Indonesian-inspired choko curry + photos from Bali!

The first time I travelled to Bali
as a 10 year old, I can't say I really took in the food at all. My one and only
food memory focused solely on memories of eating Black rice pudding, banana
pancakes and drinking lemon (actually lime) shakes at a little warung near our hotel, where the waiters
liked to say 'no worries mama' alot.

Six years later I returned with friends and their family, but let’s just say I
was more interested in taking in the night life, than the food, other than
bowls of Mie Goreng ordered from an old lady on the walk back to our bungalows.

25 years on from my first Bali trip, I returned as a food-obsessed chef/author
and mother of two hungry little monkeys, keen to try anything and everything so
long as it was traditional Indonesian food. I know many people go to places
like Bali to indulge in (cheaper-than-at-home) raw vegan food or fancy
Italian/Mexican, and I get that I totally do, but all I wanted to do while
there was stuff my face with all of the tempeh, vegetables and rice I could.
And I gotta say, I think we did a pretty fine job of it! 

Si sadly
couldn't come with us due to work commitments, but lucky for us we met up with two
of our favourite humans
there, who are well versed in Indo-living. We spent most of our trip in the
little village of Lodtunduh, on
the outskirts of Ubud. Sash found us the most beautiful place to stay,
overlooking the greenest of green rice fields, which is not only owned by
locals, but run by locals too. With three kids in tow, I can't say that we
did as much as some people would do in 9 days, but I feel like we got an
amazing taster, which only makes me want to go back for more... soon. I thought it might be nice to link to a few of the places we ate, stayed and visited, I know a few of you have asked if I could on Instagram, so here goes...
Ubud eats 
Warung Garasi- Beautiful, authentic and cheap as food. Just off the main drag in Ubud. Their gado-gado was the best I ate.
9 Warung- Just down the road from where we stayed, this place is amazing and unlike any place I've ever been before. Vegetarian and vegan, authentic self-serve food that works on an honesty system. You pay what you like, with suggestions offered if you're unsure. Their giant passionfruit are a sight to see when in season!
We stayed
Bali T House Klod- Beautiful simple villas, overlooking the rice fields just south of Ubud. 
To do
Visit Kul Kul farm. They have an open day every Thursday from 9am-1pm where you can lend a hand planting seeds, picking vegetables, making compost and if you're lucky you might even get to give Agus -the resident albino water buffalo- a wash! They put on a beautiful vegetarian lunch afterwards, payment by donation.
Visit the Monkey Forest. While the kids were a little overwhelmed to begin with, they did get into it and really loved it. I highly recommend you don't wear a backpack of any kind, unless you want cheeky monkeys on your back and head! Even though I didn't have food in mine, I guess they still thought I did from past experiences. Also, remove anything like sunglasses, hats and anything else they can grab off you. We passed a lady staring longingly up into the trees where a bunch of monkeys sat celebrating their new hat score! That said, unlike monkeys in other parts of Indonesia, these ones are really well fed and looked after so don't bother you too much. There's also loads of keepers around to help with any extra excited monkeys.
We did a downhill bike tour that took us through small villages and rice fields. The kids loved it. Sorry I didn't get the name of the company we went through as it was booked through the villa we stayed at, but there's loads to choose from. Just shop around a bit if you want a good price, as it varies a lot. They said we rode 25kms (!!) in total, but 95% of it was just rolling downhill, so was totally doable, even for the kids.
Check out the Ubud markets. I wish I'd made it to the early morning food stalls, but alas was never that organised (I think they finish around 6am!). There's so many amazing things to see and buy there the rest of the day.
Casa Luna cooking classes with Janet DeNeefe. I didn't get the chance to attend a class, but know Janet through Instagram and have her beautiful book, which I refer to often. Sadly we passed each other like ships in the night, us leaving Ubud the day she arrived home from overseas, but my Dad has done her class in the past and rates it highly.
Kuta eats
We only had a few days in Kuta before flying out and mostly ate at Sash's favourite Warung, Warung Indonesia, just off Poppies Lane 2. I suggest you skip the menu and head to the counter for Nasi Campur... a mound of rice and then whatever tickles your fancy from the cabinet. The kids and I ate here for around $5 in total (for three meals). So good.
A little note on eating vegetarian and gluten-free in Indonesia.
Eating vegetarian in Indonesia is super easy as a large part of the diet consists of rice, vegetables, tempeh and tofu. That said, a lot of vegetarian meals contain fish sauce or belacan (fermented shrimp paste). I really don't mind eating these when travelling or at someone's house (as I hate being a pain in the arse to be honest). 9 Warung in Ubud caters for vegans and vegetarians and there's loads of western-style cafes etc where you could eat, but as I mentioned before, that's not what I go to Bali to eat!
Now, gluten-free, that's a little harder if you want to eat traditonal Indonesian food. My daughter and I are gluten intolerant, not coeliac. So for us, there's a tiny bit of leeway when it comes to consuming gluten. We don't have to worry about cross-contamination like someone with coeliac would and the occasional accidental bit of gluten doesn't affect us too badly (and as I've worked really hard on getting our gut health better over the past few years, we seem to be getting better and better at coping with tiny bits of gluten, occasionally). Most traditional Indonesian dishes contain soy sauce (and not the western gluten-free varieties) or kecap manis, the thick, rich, sweet soy sauce laden with wheat. If you're coeliac you'd have to be super careful and if like me you're vegetarian on top of that, it might be a tad hard to stay safe. Your best bet would be to eat fried eggs and plain rice, a lot. Or eat at one of those trendy raw vegan places, that are literally everywhere in Bali nowadays.
The day we
visited Orin and Maria at Kul
Kul farm
, they served the most beautiful green papaya
 for lunch,
which I've not been able to get out of my mind since. I'd not eaten anything
quite like it before, it was full of flavour, but not (coconut) creamy like so
many other curries can be. What got me most though, was the texture of the
green papaya chunks, which reminded me of cooked choko, soaking up and
absorbing all those lovely spices and flavour. I decided to give it a shot the
other day using in-season local chokos, pulling every item that was remotely
'Indonesian' from my cupboards and fridge. Using only water in place of the
more usual coconut milk gave the exactness of the sauce I was hoping for. And
those of you who have been around while will already be familiar with my use of fermented tofu to add richness and depth
without the use of belachan or fish sauce, although if you eat either of these
add some by all means.
U.S release of my book has finally arrived! It’s now available throughout North
America and online.
My US publisher also has a special offer: Use promo code MDLT30 exclusively at to receive 30%
off copies of My Darling Lemon Thyme and celebrate publication week. US orders
only. Offer expires on December 10, 2015.
Important note: What I refer to as potato flour in my book, is actually potato starch. This sadly got missed when it was translated to use U.S terminology. It's confusing I know, but here in Australia/NZ we only have potato starch (but we call it potato flour!). In the States you have both potato flour AND potato starch, two very different ingredients. Please only use potato starch in my recipes. Also, the cooking time for the brownie on page 106 should read 25-30 minutes, not 50-55.
Lastly, for
those of you who missed it live on T.V, here’s the
little clip
of me on 2Kaha recently…

Choko curry
don't be tempted to taste raw candlenuts, as they can be mildly toxic until
cooked. You can find them at Asian grocers, along with lemongrass, kaffir lime
leaves, galangal and fermented tofu. Macadamias or cashews can be used instead
of candlenuts if you can't get your hands on them, and add a touch of
gluten-free soy sauce instead of fermented tofu if unavailable, though it will
give slightly different results. If you'd like to bump up the protein of this
meal, serve with pan-fried tempeh or tofu or stir some firm tofu cubes through
the curry to warm through. I actually added 1 birds eye chilli to my paste as
well, but thought I should probably leave it out of the recipe as it produced a
seriously nasal-clearing curry, which I loved, but I'm not so sure the masses
would approve. You decide.
Serves 4 as
part of a larger meal with rice etc... or two greedy Emma serves.

2 large chokos, peeled + cut into bite-sized chunks
lemongrass stalk, bruised
4 kaffir
lime leaves
500ml (2
cups) water

Curry paste
candlenuts (or macadamia/cashew nuts)
3 cloves
2 shallots
or 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
1 long red
chilli, sliced roughly
tablespoon roughly chopped peeled ginger
2 teaspoons
roughly chopped peeled galangal (or use extra ginger if unavailable)
1 teaspoon
fine sea salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
teaspoon ground white pepper
teaspoon ground turmeric
tablespoons fermented tofu (optional)

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
teaspoons grated coconut or palm sugar, to taste
The juice
of 1/2-1 lime
rice, to serve

Prepare chokos, remove pips and compost. Put rice on to steam.
To prepare
the curry paste, place candlenuts, garlic, shallots, chilli, ginger, galangal
(if using), salt, peppers and turmeric into a mortar and pestle or small food
processor and grind to a coarse paste. Add fermented tofu and continue to blend
until fine.

Heat coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add paste and
cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until dry and fragrant. Add chopped
choko, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and water. Stir well, cover with a lid
and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove
lid and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until sauce has reduced and choko
tender. Add sugar and lime juice to taste and add a touch more salt if needed.
Serve hot with steamed rice.

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  • Reply
    November 13, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    awhh Bali! we too stayed at Bali T House, such a stunning setting right on the rice fields.
    lovely photos and recipe!

  • Reply
    Sarah | Well and Full
    November 13, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    I drank up these photos like a tall glass of water. So unbelievably stunning. Bali has been on my bucket list for a while, I'd love to do a yoga retreat there. Thank you for providing a guide, pinning for later! 😀

  • Reply
    November 14, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you for posting the Bali tips and beautiful photos, I will use them when I go there again hopefully not too far in the future. And the curry looks and sounds very good, but as we don't have chokos in Europe do you know what I could use instead? Cheers from Vienna😉

    • Reply
      November 15, 2015 at 2:29 am

      I think this kind of curry would work with most vegetables. Zucchini would be lovely, you'd just have to reduce the water amount and cooking time. Pumpkin/squash would also be nice or eggplant… xx

    • Reply
      November 15, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks for your answer, I will go for the Pumpkin then, as it has season right now!

  • Reply
    shelley ludman
    November 16, 2015 at 1:48 am

    This post and these photos are bringing back such fond memories from my trip to Bali 4 years ago. Ubud stole my heart, and I do hope I can get there again soon (SO FAR from Canada). As soon as I locate chokos, I'm most definitely making this curry.

  • Reply
    Susannah Brown
    November 16, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Wow! thank you so much for sharing your beautiful photos they're something else. And the recipe too xx

  • Reply
    November 16, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Great photos!

  • Reply
    Stephanie Weaver
    November 18, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    I. Love. Bali. Not an exaggeration to say it had a lasting impression on us… we decorate with flowers as often as possible, and we brought home 1/3 of a shipping container of stone sculptures and teak furniture, so our house is fully Bali-nized. Thanks for the wonderful trip down memory lane. Pinned a few of your beautiful pix and your recipe. Please let me know if you want me to review your cookbook and do a giveaway!

  • Reply
    November 19, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Gorgeous photos Emma, you're making me feel like I need a trip back there too!

  • Reply
    November 19, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Hi there! I enjoy reading your post, recipe and the awesome photos here! The feeling is so warm by just looking at these photos. Such a different trip you had. Guess you enjoy your trip very much! The foods looks delicious too. Thank you for sharing your great experience

  • Reply
    Savory Simple
    November 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    These photos are absolutely amazing! I would love to visit Bali someday. The recipe sounds wonderful.

  • Reply
    Portia Zar
    November 29, 2015 at 4:58 am

    Great recipe. I added some thai eggplants as I could only get a couple of small chokos. The sauce is delicious. A perfect light summer curry. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Nina Olsson
    January 4, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    This sounds just like the kind of flavors I'm into now, love this post and the photography from Bali!

  • Reply
    Mikkel Magnuson
    January 6, 2016 at 11:04 am

    HI! Wonderful recipe you have shared. Also I enjoy your blog with cool pictures of various locations.I guess you have enjoyed your trip very much. I love such places. Thanks for sharing beautiful recipe as well as cool photos of Bali House.

  • Reply
    Andrew Hopkin
    January 11, 2016 at 3:43 am

    I would like to make it as my dinner everyday! I so admire your photography skills. The photos are so stunning and gorgeous.
    Thanks for share!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Awesome pictures. Your pictures make me feel warm with a strange feeling that I couldn't explain. Thank you so much and looking for your new blog post !

  • Reply
    Malin Andersson
    March 4, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Hello! This recipe looks very tasty and delicious. This is one of my favorite recipe. I enjoy your blog with cool pictures of various locations. I guess you have enjoyed your trip very much. I am so happy that I stumbled across your recipe blog. Thanks for sharing great recipe blog.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Nice photos, thank you for sharing your photos and great recipe- simple but healthy and delicious

  • Reply
    April 24, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    I love Indonesian cuisine 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    May 15, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Those pictures look the same vietnam. I also eat this kind of vegetable but your recipe is new to me, thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    June 14, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I heard that Indosian food is great. But I never try any dish.
    I will try this recipe soon.
    Thank for share

  • Reply
    July 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Nice photos and great recipe, thank you for sharing !

  • Reply
    hotmail sign in
    August 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

    This is very nice one and gives depth information. Thanks and keep posting! Thanks again for the blog article . Much thanks again. Great.

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