Bali has some truly incredible foods, and the most amazing thing about them is that they are cooked fresh, to order. Sure, this sometimes takes longer (sometimes a lot longer) but when you are watching the waves roll in and out on a lazy afternoon by the beach, soaking up the sweet smell of incense loving placed throughout the restaurant (and, in fact, the whole village), who cares if it takes a few extra minutes? I have nowhere better to be.
This cap cay (pronounced “chop chay”) is not only one of the healthiest dishes we have found, but also one of the tastiest. This dish which falls somewhere between a soup and a stew is all about whatever is fresh, which I love. It is totally adjustable to whatever veggies you have on hand- whatever is leftover at the end of the week, odds and ends that you find in the back of your freezer, or new veggies that pop up in your CSA box. It can also be vegetarian or loaded with chicken, fish, tofu, tempe or prawns. This dish is all about going with the flow.
We first tried it at a small restaurant called Bliss Cafe- with a view of the ocean and salt pans- in the small fishing village of Amed. While there are many variations (see above note on adaptability) I used the ingredients of the first dish I tried- the one I fell in love with at Bliss Cafe.
The ladies there were nice enough to let us capture a few pictures of them as they prepared our third lunch in row of cap cay at their small restaurant.
Green Beans– High in chlorophyll and other carotenoids like lutein, beta-carotene and more. It also has silicon, an important nutrient for bone health. Opt for fresh, in season green beans. If those are not available, frozen is a great alternative as frozen green beans retain up to 90% of their nutrients. Canned green beans should be a last alternative as they lose about 1/3 of their carotenoid content and have added sodium.
Tomato– When cooked with a little bit of oil (like in cap cay) the lycopene in tomatoes is more bioavailable in the body- just remember to leave the skin on- that’s where most of the lycopene is! Lycopene is an antioxidant that protects the heart, helps prevent prostate cancer and may even help keep asthma under control. Tomatoes also have vitamin C (great for the skin and heart!), vitamin K (important for bone health and may play a role in preventing osteoarthritis) and salicylate, which helps prevent blood clots.
Bok Choy– This member of the cabbage family has a mild flavor and tons of vitamin A and is a great source of vitamin C. Like its fellow cruciferous vegetables, it may help lower the risk of lung disease, colon, prostate and endometrial cancers thanks to it glycosinolates (which get converted to isothiocyanates in the body). Left raw, bok choy has cancer fighting glycosinolates. Cooked it has a higher bioavailability of cancer fighting carotenoids. Bottom line? There is no wrong way to eat this tasty veggie!
Shallots– Sweeter and not as strong as their onion cousins, shallot still pack a wallop when it comes to nutrition. They are low in calories and seriously up the flavor of any dish. Their high flavonoid content reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They are often found in Asian, Mediterranean and French cooking.
Garlic– Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, it also helps reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers like breast, stomach, prostate and colon cancers. This little member of the lily family may even help prevent the pesky common cold! To get the most out of your garlic, be sure and crush or chop it and let it sit for a few minutes- this helps the cancer fighting compounds form and stabilize. Read more about getting the most out of your garlic HERE.
Onions– Because onions are so prevalent in cooking in many cultures, they are one of the most significant sources of antioxidants in the diet. Onions are super healthy- they help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, prevent plaque buildup in arteries, reduce the risk of stroke and may even help balance blood sugars. For a more in-depth look at the awesomeness that is the onion, check out this article.
Napa Cabbage– This Chinese cabbage is super low in calories and packs a great, sweet crunch which goes well in salads and adds texture to soups and stews. It also contains folic acid and vitamins C, A and K as well as the mineral potassium (great for counteracting the effects of a high sodium diet). It is a source of iron, but it is non-heme iron meaning it is not absorbed as well.
Bell Pepper– Red bell peppers are especially high in vitamin C, as they are left on the vine the longest, in fact they have one and a half times more vitamin C than their green counterparts. They are also a source of fiber and the antioxidant beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant, cardio protective agent and anti-inflammatory.
Carrots– Not only do carrots contain a good amount of fiber, they (along with other bright orange veggies) have been found to be the most beneficial at preventing heart disease. Got some fresh from the Farmer’s Market or CSA? Use the greens as well to add a fresh, slightly bitter flavor to salads and more. More good news- when stored air tight and kept damp, carrots retain a high percentage of their beta-carotene content!
Cauliflower– Another of those yummy cruciferous veggies that help fight cancer thanks to their glycosinolates. Adding five servings a week of cruciferous veggies can seriously cut down on the risk of cancer (cauliflower, kale, bok choy, broccoli and Brussel’s sprouts are all good choices!). Cauliflower is also a source of vitamin K and its fiber will help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut- the ones that help burn fat, keep your immune system going strong and produce vitamins.
Potato– Another veggie that rarely gets the love it deserves, potatoes are a good source of potassium (mostly in the skin), vitamin C, and B6, fiber and resistant starch- a form of starch that mimics many properties of both soluble and insoluble fiber while feeding those healthy bacteria.
Soy Sauce– although this soy sauce does contribute some serious sodium, it also add some serious flavor and is great when used in moderation. Learn all about the history of soy sauce HERE.
I really loved this dish and I cannot wait to try cooking it myself with the following recipes: