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Community Cook

YANNI GREW UP ON a farm in Bali and has always been familiar with edible tropical plants. She’s spent time learning more about native plants and people in the Top End, and loves learning about new foods and landscapes.

Words and photos by Emma Lupin

“Seed collecting and finding wild food is like treasure hunting. My new favourite is the native peanut tree (sterculia quadrifida) the seed pods are so beautiful, like gems of the bush,” she says.

Yanni loves her new city, and that Darwin is so close to Bali where she moved from in 2014 to follow her husband. She loves the similar weather and friendly people, and appreciates the diverse community with people of many backgrounds.

Her favourite adventures include camping with her 3-year-old son and learning more about native bush tucker, but she still loves to cook and share Balinese cuisine. Yanni loves to use locally grown plants to balance the beautiful zingy flavours in her cooking, like lemongrass, chilli and ginger.


Satay lil lit and La war – Balinese Chicken Satay
This traditional Balinese dish is consumed at special Hindu gatherings with family. It is a wonderful way to use lemongrass stems as cooking sticks.

Ingredients (Makes 12-15)
3- 4 shallots
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons of minced ginger root
4 tablespoons of minced lemongrass stalk (centre only)
1 teaspoon of ground or fresh turmeric
2 lime leaves cut into strips
1 chilli, finely diced (optional)
1 tablespoon of desiccated dry or fresh coconut
500g of minced free-range chicken
12 lemongrass sticks cut for skewers

Dice the shallots, garlic, chilli and lemon grass. Mince or very finely chop the ginger and fresh turmeric. Cut the lime leaves into strips. Put all of these ingredients into the mortar and pestle and mash finely.

In a bowl add this spice mix to the chicken and mix through. Shape the mix around the end of the lemongrass sticks (make sure these are moist or soaked in a little water). Cook these over a small charcoal barbeque or on the coals of a fire until cooked through (5-10 minutes each side).

You can use substitutes including tofu mince for a non-meat version. Lemongrass grows really easily in the Top End, particularly in the Wet season. It can be used in a huge amount of dishes, made into tea and other drinks. As well as having a beautiful fragrant flavour, it is a very good digestive and is used to reduce high blood pressure by stimulating blood circulation and purifying the liver.

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