The legendary ‘sate lilit’ and ‘pepes’ from Kusamba

by Anton Muhajir on 2013-03-28

Perfectly grilled: Pepes ikan, steamed, then grilled, fish wrapped in coconut leaves, is a spicy, but healthy option at Warung Ibu Eka.Perfectly grilled: Pepes ikan, steamed, then grilled, fish wrapped in coconut leaves, is a spicy, but healthy option at Warung Ibu Eka.

The village of Kusamba, which faces the Nusa Penida Strait, is mostly known as being the center for fresh fish, thanks to its market. From here, tongkol (tuna) is made into pindang (salted boiled fish) and then sent to various markets in Denpasar and other parts of the island.

Besides pindang, Kusamba is also famous for its sate lilit and pepes ikan laut. These two dishes are sold in rows of food stalls along the village’s main street, which is located in Dawan district, Klungkung regency.

The journey from Denpasar to the village takes about an hour, via Jl. Bypass IB Mantra. Kusamba is situated on the right-hand side of the highway, after the traffic light next to Tukad Unda bridge in Klungkung.

Dedicated cook: Ibu Eka spends her days preparing and cooking her signature dish, pepes ikan Kusamba.Dedicated cook: Ibu Eka spends her days preparing and cooking her signature dish, pepes ikan Kusamba.

Before the IB Mantra and Kusamba highways were constructed, the village was on the route always used by people heading to the eastern part of Bali, including Karangasem, Candidasa and Tulamben. These food stalls became a popular stop for travelers to taste the village’s specialty, sate lilit and pepes Kusamba.

Today, these food stalls don’t see as many customers as they did in the past. But they remain open and still sell their famous dishes. One of them is Warung Ibu Eka in Rame hamlet. Her food stall opens daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“In the olden days, when we had more visitors, we could open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” said Ni Wayan Sekartini, the owner of the stall that sells both dishes for Rp 15,000 (US$1.54) per portion. Every portion includes rice and a bowl of fish soup.

Legendary meal: Sate lilit and pepes ikan Kusamba are famous for their distinguished taste, rarely found in other places.Legendary meal: Sate lilit and pepes ikan Kusamba are famous for their distinguished taste, rarely found in other places.

The sate lilit in Kusamba is browner and chewier than the sate lilit made in Pesinggahan. There are also two kinds of pepes, differentiated by color; yellow for the pepes seasoned with terasi (fish paste) and red for the pepes seasoned with more chilies and tomatoes. The pepes, which is wrapped in banana leaves, and the sate lilit are grilled directly in front of the customers who have made the orders, with the smoky aroma making customers even hungrier.

- Photos by Anton Muhajir

Choose an Edition