Why would three Brooklynites open a Balinese restaurant? Because once they’d tried the exotic, healthy cuisine, they couldn’t get enough.
Pete Van Leeuwen, Ben Van Leeuwen and Laura O’Neill, the trio behind Brooklyn’s renowned Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, have opened Clean Plates-approved Selamat Pagi (Indonesian for “good morning”). They shared what made them say “we want to eat this kind of food all the time.”
Q. What was the impetus behind opening up a Balinese restaurant?
A. I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and travelled to Bali several times from there with Ben. We fell in love with the island and especially the food. After taking a cooking class in Ubud, Bali, we began experimenting with the dishes and cooking style back home in NYC. We wanted to eat this kind of food all the time and had always secretly dreamed of having our own restaurant, so when we ended up with an empty storefront at the front of our ice cream-making kitchen in Greenpoint, we thought, why not go for it?
Q. What did you have for breakfast today?
A. Sticky black rice with yogurt, fresh mango and toasted coconut.
Q. What are the defining elements of Balinese cuisine?
A. Balinese (Indonesian) food is complex, spicy and fresh. Bali is an island with access to great seafood. Part of what defines the cooking is the use of fresh spices as opposed to dried. We run an almost dairy-free kitchen, cooking most dishes with extra-virgin coconut oil. We use a lot a lemongrass, ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaf and chilies.
Q. What are some choices in cooking style and ingredients that help keep your dishes healthy?
A. Cooking with coconut oil rather than butter keeps the dishes lighter and is integral to the flavor, as well. We source the majority of our ingredients locally and from organic producers. Our grains and flours come from Cayuga Farms. Our produce and meats come from small organic and biodynamic producers in New York and Pennsylvania. Certain ingredients cannot be produced in this region and for those, we make sure to find sustainable and safe sources.
Q. What kind of fish do you feature?
A. We wanted to feature delicious, sustainable and locally caught fish. We change it up based on availability. Right now we are using mostly bluefish and mahi-mahi, but also sometimes offer pollock.
Q. You’re known for your sambal. Can you tell us a bit about this condiment, and how you like to use it?
A. Sambal is generally a spicy condiment. We make all ours from scratch. We offer prawn crackers with three sambals as a snack/appetizer on the menu, which is a wonderful introduction to the flavor profile of the cuisine. We feature the sambals across many of the dishes, with eggs, fish and steak. I often enjoy our sambals simply with steamed rice. The Sambal Matah is a raw sambal made up of finely sliced lemongrass, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and chilies, with black pepper, lime juice, coconut oil and shrimp paste. It’s full-flavored and fresh and great with eggs, meat, greens or fish.
Selamat Pagi’s Sambal Mateh Recipe
by Chef Jason Greenberg
(makes approximately 1 quart)
Add a few tablespoons to your breakfast, lunch or dinner to give them some Balinese spice.
225 g shallots, thinly sliced rounds
5 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
130 g lemongrass, white parts only thinly sliced
35 g red thai bird chilies, seeded and julianned
1/2 tsp. black pepper, ground
2 Tbsp. lime juice, fresh
1 Tbsp. shrimp paste
1/4 c. coconut oil, warmed
sea salt to taste
Place all ingredients except coconut oil in a mixing bowl, and toss well. Add the coconut oil and salt to taste. Sambal should be served at room temperature. Will keep for 1 week in an airtight container in the fridge.
152 Driggs Ave. (bet. Russell and Humboldt Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY 11222
For more recipes, check out The Clean Plates Cookbook!