|Candle-lit birthday dinner at Pak Bilal's home|
Candles lit the walkway and a gamelan player sat in one corner playing music for us. We entered the hut which was also lit with oil lamps and many candles and were led to the same rough-hewn table where we had tea that same morning but this time, the table was covered with a batik tablecloth and set with simple china and cutlery. There was a charcoal grill set up in the corner where the smell of sizzling meat and seafood beckoned. On another corner, a small table was set up with an iced bucket of champagne.
We were guests welcomed into Pak Bilal's home and quietly conversed sipping champagne while we waited for dinner to be served. Our first course was Soto Ayam - a clear chicken broth with pieces of chicken and diced spring onions - warm and comforting on that rainy evening. Terancam was next, a bean sprouts and cucumbers mixed with shredded coconut, lime and chili which was a refreshing and spicy salad. Then came the different grilled items: small skewers of beef, chicken and lamb satay served with peanut sauce and chili kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), river prawns, ikan pepes (spiced snapper fillet wrapped in a banana leaf) and ayam opor panggang (grilled chicken marinated in curry). There was so much food that we had to go slowly and have a bit of the satay and prawns first before we tried the chicken and the snapper. Nasi putih (basket-steamed white rice) was served with the main course dishes. As much as we ate, we hardly made a dent as the portions were quite large. Thankfully, dessert was just fresh fruit - two mangosteen.
As we sat and sipped our Javanese tea, listening to the patter of rain on the tin roof, we spoke of other birthday dinners and reminisced about wheres we have both lived in the last ten years - Paris, Moscow and Napa valley for me, Lausanne, Boston and Jakarta for A then together in Manila, Santiago, Dubai, Montreal, Marbella and now Bali. How lucky we have been to have traveled and lived in so many different countries! The dinner was ending but before we left, they brought me a chocolate cake and sang Happy Birthday and before I blew the candles out, I made sure to make a wish.
|Soto Ayam (chicken soup) then from the grill: mixed satay, chicken in coconut milk,|
prawns and banana-leaf wrapped snapper
|My birthday cake|