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March 2000, Its about 9.30 pm I am on the bus that took me from Denpasar (Bali) to Solo (central Java) to board the ferry in  Gilimanuk.  I just happened to  look at the guy sitting beside me, I found it very strange because he was putting a lemongrass stalk  into his nose. He took a deep breath and almost immediately I could see his face go very calm. He realized I was looking at him and we started to have a conversation.

The man        : I do apologize do I look strange with this lemongrass up my nose?

Me                  :No, but I just wondered why you are using lemongrass?

The man        :It’s a long story, but I am on my way back home from Central Kalimantan, and while I was there I had such a bad experience, and I saw so many terrible situations,  that if I think about it, I would be sick, and the aroma of this lemongrass just cools me down and keeps me calm.

Me                  : Ahh, sorry about that.

I didn’t want to make anymore conversation with the man, because I knew that he wanted to talk and to tell me the whole story, I didn’t want to hear more, I was just worried that if I heard all of the story I would pass out  ( I already knew that in 1999 in central Borneo they were having violent ethnic riots. I didn’t want to be rude, so I just nodded and pretended I knew everything. I put on my headphones and sat  listening to “fixing the broken heart” by Indecent obsession.

I’dlike to talk about my Mom for a bit, she has a very strange relationship with fish!!. Her family came from Rembang a which is small city on the coast in north Central Java. I can remember us all going to visit my Mom’s family in a place call Pandangan, the house is so close to the Java sea, about a 5 minute walk away we come to the fisherman’s boat’s and the fish auction, I can  still remember everything being so cheap.

But… this is the problem, fish isn’t my Mom’s favourite food, she still often cook’s fish for all the family, but she has to have a secret weapon when she is cooking the fish (she hate the smell).. “yup you can guess .. Its lemongrass”.. or sometimes  when her family came to visit,  she asks them to bring ready smoked fish. (The smoked fish that my mom’s family always brought is the stingray barb fish, the creature that killed Steve Irwin).

So, I have two fish recipes that my mother always cook’s for the family and they both use lemongrass.



  • 500g fish fillet, cut into 2 pieces (any fish)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 8 spring onions
  • 2  kaffier lime leaves
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and sugar to taste
  • aluminium foil to wrap

Ingredients to blend:

  • 10 cm Ginger
  • 5 Lemongrass stalks
  • 10 fresh red chilies
  • 1 big onion
  • 6 candlenuts


1.  Slice the tomatoes and cut the spring onions into 2 cm lengths.

2.  Place the ingredients that need blending into a bowl.  Add in oil, lime juice, spring onions and salt and sugar to taste.

3.  Rub the pieces of fish with salt.

4.  Take a piece of aluminium foil , place a piece of fish on it.  Cover the fish with half of the blended mixture and top with a kaffier lime leaf.

5.  Wrap the fish and secure the ends.  Do the same as for the other piece of fish.

6.  Bake in preheated oven at 190 deg C for 25 minutes or until fish is cooked

Serve with steamed fragrant rice…..



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