Word spread in excited chatters around the Bali morning market that I, a foreigner, was planning to cook lawar. The lady selling bundles of verdant greens in palm leaf packaging, the vendor with plump ginger roots still damp with earth, the butcher chopping meat with her cleaver and the seller who wrapped individual spices to order, each laughed and clucked in delight to hear I was making the Balinese delicacy. Meaning ‘finely chopped’, the mere thought of this aromatic salad of minced meat, vegetables and grated coconut seems to make the eyes of any Balinese mist over with pleasure. I’ve tried many wonderful variations -lawar made with snake beans, jackfruit or ribbons of young coconut as the vegetable. The meat element can be chicken, pork, fish or smoked duck, and blood can be added to make crimson-stained lawar for temple ceremonies. There is even a roasted dragonfly version for ceremonies when a baby touches the ground for the first time at six months old. The bumbu genep spice mix is simplified in this recipe; at its most complex it contains up to 27 ingredients! One addition I do recommend, if you can source them, are the fresh green peppercorns and long pepper. These peppers, used in Central Bali alongside black and white peppercorns, bring a heat more complex and intriguing than chilli alone, harking back to the days before chilli was introduced to Indonesian cooking.
Boil the green beans for 2 minutes, drain and slice finely into little rounds. Fry the shallot and garlic in oil until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.
Poach the chicken breast in simmering water for about 15 minutes, until just cooked through. Chop as finely as you can, using your knife to mince it to a fine rubble.
Make the bumbu spice paste. Roughly chop all the ingredients and grind to a paste in a food processor, adding a little water if needed to help the blades do their work. Heat
In a large bowl, mix the bumbu with the grated coconut and season with a large pinch of salt. Add the other elements: the green beans, fried garlic and shallot and the chicken. Stir through the green peppercorns, lime leaf and juice and massage everything together.
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