Merta Sari

merta sari

Luckily, Mr. Bourdain hasn’t made it to Merta Sari. Situated in the small village of Pesinggahan on Bali’s east coast, it is known island-wide for its sate lilit ikan, a minced fish satay.

Families come great distances to sit in this dusty roadside stall with nothing but a thatched roof and a bunch of plastic tables. It’s especially jammed when there’s a Bali Hindu ceremony going on at the nearby temple of Goa Lawah, which means Bat Cave. (There is a deep cavern in the center of the ancient temple filled with thousands of fruit bats.)

I stopped by Merta Sari on a late Tuesday afternoon with Ben Ripple, an American expatriate who owns Big Tree Farms, which manufactures and exports sea salt and other Indonesian artisanal products out of Bali. We grabbed some sodas near the kitchen and sat at a wobbly plastic table covered with a bright turquoise plastic tablecloth.

About 10 minutes later, a mini-banquet was served on mismatched plates: a bowl of fiery fish soup; a mountain of rice; just-fried peanuts; spicy green beans with shredded coconut; and the main dish, a variation of fish on a stick, including the lilit. There were also ikan pepes, minced fish steamed with Balinese spices in banana leaves.

“You throw a little bit of everything on your plate,” said Mr. Ripple, who he said, stops by almost every time he checks in on the farmers who hand-produce his salt up the road. The lilit ikan was spicy and sweet. Eaten with the rice, string beans and the crunchy peanuts, it was a little like taking a bite of the landscape: fishing boats, small crystalline beaches and valleys thick with palm trees.

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