A tale of roasted pig in Bali
OR I SHOULD SAY, I love their crispy, butterfat skin and the idea of roasting one on my own. When my husband Isaac and I got married, we decided to have a pig roast. However, two details interfered with our plans: there was a burn warning in Arkansas in late July when we tied the knot, and the only person in our neighborhood who had experience roasting pigs was a convict with a known drug problem. “Do you want to invite him to the wedding?” my dad asked.
I have had to make up for not eating roasted pig at my wedding by searching for the dish in Spain, on the atoll of Atafu, and, most recently, in Ubud, Bali. Is there anything more endearing than a plump, crisp pig on a plate that looks as if it were thrown in the oven running? How lovely to have fatty food arrive in an athletic stance! Roasted pig is so tasty that I don’t even begrudge it the crispy hairs that aren’t burnt off in the oven.
In Bali, my best friend Tien and I shared a taxi from Kuta to Ubud with a vegan, and we made the mistake of inviting her to eat suckling pig with us. Alas, she did not join us at the famed Ubud restaurant Ibu Oka for lunch.
Pork lovers spilled out onto the street drinking beer and carousing as they waited in line. I pushed my sweaty body into the crowd, walked past women stripping huge, golden suckling pigs of their tastiest bits, and tried to edge my way towards the shared seating section where strangers sat cross-legged side by side at low tables as they licked their greasy fingers.
I love seating that forces me to share a table with strangers. In this instance, I sat with four Aussie women who had been best friends for fifty years and regaled me with their stories over cold Bintang.
Once seated, Tien and I ordered baskets of suckling pig with blood sausage, more Bintang, and two whole coconuts. I cooled my face, hot from the Balinese sun, on my bottle of beer. The basket of assorted roast pig included pieces of crispy skin and meat spiced with garlic, chili, ginger, galangal, turmeric, and bay leaves. May I please write an Ode to the Gods of Turmeric:
Turmeric, the spice of choice
to rub on a roasted pig
and on my tired body
when I go to the Balinese spa.
O’ may I be as fragrant as the pig, but not as tasty.
The whole meal would have cost us under 500 rupiah ($10USD) per person if we had not made the mistake of thinking that the mangosteens piled on the table were free. Tien and I cracked open the burnished plum skin of the fruit to reach the sweet, white flesh within. We ate and ate, until we had mountains of mangosteen skins surrounding us.
Eventually the waiters noticed that we were surrounded by a fortress of mangosteen remains, and they began to laugh. When we asked for our bill, the waiter came over and began to sort through the mangosteen peels to count how many we had eaten – sixteen. They ended up costing the same amount as one order of suckling pig. Our mangosteen eating spree must have been memorable, because several days later when we ran into our waiter on the street, he grinned at us and asked if we wanted more mangosteens.