I have a strong, strong affinity for Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese so I’m extremely happy to report that I can now add Balinese to my Southeast Asian culinary repertoire.
Bali is one of several Indonesian islands located in the Java Sea, but Bali isn’t known solely for it’s picturesque beaches, rice fields and lush tropical setting as much as for it’s fresh and flavorful cuisine ~ in particular – Satay Skewers.
Quite similar in preparation to Thai Satays the Balinese variety I found to be much more complex in flavor and in some instances texture. Fortunately I had no prior experience with Balinese cuisine, this allowed me to maintain my objectivity as I reviewed a new Los Angeles food truck called Spice Island: Asian Skewer and Grill.
Satay skewers are so popular that Spice Island centers its menu exclusively on the Indonesian specialty. For my visit (the first of many) I opted for the shrimp satays. The truck offers their customers two serving options – for example you can order any of the skewers either ala Carte or as a “Bali Combo”
The Shrimp Satay Bali Combo – $7.50 includes four fresh water shrimp threaded onto individual wooden skewers then grilled until the tails are slightly charred and crisp.
After the skewers are removed from the grill they’re coated with a sauce made of honey and sesame oil with a slight hint of chili.
The skewers are placed on a bed of fresh salad greens created with leafy lettuce, tomato’s and cucumbers and garnished with carrot curls. Finally the salad is dressed with a creamy peanut sauce.
In addition all of the combo’s dishes are served with a mound of steamed white rice and a corn fritter.
If you’re not familiar, corn fritters are a popular street food that’s easily found throughout Indonesia. Resembling hush puppies or mini corn cakes, the invention of Balinese corn fritters is based on the availability of sweet corn that’s grown in great abundance throughout the Southeast Asian island.
The Balinese variety is made with whole kernels of fresh corn, garlic, rice flour, corn starch, onions (or shallots) then seasoned to taste with salt, black pepper. All of the ingredients are blended with a beaten egg to bind the mixture next dollops of the batter are dropped into hot oil and fried until golden brown.
I found the fritters fresh and perfectly cooked ~ almost dessert like from the sweet corn and yet savory.
My shrimp skewers were not at all rubbery ~ often this can be an unfortunate side effect if seafood is overcooked. Not so in this instance ~ I found the shrimp to be tender with just the right amount of char.
Over all I found the dish to be a fresh and wonderful alternative to the heavier fare typically found on many of the food trucks I review.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp skewers they didn’t hold a candle to the Beef Short Rib Satay’s – $6.50!
To be perfectly honest I’m not sure where to begin to describe them.
Spice Island starts with beef short ribs (bone removed of course) then marinades the beef in a marinade a combination of garlic, shallots (a sweet less pungent version of onions), palm sugar and Indonesian spices.
The marinated meat strips are threaded onto wooden skewers then grilled slowly to seal in the perfect smoked flavor. The palm sugar used in the marinade literally caramelizes the beef during the grilling process this develops a crunchy texture on the exterior that’s helped along by the fat content of the meat.
After the skewers are removed from the grill they’re drizzled with a creamy peanut sauce then finally garnished with deep fried crispy onions bits.
The end result ~ fork tender meat is sweet, crunchy and savory all at once. Overall ~ a total delight and one of the best dishes I’ve had in quite some time
In word they are ~ amazing!
All of the ala Carte skewers accompanies a leafy green salad that’s tossed with a creamy peanut dressing.
Other menu options I’d suggest:
Chicken Satay – $6.50
Boneless Chicken marinated with sweet soy sauce and garlic, skewed then grilled until crispy and golden
Pork Satay – $6.50
Tender pork skewers are marinated with red Jalapeno, lemon grass and coriander.
If you’re a vegetarian you needed feel left out because Spice Island offers a tofu alternative. Pieces of tofu are threaded on skewers then deep-fried until golden and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. All of options are served on a salad bed.
Speaking of vegetarian you must try the Asian Salad ($7.50)
Romaine lettuce is topped with mandarin orange pieces, candied pecans and tossed with a creamy raspberry dressing.
If you’re in the mood (or you have room) for a light dessert you must try the (Spice Island Fruit Salad – $5.50) Assorted seasonal fresh fruits are tossed with a sweet and tangy sauce then topped with crushed roasted peanuts.
As I mentioned at the start of this review I am very pleased to find healthier menu items now being offered on the newer mobile food trucks.
Of course as much as I enjoy the cheesy, fatty, fried options it’s nice to take a break from the richer items for something that will not only satisfy your taste buds but leave you feeling just a little bit lighter when you return to the office.
So if a journey to Bali doesn’t figure into your immediate travel plans you can at least grab some really wonderful Balinese food, find a nearby park, take off your shoes, roll up your pant legs and enjoy an impromptu picnic while dreaming of a trip to the exotic island.
Where to find them:
Stitch gives Spice Island: Asian Skewer and Grill it’s highest rating of five plates.