Make This Salad from Bali’s Desa Potato Head

A vegan Indonesian dish, courtesy of the Potato Head brand, stars in the fourth installment of our weekly series “Recipes from the Road.”

Inside Tanaman, Desa Potato Head’s plant-based Indonesian restaurant. (Photo: Kevin Mak)

Given our current state of being housebound, there’s no doubt that we fondly remember the last vacation or trip we took before air travel came to an unprecedented standstill. Mine was a last-minute assignment during the first week of March, when I flew to Bali to inspect Seminyak’s seaside “creative village,” Desa Potato Head, and its latest addition: the OMA-designed Potato Head Studios, a striking contemporary building that deftly blurs the line between a cultural center and a hotel.

Tucked below Potato Head Studios is the brand’s newest restaurant, Tanaman (the name is Indonesian for “plants”), which serves up progressive—and entirely vegan—takes on traditional Indonesian food. It’s a homey yet ultramodern experience that begins the moment staff members pull back the beautiful curved glass double doors, ushering you into a neon-lit concrete cavern. A pair of oval skylights bring in the last rays of the evening sun, and at the center of it all lies a sunken bar where mixologists stir and shake up experimental cocktails. When you take a seat, the welcome drink might be a shot of house-brewed ginger beer, made with leftover ginger skins (sourced from the bar that plies guests with herbal tonics out in the courtyard) fermented for five days in sugar and water.

At Tanaman, the multicourse dinners are designed for sharing, and every meal incorporates a dainty ensemble of snacks and appetizers, followed by a soup course, several mains, a pot of scented rice dyed green with pandan leaves and daun suji (the leaf of Dracaena angustifolia), and then an indulgent dessert. One of the many comforting dishes on the menu is lotek, a salad that originated in the Indonesian province of West Java. West Java’s predominant ethnic group, the Sundanese, have an affinity for fresh vegetables when it comes to their diet. This is clear in the ubiquitousness of lalapan, a plate of assorted greens that must come with sambal (the chili-based condiment that is a must for any Indonesian meal) and can be eaten with just about anything, be it plain white rice or a protein such as fried chicken or fish.

While we wait for Desa Potato Head to reopen in the coming months—hopefully not too far down the line—those of us who are more adept in the kitchen can try recreating its Indonesian fare at home. In the meantime, look out for more recipes posted weekly on Potato Head’s own website as well as its Facebook page and Instagram account.

 

Tanaman’s version of lotek, served in a coconut shell. (Photo: Potato Head)

LOTEK

Makes portions for 2

60 g red tomatoes, quartered

60 g yardlong beans, cut into 4-cm sections

60 g bean sprouts

60 g fried tempeh, diced

60 g cooked baby potato, quartered

70 g cooked water spinach

70 g cooked squash leaves or kale

40 g cucumber, sliced

200 g lotek sauce

Salt to taste

Lime juice to taste

30 g rice crackers, fried

 

LOTEK SAUCE

100 g fried peanuts

50 g fried cashew nuts

1 sliced red bird’s-eye chili

1 sliced red chili, deseeded

1 clove peeled garlic

30 g tamarind purée

35 g chopped palm sugar

35 g coconut milk

35 g filtered water

Salt to taste

 

METHOD:

1. To make the sauce, begin by crushing the peanuts and cashews in a food processor.

2. Add chilies, garlic, tamarind purée, and palm sugar together with water and coconut milk, then season with salt. Continue blending until it reaches a thick consistency.

3. Combine all the prepared vegetables in a bowl, mix in the lotek sauce, and add lime juice and salt as needed.

4. Serve in a bowl with rice crackers.

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