Bali Hai

A trip to Bali inspires new dishes at Akasha

Other people's vacations to tropical climes often have us gurgling with jealousy.

But the educational bent to chef Akasha Richmond's three-week trip to Bali in 2011 has influenced the menu at her eponymous Culver City restaurant in ways everyone can enjoy.

During her stay, Richmond ate at countless restaurants, shopped at street markets, and took a class at Bumbu Bali, where she learned to assemble spice pastes, curry sauces and sambals.

A trip to Naughty Nuri's in Ubud inspired her Balinese Baby Back Ribs ($14). The ribs are first steamed with lemongrass and ginger, then swathed in kecap manis with curry and grilled until fragrant and sticky. Served with a refreshing green-papaya-and-peanut salad, this is a dish that leads to licking your fingers.

The aromatic Sea Bass ($28) best shows the complexity of the island's cooking, what with its 20-ingredient yellow curry sauce, roasted eggplant, tomato sambal, bean sprouts and long beans.

Easier to prepare but equally compelling are the Balinese-spiced nuts Richmond served at a New Year's Eve dinner, which go from forgettable to addicting when coated with a spicy palm-sugar caramel scented with kaffir lime leaves (pictured; click here for the recipe).

Akasha Restaurant, 9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City; 310-845-1700 or akasharestaurant.com