The Gilis Islands are a dreamy paradise, just a boat ride away from Bali. On this little Indonesian archipelago, there is not a motorized vehicle in sight, only cidomo - funky horse-drawn buggies. Yes, on Gili Trawangan you can find backpackers smoking weed, flirting, and hanging out. Or like us, you can escape to the sleepy side of the island where there is nothing to do but snorkel with sea turtles, read novels, have bonfires on the beach, and watch epic sunsets. I think Gili T is my new happy place.
I've noticed that travel to remote spots often means sacrificing good eats. But at the whitewashed and stylish Gili Eco Villas, we lucked out with a gem of a cook - Pip a la Supiana, whose food wasn't just decent island fare, it was fantastic. Pip has that magic touch: with simplicity, respect of ingredients, love, and the subtlety of perfect preparation that looks effortless. Everything Pip makes is full of freshness and flavor. My kind of food. (2012: An update on Pip.... sadly, he is no longer at Gili Eco Villas.)
Pip let me join him in his kitchen one afternoon and I had so much fun. We made fragrant yellow rice, prawn skewers on lemongrass, and this delectable squid dish. One of the best things about cooking with Pip was learning more about his palate of spices that are so different from my typical pantry staples. In my Berkeley kitchen, I tend to favor garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme, lemon, and mint - where Pip tosses in lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, sesame, chilies, lots of lime, and honey. There is no reason why the rest of us cannot try to cook like Pip: all of his "exotic" ingredients are actually easy to find. I know I will take his cooking home with me to California.
I so enjoyed eating Pip's squid that I ordered it every night we stayed in the Gilis. I won't have the opportunity to cook this squid dish myself until we are back in California later this summer, but I couldn't wait that long to share Pip's recipe with you.
I can imagine 10 years from now coming back to Indonesia and finding Pip with a slew of successful restaurants of his own. He is that good.
PIP'S GILI ISLAND SQUID
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 teaspoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 large pieces of squid
- 1- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 more lime
For the Sauce:
- 1 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped spring onion
- 1 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped ginger
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped chilies (green and or red chilies of your choice)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- garnish: sprinkling of sesame seeds
Grind garlic, ginger, and sea salt in a mortar and pestle until you have a well-blended paste. Transfer this mixture to a bowl large enough to marinate the squid. Add juice of 1/2 lime and toss the already squeezed lime into the bowl. (I love that Peep puts already juiced citrus into the marinade - a rustic alternative to adding zest.) Add the olive oil. Stir the marinade and set aside.
Cut squid tubes open so that you have large flat pieces. Cut squid into smaller pieces (maybe 2x4 inches each) then score the squid by making shallow cuts in a grid-like pattern. Add squid to the marinade bowl, and rub marinade all over the squid especially into the scored grooves. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
Chop and prep all ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.
After the squid has marinated for an hour or so, heat up a large skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon or two of sesame oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the squid. Squeeze in the juice of another lime over the top of the squid while it is cooking. Cook squid pieces for a few minutes on each side until done. ( I would love to try cooking this squid on our grill at home. I think the smokey flavor would be delish.)
Set aside the cooked squid. Toss all of the sauce ingredients into the already hot pan that still has the cooking juices from the squid. Stir sauce and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the flavors are released. Pour sauce over the squid, sprinkle sesame seeds over the top and serve. Yum!