Found: The Perfect Nasi Campur

By Janet De Neefe
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ I decided it’s time to find the most delicious nasi campur on the island and any review of Bali’s beloved national dish should really begin at Kedewatan, the home of two famous warungs or roadside eating houses, that have been serving nasi campur to dedicated locals for years. Both are located near each other, on that charming village street, just before the Kupu-Kupu Barong Hotel, on the opposite side of the road.

Every now and then, Ketut, my husband, fills the car with mates and children on a gastronomic pilgrimage to this neighboring town to eat a breakfast of home-cooked chicken, coconut vegetables, salted egg and sambal. He eats at either warung but the second one is generally the preferred venue.

At this quaint little eatery, the lineup of vehicles is as probably as exciting as the food offered. BMWs, Harley Davidsons, polished Vespas and Cherokee Jeeps are amongst the Holy Chariots parked outside this famous restaurant. And while eating with his mates, Ketut loves to eavesdrop conversations about ricefields sold, hotels built and sour business deals by the owners all of these glistening mobils. It all adds up to an authentic village experience. What more could you want!

But what is it that makes the Kedewatan nasi campur so delicious? (My son would live on it if he could.) As you probably know, nasi campur consists of a serving of steamed rice topped with a seasonal mix of greens, meats and a slap of sambal. At Kedewatan, the nasi campur includes betutu ayam, a kind of stewed chicken served with urab or greens with roasted coconut, egg and sambal. But it’s the chicken that everyone loves, in a land of passionate poultry eaters. Soft and tender, it is simmered in a ton of ground spices and aromatic leaves until the meat falls off the bone. It’s tender and luscious, with a sultry touch of chilli, not too much.

Increased trade at Kedewatan has led to an expansion of sorts, with tables and chairs now spilling into the family compound. So for those who want a quiet, inner-courtyard dining experience, this is the place for you. A full nasi campur will cost around Rp12,000 (US$1.28) and you can select a drink from the zillions of bottles perched on the happy red-and-white plastic-covered benches. Krupuk or crackers and other assorted fare can be bought to munch on while waiting for the tasty meal. Service is meek, mild and typically Balinese. When I went recently, I chose to sit near the open doorway on a bright red plastic stool and relished in the village life sauntering past: grandmas carrying offerings, grandpas on bicycles, school children and assorted local wildlife. What a lovely way to start the day.

Here is the recipe:


ROAST CHICKEN/actually boiled

This is a favorite on warung menus and is served with the famous Kedewatan nasi campur. The chicken is simmered with a pile of fresh spices in a large saucepan for at least an hour. The result is a tender, tasty chicken bathed in a fragrant chicken stock. The spices also preserve the meat, meaning it can tolerate a couple of hours’ sitting happily in a huge pot in a busy warung without spoiling.

Serves 6-8

1 large chicken (1½ kg)

3 tablespoons oil for frying

4 lime leaves

3 salam leaves

2 knots of lemongrass

3-4 cups water

Spice paste:

4 red shallots

7 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

5 large red chilli, seeds removed

5 small chillies

5 candlenut

2 teaspoon shrimp paste

2 teaspoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sesame seeds

2 stalks of lemongrass

3 tablespoons galangal

1 tablespoon turmeric

3 teaspoons ginger

2 teaspoons kencur

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 teaspoons tamarind, seeds removed

I tablespoon palm sugar

Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Place the spices in the container of an electric food processor and blend to a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary. You can use a coffee grinder to grind the seeds and nuts.

Alternatively, chop the spices with a cleaver.

Heat the oil in a wok over a medium flame and sauté the spices until fragrant and glossy or for about a minute, pushing the spices back and forth in the wok. Add the aromatic leaves and toss around together for half a minute.

Add the water and the whole chicken.

Simmer for an hour or until cooked. Check seasonings.

Serve with steamed rice and topped with fried onion.

Matur Suksme

Janet DeNeefe is the owner of Casa Luna and Indus Restaurants, author of Fragrant Rice, and founder and director of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. She also runs the Casa Luna Cooking School.

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment, The Island

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