Bali BBQ or Why Watching Gordon Ramsey On TV Is Useful


“Ivan, your beef is as good as, if not better than, any restaurant in Singapore,” said eslim. High praise, indeed, coming from friends who have very discerning palates. The funny thing was that the whole barbecue evening was almost a disaster.

Here’s an account of what happened.

It all started when we were invited for a stay-over at David’s home in Bali. He has a magnificent villa that overlooks the sea. It’s one of those villas that motivates you to work as hard as he has to get such a home or at least wish that your flat would become when it grows up.


Of course, we rarely sat around in the villa as we were a bunch of foodies on a food tour of most, if not all, of the good food places in Bali.

But, early in the morning as you wake up to the sound of the tide coming in, these are pleasantly quiet moments where you meditate on where to go for breakfast, lunch, spa and dinner.

We are, after all, on vacation; so the spa is a must.


Before we set off, we did the prep for the BBQ. Dave sent an email asking for ideas for a BBQ and I, in a fit of inspiration, sent back about 12 suggestions and 4 different marinades and dry rubs.

Guess who was appointed head BBQ Chef?

Anyway, Mary and Florence were a tremendous help in the kitchen and we marinated the meats and set off just in time for a nice lunch, some shopping and a 5pm massage.


On the drive home, we underestimated the size of the traffic jams and so we ended up 2 hours late for the planned BBQ. So dinner was a little delayed, but because all the prep work had been done earlier, all was need was to fire up the grill.

This was were I was fazed.

Standing the corner weighing 300 pounds, was a gleaming stainless steel contraption to which the mere word “Grill” did not even begin to describe. Other grills are mere Bunsen burners.


Up to this point, I’ve only used wood fires or charcoal grills to cook, I’ve never faced a grill with knobs on it. It even came with it’s own steel grilling tools in a professional-looking metal case. Excellent.

The menu planned was:

1. Buffalo Wings with Salad
2. Pork Chops and Otak-Otak
3. Beef Steaks (Main)
4. Dessert

It all fell apart when the gas oven in the kitchen ran out of gas halfway cooking the wings, so I started cooking the otak-otak (being the fastest to cook) to stave off some of the hunger.

Indonesian otak-otak (spicy fish fillet wrapped in banana leaf) is very different from the ones we get in Singapore or Malaysia as it is sweeter and less pungent, more curry powder than sambal chili (i think). This posed a problem with some people who could not abide the stronger fishier taste.

And of course, the very same people could not take pork too.


I may sound very prejudiced, but really, sometimes it’s a pain in the ass catering to people with dietary restrictions that are neither medical nor religious. Personally, I do not take prawns or (a lot of) crab, but I do not make a big show about how uncaring the whole world is as I shall sacrifice my well-being and starve while everyone around me ignores my feelings and eats seafood in front of me.

Me, me, me, me; I told that person in no uncertain terms where he could stuff his hurt feelings.

Oh yes, every one liked the pork chops with my marinade. Florence, an excellent cook with very discerning taste-buds, gave them a “quite good” rating.

[Insert Rocky’s Theme here] Yay!


Anyway, I started on the beef so that at least everyone could eat something while the wings were cooking.

While I was cooking outside with the magnificent grill, someone had a fit because a) we were late for dinner, b) the wings were half-cooked (her responsibility actually) and c) I was not following the dinner menu schedule. Alas.

Anyway, one of the orders for beef was “Bleu”. This is a state of doneness that is rarely (har!) heard. Unsophisticates would define the doneness of beef as “rare”, “medium-rare”, “medium” and “well-done”. Personally, I have no idea what’s the difference between medium-rare and rare, sounds too much like a weeny cop-out.

The word “bleu” is French for “Blue” which is why a lot of people use the English word “Blue” to describe this particular “doneness”; the steak is not blue in color. In the context of cooking, “bleu” also refers to “very rare”, technically, with an interior temperature of about 37 degrees Celsius where it’s just hot enough to caramelize the sugars and brown the surface of the beef while leaving the interior bloody.


I must have done something right when the Balinese domestic came out and shyly asked me how I cooked beef. This posed a problem as I don’t speak the language. In the end, I remembered Gordon Ramsey teaching a group of people how to cook beef on the tele using the finger-palm method which, while I do not use it, is a good teaching method. So I taught it to her.

And so, Dave’s domestic is now able to churn out beef steaks to any specific doneness, except bleu (finger-palm method has no definition of it) and of course, that bloody stupid definition of medium/medium-rare (she does medium-rare).


Interesting BBQ this was, with all the drama and whatnot. Whenever I hear the word “BBQ”, it sets a certain casualness to the whole setting, so this was my first time encountering a “formal” BBQ where the menu is fixed and the order of procession of food is dictated and not “whatever the BBQ Cook can find on hand”.

And there is no happier sound to me than eslim cooing and murmuring over his beef bleu.


Posted on 29th Jun 2008 in Food and Drink


There Are 5 Comments


Wendy commented on June 29, 2008 at 7:00 pm

I am in awe.

My perception of a BBQ has changed forever.


ivan commented on June 30, 2008 at 7:39 am

Thanks! I’m just waiting to see how many blogs start using the term “Bleu” after this. πŸ™‚


Edwin commented on July 1, 2008 at 12:57 am

nice! and I totally agree with you on “it’s a pain in the ass catering to people with dietary restrictions that are neither medical nor religious”. Real pain.


[…] one of this blog’s taglines. I kinda enjoy his cooking tips on TV as foul-mouthed as he appears on TV, he’s very disciplined in his craft; just look at […]


Homeladychef commented on February 6, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Gordon Ramsay knows his stuffs, unlike some celebrity chefs or some people who pretend they know something.

Post A Comment

The comments are closed.


Recent Comments ?hhis is vital a? you would certainl? nnot want a pet dog entrance do?r to open...

Rexic: Would have agreed with you but then I saw Pontian wanton mee with nacho cheese...

ivan: Thanks! I just think it’s a tired argument that doesn’t make sense.

Bugger: Btw, kacang puul looks amazing!

Bugger: Hear! Hear! So called “authenticity” is a great hurdle to emergence of new...

MervC: I like they way they bring out the massive chunk of tuna, and the great knife skills,...

ivan: Yes you are. πŸ™‚

MervC: Look like Hashida Sushi. Am i right?




Cha Xiu Bao

Chubby Hubby

Makansutra Forum

My Inner Fatty

Nibble & Scribble

NYT Diner’s Journal

Only Slightly Pretentious Food

Serious Eats

Tamarind and Thyme

The Girl Who Ate Everything

The Wong List


View Stats