POSTED ON DECEMBER 19, 2007:
Living the Indonesian Dream
Which means Bubble Tea finally hits the Tulsa drink shelves
Bali Fusion Cafe
For Ervintha Soemantri, it is a dream come true to have her own restaurant. As the owner, manager and creator of the only Indonesian restaurant in Oklahoma, as she says, this is a major life accomplishment.
"I was a stay at home mom, and then as the children were older, I wanted to do this, to introduce Tulsa to Indonesian food," she said.
And now she has her own place, Bali Fusion Café, which opened two months ago in The Village shopping center, just west of Woodland Hills Mall.
Coming from Indonesia to America when her husband was working on his degree in engineering, she always enjoyed developing, cooking and perfecting her own recipes. Of late, she has been perfecting how to cook for a restaurant, readying herself for the restaurant opening.
"We have a fusion menu of Indonesian and Balinese dishes," she said, "but mostly Indonesian food. Also, we have non-Asian food because I wanted to have something for everyone. Our Asian food is simple but very tasteful."
Some non-Asian foods include Tuna Salad Sandwich, Club Sandwich, Chicken Salad Sandwich, as well as grilled panini sandwiches--such as the Sante Fe Turkey Melt and the Italiano. Salads include Beef Fajita, Grilled Chicken Caesar and the House Special, which is mixed greens, chicken, tomatoes, red onions, black olives and shredded carrots.
As any proud restaurant owner would say, "everything is good," but Soemantri did select some favorites such as the Ayam Bakar (grilled Cornish Hen, $6.99), Chicken Satay (marinated chicken in Indonesian spices then grilled on skewers and served with homemade peanut sauce, $6.99), Fried Rice ($6.49), Fried Thin Rice Noodle (Bi Hun Goreng, $6.49) and Rendang (Sumatra Dry Beef Curry, $7.99). She also recommends the Risoles ($2) from the appetizers menu.
When I dined here, I did sample a few of these items. I began with the Risoles. Soemantri described this deep fried Dutch-Indonesian breaded egg roll as akin to a chicken pot pie. She said that more than three centuries of Dutch influence was still prevalent in Indonesian recipes, and this one was a good example.
This roll is stuffed with a chicken ragout (the Dutch influence), is breaded and then fried and served with a rich honey mustard sauce. It is very good-- I enjoyed the outside breaded texture and the ragout was a nice change of filling for an egg roll.
I then ordered the Fried Thin Rice Noodle, which is stir fried vermicelli noodles with chicken, carrots, cabbage and green onions. This was a very filling dish. The veggies were stir fried perfectly to al dente and the very thin noodles were soft, yet slightly firm. While it had a fresh flavor with the veggies, I would have enjoyed a side sauce of some sort with this, even a little soy sauce would have added another level of dimension.
I also had the Fried Rice and just a bite of the Rendang. The rice was exceptionally good--this is traditional Indonesian fried rice with little pieces of chicken, egg, carrots, peas and onions. I truly enjoyed the full texture and the fusion of flavors.
The Sumatra Dry Beef was interesting. Soemantri said she slow cooks the beef in their specially mixed curry spices, coconut milk and a little water until the milk is completely absorbed within the meat. The result is ultimately tender and highly marinated, exotically seasoned beef. This is served with a side of white rice.
One reason I was most curious to check out Bali Fusion Café was the Bubble Tea, a new trend in tea drinks (finally arriving in Oklahoma), which made news, especially among young adults, on the coast at least three or four years ago.
Bali Fusion Café claims to be the only place in Tulsa that carries Bubble Tea. (Although, I dined at Hmong Café recently and enjoyed Bubble tea there as well.) Originally, Bubble Tea began in Taiwan and Hong Kong teashops in the early 1980s. The "bubble" actually referred to the bubbles which formed on the top of a capped cup of tea, which had to be shaken after a flavoring was added.
Then in the early '80s, Taiwan tea shops started a new fad of adding tapioca pearls to a favorite drink--usually in cold infused tea. After the tea and flavor were shaken, the tapioca pearls landed on the bottom of a clear cup, which also resembled bubbles, and thus, Bubble Tea.
Also known as "boba drink," I had my first one at Bali's, which has an enormous drink selection of Flavored Juice Teas, Slush/Icy drinks and Flavored Mild Drinks, each in more than 15 flavors. Just by way of example, the milk drink flavors are almond, banana, chocolate, coffee, cappuccino, honeydew, lychee (tropical fruit native to China), taro (tropical plant of South Asia), peach, passion fruit, mango, grape, strawberry, vanilla and watermelon.
I had a Bubble peach ice tea with the black "bubbles" sitting in the bottom of the clear cup, sealed with plastic cellophane. I was given a fat straw (essential for pearl pick up), which I pierced into the cellophane to begin this experience. A few sips and I had a tapioca pearl, the size of a small marble, in my mouth. The texture and consistency is somewhere between Jell-o and chewing gum. The name "boba" is Chinese slang for female breasts because it is described as resembling that same "texture." I tried to dispel this thought when chewing the tapioca balls.
These chewy balls or boba or tapioca pearls are made from cassava, a type of sweet potato and possibly brown sugar rolled into giant black tapioca-ike balls. I have heard some say a "good boba" is seductively soft on the outside and charmingly chewy on the inside, with a bit of sweetness. It is a good description of my first experience. I love it, and I can see how it would be a unique, filling drink.
Bali Fusion Café
6808 S. Memorial Dr., #302
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