Purple-blue turns pale. A palm in silhouette salutes the sunrise as awakening creatures spill their joy in raucous sound. It’s Bali, and it’s morning!

The morning view from my pillow

The morning view from my pillow

There is nothing quite as delicious as waking up with the sun. My circadian rhythms are synced with dawn. I can’t help it. Once the sky lightens, further effort to sleep is futile.

I love breakfast almost as much as I love morning. The two are inseparable. And the only thing that could improve upon breakfast is having it prepared FOR me and served TO me. (But not in bed. I’m not a fan of breakfast in bed.) So when Belos peeks his head around the corner at about 8:30 a.m. and asks if I want makan pagi, life is very good indeed.

There is always a bowl of fresh pineapple, banana, and papaya. But the main dish is a new treat every day. Here are some photos of what’s been on the menu lately.

Toast with banana filling

Toast packet with banana filling

Everything tastes wonderful when it’s served on the balcony. And there are no flies. Those nasties ruined more than one picnic in Minnesota!

Over-easy egg on toast

Over-easy egg on toast

The egg is perfectly round. Belos cooks. I’ll have to ask him how he does that!

Banana Pancake

Banana Pancake

There’s nothing that says Bali better than a banana pancake! It’s crepe-like and stuffed with bananas that have been lightly sautéed in palm sugar. There’s a mound of fresh shaved coconut on top and a palm sugar syrup that beats maple all hollow! I feel porky just looking at it! This dish is guaranteed to put meat on your bones!

Green Omelette

Green Omelette

Here’s another scrumptious favorite!  Water spinach, leeks and green chilies are added to the eggs. If I had prepared this, it would look more like the state of Alaska than a golden half-moon!

Balinese Kue

Balinese Kue

But Balinese Kue is my favorite and it’s always different. Sometimes it arrives wrapped in steamed banana leaf packets held tight with slivers of bamboo. Inside is glutinous rice with various fillings, coconut, peanut, palm sugar, and mung bean to name a few.  Another variety of kue is made with agar-agar, a gelatinous seaweed extract. The end result resembles jello jigglers. Yet another type shows up in stripes, typically green and brown or pink and brown. Maybe it’s bean paste. Maybe not. Then there are sesame balls stuffed with something delicious that shall remain a mystery! But this morning kue was a fried coconut patty and two fluffy confections called Kue Mangkok. And because I just know you are dying to make this yourself, here’s the recipe! Sorry about the metric measurements! Google conversion charts and you’ll be fine.



350 grams rice flour
some water
150 grams all purpose flour
400 grams sugar
200 cc warm water
2 Tsp baking soda
250 cc club soda
200 grams fermented cassava / tapioca (tape singkong)
1 Tsp vanilla
food coloring (your choice of 3 or 4 colors)
salt to taste


Add enough water to the rice flour so that its weight increases to 500
grams. Add the all purpose flour to the rice flour mixture and stir
well. Add the fermented tapioca and sugar. Mix well. Add the warm water
and work the dough for about 10 minutes.-Add the baking soda, the club
soda and vanilla. Mix until everything is evenly distributed. Finally,
add the food coloring and blend until smooth. Warm the cup molds for
about 5 minutes and fill it for about 4/5 full. Put in a steamer with
the water already at a rolling boil. Steam for about 20 minutes.

I’m told these can be made in a rice cooker. It will never happen in mine! I failed to get the domestic goddess gene. My sister has it, as do my three daughters. Even my brother can do cartwheels around me in the kitchen. They love to cook. But me? I love anyone who will cook for me!

Snake for Breakfast

I’ll try just about anything once. This morning Ketut was excited. He would bring me a special Balinese breakfast, fruit and tea and…snake.  I’m sure my face registered an element of concern. I asked, “Is it a Balinese dish?” Ketut was all smiles, “Oh yes, makanan kecil, snake.” Well, I LOVE Balinese food and I also have an incredibly tolerant digestive system. “Okay,” I said, “Good! Snake for breakfast! Good!”

So while I’m waiting for this unusual treat to arrive I put on Balinese music and try not to think too hard about what might appear. When I am served fish it comes whole, head, fins, tail, and eyes. The eyes are the worst. I have yet to see a live snake in Bali. What might a breakfast snake look like?

Now, as a storyteller I’m about to do a flashback to yesterday morning. Ketut and Sudi, my neightbor, and I were pouring over the pictures in the Indonesian cookbook I had purchased. We were especially drawn to the large dessert section. They are works of art, and why wouldn’t they be? The same women who make these confections also create the amazing fruit arrangements for ceremonies and the decorations for weddings and cremations. They are a fabulously creative bunch. The photos were gorgeous, mouth-watering, and Ketut explained that all of these delights could be found at the early morning market. We chattered awhile longer then went our separate ways.

About this time (back to my story) I heard Ketut’s soft “Hallooo,” letting me know he had returned with breakfast. “Yes, masuk Ketut, come in…” I was sitting in my breakfast spot on the balcony. Ketut lowered the tray and WOW! In a flash I knew my mistake. The word Ketut had been meaning to say was SNACK! In Bali those dreamy desserts I had been drooling over the day before are called by the English word snack, not dessert, not snake! I started laughing hilariously, a thing I do a lot here. When I explained to Ketut what I had been expecting to appear for breakfast he lost it too. When he could finally talk again he said, “People eat snack, snake eat people!” Well, yes, sort of! And we laughed again.

Here’s the photo of my SNAKE BREAKFAST!

The morsel I found wrapped in the banana leaf was, oh my…delicious!  And the striped goodies were a close second. So life continues to be a series of delightful surprises and before a thought can even become a wish, it is granted.

Getting What You Want

Oh sweet success! Who would imagine what a thrill breakfast could be? I’ve been here three weeks and until now the first meal of the day has been a rotation of 1) scrambled eggs, toast, strawberry jam, and fruit, 2) omelete, toast, strawberry jam, and fruit, and 3) banana pancake and fruit. I shouldn’t complain. In Minnesota I ate steel cut oats and fruit 365 days a year and loved it! But here? I was beginning to see the months stretch out in endless repetition.

My first attempt at requesting a whole papaya, cut in half, skin on, and peanut butter for my toast turned out badly. I was served my regular breakfast but the bowl that usually included watermelon, pineapple, and banana had only chunks of papaya. A bubble of desperation formed in my throat. That afternoon I went to Ganesha Bookstore and bought an Indonesian Dictionary. As soon as I got home I looked up the words for butter and peanut. Selai kecang. Good. Moving right along I found words for papaya, skin on, cut in half, etc. etc. The complex mixture of consonants and vowels were baffling and overwhelming to me. I found Ketut in the garden, and with sign language and the dictionary I tried again. The next morning the egg was absent, and the papaya appeared in quarters, peeled, on a plate this time instead of a bowl, with toast and strawberry jam. We had gotten a teeny-tiny bit closer.

About that time the afternoon meals were encountering the same issues. I realized that if I wanted to enjoy the wonderful Balinese food that I love, I needed to accelerate the learning curve. I needed flash cards! On an outing to CoCo’s Supermarket, I found wooden ice cream spoons and began writing on them the new Indonesian words and phrases I was learning. Then I practiced, and practiced, and forced my atrophying brain to simply memorize all those unfamiliar sounds.

Studying my flash sticks.

Fortunately, Ketut is a willing tutor. Each morning I tried out my emerging language skills on his Balinese ears and noted the subtle corrections he made in my pronunciation. Sometimes he had to look at the Indonesian word I’d written to understand my version of it! Take for instance, peanut butter. I was pronouncing it see-lie ke-kang. The correct sounds are seh-lay ke-chang. No wonder it had not shown up with the toast! But I’m slowly making progress and he is getting steadily more adept at interpreting my pantomimes. Then this morning his patience and my persistence finally paid off!

Half a papaya with skin and toast with peanut butter!

Bliss! You cannot imagine my excitement and the expressions of gratitude I showered on poor Ketut in English and Indonesian and probably a little leftover Spanish that still hangs out in my memory banks. After I finished the delightful and long awaited breakfast I scurried off to CoCo’s Supermarket and snatched up four more packages of wooden ice cream spoons. Getting what you want, especially when it’s food, is a powerful motivator. Wasn’t it Pavlov…?

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