In July of 2008 I traveled to Bali to a yoga retreat with a group of amazing people. While in Bali I did a lot of yoga, and also a lot of eating. On this trip I met a fabulous couple from New York. It was their idea to go to Ibu Oka in Ubud, a restaurant that appeared in Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Bourdain called this the best roasted pig he ever had. The restaurant is rather small, filled with long tables, and you sit on the floor. It took two attempts before we were able to have a meal there. The place is very popular with the Balinese, which means that they would run out of food early in the afternoon. They open at 11am and they can run out of food between 1-3 pm. The menu is limited. You would basically pick a plate with different components. I picked the most popular plate: rice, roasted pig, crispy roasted skin, blood sausage, and crispy organ pieces (don’t ask, to this day I don’t know what they were exactly, and I’m not sure I care to know!). There were 3 different types of sambal on the table, each one spicier than the next. Sambal is a condiment sauce made of chilies, some sambals are very spicy and some are not spicy at all. Babi guling is a whole pig roasted on a spit for several hours, well seasoned with a somewhat spicy paste, and basted with coconut water.
I had to try recreating this at home. I have taken some liberty with the ingredients because some are not easy to find. I made pork shoulder roast instead of the traditional suckling pig. I think it is best if you can get a pork shoulder roast with the skin on and bone in. If you can get that, go for it. A small suckling pig would probably fit in a home oven if you are up for it; of course then the baking time would vary. I am certainly not ready to order a small suckling pig to roast at home. You could roast this on your grill, apartment living does not afford me that luxury. Maybe for next time I’ll convince my friend Lola to let me grill in her tiny balcony on one of those miniature cast iron grills.
• 5 lbs pork shoulder roast, bone in, skin on
• Salt and pepper
For Seasoning Paste:
• 4 large shalots, peeled and sliced
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 tablespoon ginger, grated
• 6 macadamia nuts, chopped
• 4 teaspoons ground coriander
• 2 teaspoon ground turmeric powder
• 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
• 2 bird’s eye chilies or Thai chilies, sliced (substitute: red jalapeños)
• 1 stalk lemon grass, soft white parts only, chopped
• 4 teaspoons shrimp paste, (substitute: 2 teaspoons chopped anchovies with 2 teaspoons fish sauce)
• 2 tablespoon Tamarind paste
• 2 teaspoon lime zest
• 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons coconut oil
1. Dry the pork with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. If your piece of pork has the skin on, make sure you score the skin.
2. Put the rest of the ingredients, except the coconut oil, in the food processor and process until you get a smooth paste. Fry the paste in coconut oil for 2 minutes and let cool. Make about 10 slits in the pork with a sharp knife. Smear half of the paste all over the meat making sure to put some of the paste in the slits. Reserve the other half for later. Put the pork in a plastic bag and let marinate overnight.
3. When ready to roast, remove the pork from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Smear the rest of the paste on the meat and place the pork on a roasting rack in a pan lined with foil. Cover the roasting pan with foil, and roast on the middle rack of a 300°F pre-heated oven for approximately 3.5 hours. The internal temperature should reach 160°F.
4. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Remove any juices from roasting pan and separate the fat from the juices, reserve the juices to serve as a sauce over the pork.
5. If you want crispy skin, remove just the skin from the roast and slowly render out the fat in a heavy skillet. Once most of the fat has been rendered, increase the heat to brown the skin, ensuring it gets golden brown on both sides. Place some foil over the skillet as you do this, fat will splatter as you brown the skin. Remove and place over paper towels. Skin will turn crispy once it cools.
6. Remove any remaining fat from the roast. Cut the roast in thick slices or shred it, pour some sauce over it. Serve with Sambal Matah and steamed coconut basmati rice.
• 1 meaty stalk of fresh lemon grass, soft white parts only, very finely chopped
• 2 bird’s eye chilies or Thai chilies, thinly sliced (substitute: red jalapeños)
• 6 large shalots, peeled, thinly sliced
• 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 2 teaspoons shrimp paste, (substitute: 1 teaspoon chopped anchovies mixed with 1 teaspoon fish sauce)
• 1 tablespoon lime zest
• salt and pepper to taste
• 3 tablespoons coconut oil
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1. Mix all ingredients except lime juice, and sauté in the coconut oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and add the lime juice.