Janet DeNeefe’s Water Spinach In Tomato Sambal

Janet DeNeefe - Queen of Ubud
Janet DeNeefe

Cook and author

Nov 09, 2022

Bali has been home to Janet DeNeefe – or The Queen of Ubud – as she is fondly nicknamed – for over 20 years. This talented cook, restauranteur, author, artist, literary festival director, wife, mother, and practicing Hindu shares some of her favourite Indonesian-inspired recipes with us. 

You haven’t arrived in Indonesia until you’ve eaten kangkung! This very popular leafy green on tall hollow stems and with narrow, pointed leaves is bursting with iron, calcium and mega-doses of tryptophan, which is known to nudge you into a delicious slumber and also promise a night of happy and hopefully romantic dreams. The flavour of kangkung is similar to English spinach and is especially divine mixed with tomato and shrimp paste. This dish just about sums up the essence of Balinese food: rustic, charming and implicitly good for you.

Serves 4-6

200 g water spinach, cut in half (or english spinach if unavailable)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons oil
3 kaffir lime leaves, rolled into a bundle and finely shredded
2-3 tablespoons fried shallots, plus extra to garnish
3 teaspoons kecap manis
lime wedges to serve

Tomato Sambal
5 shallots, roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves
3 long red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
2-3 small red chillies, roughly chopped
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 candlenuts
1/2-1 teaspoon shrimp paste
sea salt

Put the spinach in a saucepan and add the salt and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the stems are soft. Drain and set aside.

Pound the ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar, or blitz in a food processor.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and fry the sambal until reduced by almost half and the oil has risen to the surface. This will take at least 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Mix the cooked spinach, lime leaves, fried shallots and kecap manis with the sambal either in the hot wok or in a separate bowl, as is the tradition. Pelecing actually means to mix by hand. Taste for a good balance of flavours.
5 Top with more fried shallots and serve with wedges of lime

The Carousel thanks BALI The Food of my Island Home


By Janet DeNeefe

Cook and author

Cook, restauranteur, author, artist, literary festival director, wife, mother, and practicing Hindu - Janet is a one-woman powerhouse and fondly named 'The Queen of Ubud' in beautiful Bali. Take a culinary journey with the humble and inspiring Janet as she shares her love of Indonesian-inspired food with The Carousel



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