highlight of my Ubud trip was a 3-hour walking tour. It started off very calm and easy, walking through the villages and meeting locals, seeing where people live and how and where they work. I even had a village man climb a coconut tree for me and bring me down a coconut. He then cracked it open and I drank the juice and ate the flesh. Now you can’t get much fresher than that! 

Then the walk turned into more of a mountain trek, as we journeyed through the rice fields, I prayed to god that I would return home that day! My heart was beating so fast and I honestly thought this was it! The trek we took wasn’t a man made path. Yes there was steps made in the dirt but this was from where other people had walked. Walking down paths, which didn’t even resemble a path until the instructor pushed aside the shrubs. However, we were in good hands and our instructor was very patient with my slow steps! We climbed rocks and walked down steep slippery tracks, our shoes (and bodies!) covered in mud by the end of the trek. 

Had I known what this trek involved I probably would not have done it. But I am so proud of myself for getting through it! I really pushed my limits and although my muscles ached for days, it just goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to!

Yummy omelette served with GF bread

When asking the locals which restaurant were the best in Ubud, you will more than likely hear them talking about Indus restaurant. We decided to test this one out and we were not disappointed. You will be amazed from the very minute you enter the restaurant. The setting is beautiful, the service fantastic and the food absolutely delicious! And most importantly I mentioned gluten free and they knew exactly what I was talking about! 

Almost everything could be made gluten free, but be sure to ask your waitperson on the night. For entrée I ordered seared scallops on a bed of mash potatoes and rocket salad, main was a Balinese style paella, and dessert coconut crème caramel. All the food was delicious and the service was 5 star quality! The stand out dish of the night would have to be the Balinese paella. The flavours were just amazing… I can’t even begin to describe them! All of this and two cocktails set us back about $50 including tip! For those who are used to $5 meals in Bali this may seem expensive, but when you are looking at the quality of dining, this is peanuts, in comparison to what you would pay in Australia!

The amazing 3 course dinner eaten at Indus restaurant!

Here’s a list of places I recommend when visiting Ubud, Bali. 

Café Wayan
Monkey Forest Rd Ubud

Plantation Restaurant
Alila Resort Ubud

Indus restaurant (This is a must! Delicious, delicious, delicious!!!)
Jalan Raya, Sanggingan, Ubud

Kué Bakery and Café
(I didn’t get a chance to eat here but they offer GF bread and sweet treats)

Jl. Raya Ubud

Well that’s the end of my Ubud blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing about my travels. Ubud is truly beautiful and possibly my highlight of Bali. Next week, we will journey to my third and final stop, Seminyak!

Ubud is famous for its suckling pig

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Gluten Free Bali Adventures: Part 1 – Nusa Dua

GF rice noodles from the Westin Resort, Nusa Dua

It’s raining outside while I sit here flicking through my Bali photos, listening to my Balinese tunes (which I picked up for $1/CD!). The heater is turned up full blast, my uggies are on my poor little cold feet and I am sipping a hot tea. Yep reality sucks!

I’m back from beautiful Bali and had the most amazing time! It was sunny and relaxing… just what the doctor ordered. We ate some amazing food (which I can’t wait to tell you about), saw plenty of gorgeous sunsets, sipped lots of cocktails and shopped till we dropped!

Travelling and being coeliac can be a little tricky, especially if you don’t know how to speak the language. So before leaving for any holiday, I always get in contact with the Coeliac society to obtain their handy translation cards and information pack.

Even though the Balinese people are so friendly and always willing to help, I highly recommend you take the translation cards along with you on your next trip – they saved me so much time and effort in explaining what gluten free means because it’s all translated for you!

We started our Bali adventure in Nusa Dua, where the food was absolutely delicious! The flavours were incredible and for the majority of the time, gluten free wasn’t an issue. Luckily enough all 3 of the hotels we were staying in supplied gluten free bread! 

GF bread served at breakfast
We landed late on our first night in Nusa Dua, with our stomachs grumbling. As there were no restaurants open we had to opt for room service which is when we had our first Nasi Goreng. Surprisingly, for room service, it was actually quite delicious!

GF Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng was the stand out dish of the holiday and we ate a lot of it! It’s a traditional local rice dish, which is similar to fried rice, served with an egg on top and usually chicken skewers, a side of vegetables, and no doubt a big hit of chilli! We ate many variations of this and each time it was delicious. Just make sure to ask them about the sauces they use. Soy sauce is commonly used in Nasi Goreng so avoid this by asking them to replace it with fish sauce.

In our room on arrival we had a lovely welcome fruit plate, with some exotic Balinese fruit we had never seen before. The Snake fruit (clearly the one with the brown snake like skin) was crunchy and was a bit like an apple. The Mangosteen, the centre fruit with the reddy-brown shell, I had never tried before but it soon become our favourite fruit of the holiday. Inside the thick skin is a juicy, white flesh. It is similar to lychees but has a sweeter and more floral taste.

Exotic Balinese fruits

Nusa Dua is primarily a resort village and there is not much else to do but relax and unwind, which wasn’t a bad start to our holiday at all. However if you feel like doing a little bit more while staying here, you can hire a taxi to take you out and see the sites for the day. It will cost you approximately $50 for the entire day and the taxi driver will act as your tour guide. On our day trip we saw a batik and silver factory, temples and beautiful beach lookouts.

Breathtaking views from Uluwatu temple

The highlight of the day was the Uluwatu Temple. This temple was truly beautiful and I highly recommend it. The temple is perched on a cliff and the views are amazing! You are given a sarong to cover your legs on arrival, and be careful of the monkeys at the entrance. They will not harm you but be sure to put your sunglasses away and cameras around your wrist or the cheeky monkeys may steal them!

Cheeky monkey happily munching away on potatoes

During our day trip, we also stopped off at Jimbaran Bay for lunch. This place is famous for fresh seafood served right on the beach. Personally I think this is over-rated and probably wouldn’t go back. Our 1kg fish we hand picked seemed to have shrunk dramatically while cooking! Also there was a pack of wild dogs running around on the beach. Probably harmless, but nonetheless I couldn’t quite settle and enjoy myself!

Jimbaran Bay lunch

If sight seeing is not your thing, head to Bali Collection. This is a shopping centre in Nusa Dua filled with shops, restaurants, bars and lots of massage places. You can get a free shuttle to and from most hotels.

My first fresh coconut of the holiday!

When travelling to Nusa Dua, The Rock Bar, at the AYANA Resort is a must. Try to get there for sunset, as the views are amazing. Although we had to wait 45 minutes (Sunday is their busiest night so get in early) the views were still breath taking and I highly recommend visiting for at least a drink or two. They serve bar food here with not many gluten free options. So for dinner we headed to one of the AYANA Resort restaurants, which were very accommodating for gluten free food. We were given beetroot chips for starters, and then for main I had a traditional Indonesian Beef Rendang Curry, which was absolutely delicious!

GF Beetroot Chips

GF Beef Rendang Curry

I have so much more to tell you about my gluten free Bali adventures, that I couldn’t possibly fit it all into one blog. This is just the beginning. Join me as we travel to beautiful Ubud in my next blog!
GF papaya salad from the Westin Resort, Nusa Dua

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Gluten Free Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup

After posting a pic of store bought Chinese chicken noodle soup last week on facebook, a few people asked us if we would have a similar recipe we could share.

So here it is, our version of Chinese chicken noodle soup. It’s very easy to make and is perfect for a quick mid-week winter meal that the whole family will enjoy!

200g rice noodles
1 litre good quality gluten free chicken stock
1/2 chicken breast, thinly sliced
10g piece of ginger, sliced into thin strips (julienne)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
8 baby corn, halved lengthways
1 1/2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
2 bok choi, roughly chopped
4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

Shallots, sliced diagonally
Bean sprouts
Chillies (optional)

1. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and set aside.

2. Simmer the stock with chicken, ginger strips, garlic, baby corn and soy sauce for 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Add the bok choi and simmer for a further minute or until just tender.

4. Divide the noodles and mushrooms between 4 bowls and ladle the stock, chicken and vegetables over the top.

5. Garnish with bean sprouts, shallots, coriander and chilli. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Tip: This soup can also be made with beef, just substitute the chicken stock for beef stock, and the chicken breast for beef strips.

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