Bali: The Food of My Island Home by Janet De Neefe

From Australia's leading authority on Indonesian Cuisine

By Laura McKinnon
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Bali: The food of my island home by Janet De Neefe

Bali: The food of my island home by Janet De Neefe [©Pan Macmillan Australia]


Bali: The Food of My Island Home is an immersive cookbook. It is steeped in imagery of Bali and does so in an impressively large format.

Too big for handling in a quick and nimble manner during the cooking process? Some might argue yes, however this book achieves its purpose of making Bali come alive through its enveloping pages. Pictures of people and environments from Bali abound, almost featuring to the same degree as recipes. The author’s love of Bali is certainly easy to see.

However the cooking and recipes of Bali do form a significant part of the book and are brought to life by the excellent photography of Mark Roper. A true sense of Bali is achieved due to the way people and natural features are captured.The recipes are all true to Bali, nothing is overtly westernised.

The book starts off with a tour of the Ubud Market where De Neefe buys a lot of the produce that goes into her food; in particular spices. Spices form a rudimentary part of Balinese cooking as they create the pastes that go into a significant amount of the local dishes. She also notes that in a lot of cases to make the pastes all you need is a mortar and pestle. This chapter covers three basic spice blends that form the basis of many traditional Balinese recipes, base genep, garlic and kencur paste and base wangen.

The cookbook is separated into parts that cover fragrant sambals, coconut and curries, the sacred grain, street food and snacks, ceremonies and celebrations, modern offerings, and finally, palm sugar and puddings. Each recipe has its own page and plenty of space is provided for cooks to add their own notes on changes and additions to recipes. Chapters are preceded by a short summary where De Neefe reminisces about Balinese culture and the cuisine that is part of it.

Of course sambal is a big feature of Bali: The Food of My Island Home, being one of the staple parts of Balinese cuisine. Many different types of sambal recipes are given from fried sambal through to roasted eggplant sambal and on to samatran green sambal.

Standout recipes include the seafood curry, greens with roasted coconut, sweet potato rice, rice and chicken grilled in banana leaves, goat curry, chargrilled squid and a black rice and orange tart.

The basics are certainly well and truly covered for anyone starting their first foray into Balinese cuisine; rice, friend rice, noodles and curries. Many alternatives of each are provided with simple to follow recipes.

A large part of this book is about covering the basics of Balinese cooking, and in this it succeeds. Balinese food is not something often popularised, however they are one of Australia’s closest neighbours and certainly have rich and rewarding recipes and ingredients to share. It is a glamorously presented book and would be a standout offering to any cookbook aficionado who is looking for a cookbook that thoroughly and meaningfully covers the recipes of Bali.


Bali: The Food of My Island Home written by Janet De Neefe is published in Australia by Pan Macmillan (Sydney, 2011; sc, 240 pp) RRP A$59.95.

Bali: The Food of My Island Home is also available online via here »


  • Indonesia - all (ID)

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February 02nd, 2012
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