Foraging in Bali

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A walk on the wild side

Foraging is one of the hottest gastronomic trends to sweep across the globe, with chefs and home cooks alike heading out into the country to gather wild vegetables, herbs and forest fruits. Here in Bali, foraging has always been a way of life, and the beautiful landscape is rife with wild greens, tropical fruits, roots and edible flowers.

The forests, river banks and fringes of Bali’s picturesque rice fields host a plethora of wild herbs, spices and fruit trees, and in order to learn more about Bali’s wild side, I join a fascinating, customised rice paddy walk with Bali Eco Cycling Tours (www.baliecocycling.com). We begin in the coolness of early morning and make our way through the ancient lichen-covered temples of Goa Gajah on the outskirts of Ubud. Weda, a rice farmer from Ubud is my guide, and is passionate about foraging, deeply knowledgeable and has a great sense of humour. The narrow trail leads us along the edge of a steep riverbank shrouded in sub tropical rainforest, where gnarly roots of giant trees cling to the ravine, and dappled sunlight dances through the leafy canopy. We stop to pick fragrant stalks from an [ilak ]bush – used in place of sticks in sate lilit (minced fish satay). Nearby, the leaves of a [simbaman] bush are used to flavour a uniquely Balinese dish known as [be cundang] – where the losing rooster in a cock fight is cooked up and presented in a victory feast. Crossing the muddy creek Weda points out my favourite Balinese delicacy, dainty fern tips, that are tender, juicy and fabulous with shredded coconut.

 

IMG_8251Climbing up the ravine, we pass a heavily laden soursop tree – its leaves are believed to have a similar effects to chemotherapy when it comes to treating cancer. Winding through a dense coconut grove we see immense jackfruit trees, their large bulbous fruit makes a great addition to curries, soups and [rujak] – Balinese spicy fruit salad. Suddenly the forest opens up to a glistening verdant sea of green that stretches as far as we can see. This is the Bali of postcards, and a view that I never seem to tire of. Palms and big-fronded banana trees line the path that threads across the sawah (rice fields), where dragonflies flitter and the sound of trickling water is ever present. The ancient irrigation system, known as [subak], allows a number of edible plants to thrive spontaneously along the edges, including succulent lentor (snake beans), tiny wild eggplant, and pumpkin – the deep yellow pumpkin flower makes a very tasty tempura. The cassava tree has pretty umbrella-shaped leaves, and its starchy roots are used to make[tape] (tapioca), while its young leaves grace pork soup. Wena shows me a bunie tree, in season it will have delicious dark berries that taste great in jam and also in rujak.

We spot papaya, cacao and mangosteen trees, and young cows resting under the shade of massive durians. Taking a break, we sit on the edge of a small ridge and eat sumping, and bantar,  traditional Balinese sweets of sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar, and enjoy the sound of rindik from a distant temple that mingles sweetly with bird song and rooster crows, and the gentle rustle of a breeze in the palms.

IMG_8270 Finishing in the charming restaurant set amidst the rice fields, we sip fresh coconuts and feast on organic rice, smoked duck and chicken and tofu skewers.
If you would like to know how to cook with Bali’s native herbs, fruits and spices, the following offer an authentic village style experience, including visiting the local markets.www.lobongcooking.com 

www.paon-bali.com    www.payukbali.com

www.balinesecooking.net   www.ubadubudbali.com 

Green Ginger, Bali

 

Finally my detox is over and I am dying to go out for dinner, but still want to keep things healthy so I meet up with a friend in one of our favourite catch-up spots – the garden of Green Ginger.   One of the first cafes to spring up in Berawa, Green Ginger is  a collaboration between Britta Boyer, a designer with a penchant for vintage, and Jonathan Russel, well known on the island as DJ Rock Solid.  You can still find him mixing it up at Ku de ta, but these days you are more likely to find him indulging in his passion for creating good food that is also good for you.

A hotch potch of styles and influences are at play, creating a unique space. Food is firmly of the Asian vegetarian persuasion; the vibe is quaint tea house – think ornate china tea pots, floral wall paper and tiered cake stands; while  retro beaded lamps and bird-themed art work create an antique feel. Much of the bric a brac, including the stamp collections, second hand books, and funky furnishings are also for sale.  The enchanted garden out back is filled with dappled sunlight, frangipani, scatter cushions, hanging plants and tinkering chimes, definitely a place for lingering. The picturesque Balinese temple that looms over the garden provides a fitting backdrop.

The vibe

What Green Ginger lacks in space, it makes up for in spirit. This is a cafe with soul! As Jonathon explains, he hopes to add “Positive energy as well as fresh flavours to the local food scene.” The cafe certainly isn’t going to change the world, but does act as an inspiration to others with its thoughtful environmental practices. Apart from Italian coffee, almost everything is sourced locally, and all dishes (including sauces and curry pastes) are made from scratch. A keen gardener, Jono has also been known to put together field trips to visit suppliers in Bedugul so visitors can learn about organic farming. He is also committed to recycling, sustainability and minimal impact, encouraging customers to bring their own containers for take away. In the spirit of community, local Balinese receive hefty discounts, and weekly free Indonesian classes help teach foreigners the lingo.

The Food

Good ethics aside, Green Ginger also served up fabulous food. I have been hooked on the Laksa since I first discovered the cafe a couple of years ago. Prepared Singapore style, this deeply aromatic coconut curry soup is thoroughly intoxicating, served with just a hint of chilli, wedges of tasty tofu, wilted bokchoy and sprigs of fresh dill. Big, fat Rice Paper Rolls are equally moreish packed with fresh vegetables and just a hint of mint, dipping sauces include a light and fragrant homemade peanut sauce. Tofu Puffs are delightfully fluffy, while Crunchy Corn Fritters are made with the plumpest corn kernels that really do burst with flavour, and are lovingly enhanced with thick homemade chilli jam. Salads include Yasai Sarada, a Japanese vegetable salad with seaweed, and the Mango Avocado Salad combining greens with the sweetness of mango and the crunch of snow peas and bean spouts.  For dessert we split a  Coffee, Cardamom and Ginger cake – it is truly extraordinary, even better when enjoyed with a pot of authentic chai.

Aside from Green Ginger, Jono also operates, Zucchini on Oberoi (famed for its salad bar) and the newly opened  Elephant inn Ubud (Will check it out soon.)

Green Ginger Noodle House

Jl Pantain Berawa 46

+62 3618446640

Bali Detox: Bali Buddha

During my detox Bali Buddha has been a great source of food, from organic ingredients to jamu kunyit, and supplements.  I live in Canggu so visit the Jalan Raya Semer store, but below is a review I wrote about their Ubud branch.

Bali Buddha Ubud

The founders of Bali Buddha spearheaded the organic movement in Bali when they opened this quirky and colourful café in Ubud in 1994, with a vision of supporting a healthy lifestyle for themselves, their families and their customers. Cosy corners are filled with bright purple cushions,  vibrant Buddha prints adorn the walls, magazines and well-being books fill the shelves, and a play area keep the little ones entertained. Western and Indonesian home style food is predominantly vegetarian, as well as being wholesome, nutritious, MSG free and seriously tasty. Organic produce is sourced from local farms and they promote and support recycling, fair trade and a number of social and environmental programs throughout Bali. You could say it’s a cafe with a conscience.These days Bali Buddha is a one stop holistic shop, also selling a range of bakery items, as well as natural food, beauty and household products, which are packed into bags made from recycled newspapers.

We visit the flagship cafe in Ubud, which sits on a quirky side street just off Jalan Raya Ubud. A purple staircase leads up to the split level cafe. The first floor provides a cosy intimate setting with sofas set into alcoves, a great place to curl up with a book from their small library or a newspaper, while the main dining floor overlooks a temple compound on one side, and the sidewalk below.

The menu features breakfasts, soups, salads, snacks, pastas, Indonesian dishes, sandwiches, burgers and a raw vegan food section. We start with a selection of health drinks. There is a deep green Super food Smoothy with spirulina and ginseng; a bright yellow Jelly Belly made with aloe vera and a hint of turmeric; a very orange Blast and Last, high in vitamin C with orange, carrot and banana; and my favourite, the Superberry a purple, powerful antioxidant mix of berries.

Our Garden Salad arrives in a huge bowl brimming with fresh crunchy vegetables, seeds and edible flowers, topped with alfalfa sprouts and a slightly sweet red wine vinaigrette. We try the Nasi Campur next, and this Indonesian staple never looked so good, or tasted so healthy. Organic red rice, crunchy soy beans, grilled shredded coconut,  tofu and tempe, and green veggies served on a bed of leaves.

The Mediterranean plate provides a very different taste sensation and is colourful and thoughtfully presented with thick and creamy hummus and babaganoush served in banana-leaf bowls. Tasty marinated feta, tabouli, and fluffy pita bread complete the dish. The Tropical living fruit pie comes from the raw vegan food menu and is a sublime multi-layered concoction with a date and nut crust, ripe and sweet tropical fruit, and a creamy cashew nut topping sprinkled with coconut and almonds.

We round off our meal with some desserts, including the Most delicious carrot ever carrot cake which is dense and moist and lives up to its name; and a nutty, chewy Cashew Cardamom and Orange power ball. Our lunch has been so healthy we figure we deserve something a bit naughty and the smooth and rich chocolate mousse cake fits the bill perfectly.

Portions are generous and the prices are incredibly low considering the quality of the food and the fact that much of it is organic. If you are feeling too lazy to go out, Bali Buddha also offers a convenient home delivery service in Ubud and Kerobokan.

Bali Buddha is a place of sanctuary where ex-pats meet with friends, tourists take a break from their sightseeing, and increasing numbers of locals embrace the health food trend. We really enjoy the background music: a mix of blues, Indian, easy listening and soft jazz: and the ambience, which is overwhelmingly peaceful and relaxing, even as the restaurant fills with a lunchtime crowd. The focus here is on the food and sharing conversation, and Brenda describes the Bali Buddha experience as one of “Eating with presence.”

Green Credentials

Organic produce sourced from local farms and cottage industries.

90% of waste composted or recycled

Supporters of ‘Say No to Plastic’ and ‘Recycling Eco Bali/ABC.’

 www.balibuddha.biz

Bali Buddha, l Jembawan #1 Ubud +62 361 976324

Jl Banjar Anyar #24 Kerobokan  T 0361 8445936

What is Jamu?

 

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Jamu kunyit

While, broadly speaking, the term jamu refers to any kind of traditional  medicine, it is more generally used to describe healing herbal tonics that are popular in Indonesia. Ingredients including herbs,bark, fruit, seeds, honey and leaves are blended together to combat different ailments, with recipes passed down from mother to daughter. The origins of jamu lie on the island of Madura which reputedly has some of the archipeligo’s strongest and most powerful herbs – and it is said that women here can reportedly live to 135 years.  Different kinds of jamu are used for different problems, although many are also taken for general well being and health, and are drunk daily. You can still find jamu sellers in the local markets, or driving around with a mobile jamu store on their motorbike.

Jamu kunyit is a popular version, and one that I am drinking every day during my detox. It is made with turmeric, tamarind, lemon and honey and is dark orange in colour, with  a very strong earthy taste  . Turmeric cleanses the liver gently and naturally and is often used in Ayurvedic medicine as it  boosts the creation and production of bile – necessary for breaking down fats and toxins. The compound substance Curcumin aids in treating gallstones.

Recipe Jamu Kunyit

  • 5-7 inches turmeric
  • 5-7 tamarind
  • 2 lemons
  • raw honey
  • water

1. Peel the  turmeric.

2. Open the tamarind and remove the roots.
3. Fill a big pot with water, and boil turmeric for at least 20 minutes – the water should turn a fiery yellowy gold.
4. In another pan pour 1 inch of water over the peeled tamarind and gently heat. Mix lightly with a wooden spoon to allow the fruit to melt (you need to create a jam-like texture.) Once softened remove from the heat, and strain over a small bowl (strain the soft  fruit through the mesh – but not the seeds or fibre)
5. Once the turmeric water has cooled a little pour it into the blender (with the turmeric). Once blended add the tamarind and blend again, then squeeze in lemons. Add honey to taste and pour into jars or bottles and store in the fridge for up to  4 days.

Kayun restaurant: Heart Touch

Translating into something akin to ‘heart touch’ the founding philosophy of Kayun is that “Anything created with a heart will bring happiness, inner peace and positive energy.”

Unless you are lucky enough to be invited to a ceremonial meal in a village, finding a traditional Balinese dining experience can be surprisingly difficult. A visit to the Kayun Restaurant and Lounge in Mas gives a rare insight into the relationship between food and the divine. The setting is utterly enchanting, thatched berugas and a main dining pavilion set amidst a natural garden. Many of the products used at Kayun are homemade, from the brem (rice wine) to coconut oil to soy sauce, and you can watch women at work in the traditional open air kitchen fuelled by a log fire.

Our welcome drink is a rather potent Brem Mojito and we follow with some traditional jamus, including a Loloh Kayun Turmeric, a dark orange concoction made with turmeric, ginger and lemon, and a grassy green Loloh Kayun Saraswati sweetened with honey from Singaraja.

Food is beautifully presented, the Nasi Saraswati comes on a lotus leaf, topped with eight dishes woven from banana leaf. Each is an offering and pays tribute to the ocean, the river, trees, earth and sky, with turmeric rice, dry salty fish, river shrimp, grated coconut, crunchy soya beans, sambal and spicy chicken. The Lotus Rice is decoratively wrapped in a lotus leaf tied in a bundle. It’s a little like opening a birthday present to reveal rice that is slightly sweet and just a little spicy rice with pumpkin, carrot and tossed in coconut oil. The Vegetable Bamboo comes packed into a bamboo stem, blending the earthy goodness of cassava leaf with tofu and tempe and Balinese spice. While the Yuyu Crab is a fresh river crab soup beautifully served in a coconut. Other traditional dishes include Crispy Duck, Soto Ayam and Bubur Rempah, herb porridge made with red rice, star anise, sweet corn, cinnamon and chicken stock, and a Natural Daluman Pudding that takes its green colour from the dalaman leaf.

Mas is famed across Indonesia for its wood carving. As legend has it, in the 16th century, a monk named Danhyannirarta placed a wooden twig in the ground, which miraculously became a living tree filled with golden flowers. He took this as a sign that the people should put down their roots in this place, and call it Mas, meaning gold; and declared that the people who settled here would create their life from wood. As well as a restaurant, Kayun creates stunning works of art and sculptures lovingly carved from single tree trunks, so make sure to take a peek in the Bidadari Gallery at the entrance to the restaurant.

Little Green

In the three years that it has been open The Little Green Cafe has built a loyal following thanks to a fresh salad bar, friendly vibe, and delicious healthy desserts. With its relocation last year to a bigger space (just across the road from the original spot,) Little Green has blossomed –  quite literally – into the cafe it was always meant to be. Vines dangle in the vibrant garden, aloe vera spills out of  terracotta pots; basil and coriander thrive amidst the Buddha statues, and there are colourful garlands of flowers everywhere. Simple outdoor furniture is punctuated by sunbrellas, heart-shaped napkin holders and woven placemats.

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Little Green has always been a  gathering place, somewhere to sit down with friends and enjoy a good healthy meal in atmospheric, welcoming  surrounds.  Now there is room to breath, and the garden creates a true sanctuary –  its hard to believe we are just meters  from busy Jalan Mertanadi.  The concept remains the  same – home style whole foods, with daily changing salads and bakes, vegan burgers, healthy juicy elixirs. However, the menu, like the premises has expanded, with a recent shift  towards more raw vegan foods – including a huge range of delicious and nutritious desserts.  

 

We start with a Raw Mexican Platter, a new addition featuring  crunchy, locally made tortilla chips, home baked chilli beans, a sharp, piquant tomato sambal, fresh salsa and a creamy tahina and peanut sauce. I follow with the bake of the day – a light and tasty vegan Vegetable Lasagne made with eggless pasta, lashings of fresh vegetables and spinach. The rich creaminess coming from a cashew nut cheese and totally renders béchamel sauce obsolete!  I choose two side salads, Pumpkin & Pineapple, with rucola, lemongrass, cranberries and a hint of chilli, and Fennel, Beetroot Coleslaw, a bright, cheery and very red salad madewith lots of peppers, cabbage and beetroot.

 

I really enjoy the desserts which have a natural and earthy goodness. The moist and sticky Vegan Chocolate Cake is textured and flavoured with organic raw cacao and cashews, and sweetened with dates. While the Raw Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake is made with creamed cashews, vanilla, honey, almonds and dates set in a macadamia nut crust.  

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Drinks range from Young Coconut, to Aloe Vera, Orange and Apple and Green Juice, and there is also a small selection of nuts and pulses, teas and organic products for sale in the shop front. For those looking for a healthy kick start to the day The Little Green breakfast beckons with Cranberry Almond Porridge,  Apple, Date and Cinnamon Porridge.

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The Little Green Café  Jl Bidadari No 1. (off Jalan Mertanadi)

 

P +62 361  2752125  Open 9am – 6pm

 

Kopi Kultur

A number of charismatic warungs and cafes have sprung up in Kerobokan lately.  Kopi Kultur is one of them, and turns out to be the most wonderful of discoveries.

 

The rustic cafe is housed in a sloping bamboo structure and is part of the Wisnu Open Space which incorporates a gallery, a library and  headquarters for the Wisnu foundation. Set up to empower local communities, the Balinese foundation has a  range of initiatives including eco tourism that promotes traditional villages and their natural attractions, such as rice fields, organic coffee plantations and customary rituals.

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Ayip Budiman a communications expert, and one of the founders of Kopi Kultur explains that, “The cafe is a showcase, but the real story is what lies behind.” This is the perfect example of a group of  people with very different backgrounds but similar social values who ar. The four include Ayip, along with  I Made Suarnatha who created the Wisnu foundation, Dicky Lopulalan – a facilitations expert, and Rai Bangsawan of ‘Bali Exotic Beans’ a farming and agricultural consultant who works directly with farmers to implement sustainable, fair trade practices.

 

While coffee is a specialty, there is also  Indonesian food, homemade cakes, pies, baguettes and a range of products on sale such as organic coffee, palm sugar and 9 grain rice – all supplied directly from small local businesses. Rai expertly prepares us Bali Arabica coffee in an elegant glass siphon right at the table, and we sip the resulting smooth rich brew from dainty glasses. He makes a great Cappuccino too, and there is also coffee from Ache, Timor and Papua, as well as  Bali Rustica and Bali Peabody, all of which can be spiced up with the addition of cloves, cinnamon, ginger or cardamom.  

 

The menu offers Indonesian favourites such as Campur and Rendang as well as grills and a couple of pasta dishes. The Nasi Bamboo Kopi Kultur is impressive – rice and vegetables steamed in a piece of bamboo more than a meter long. The bamboo is split open at the table releasing a wonderful aroma. Half is filled with nutty nine grain rice, the other a light and fragrant mix of colourful vegetables, fish and chicken. The pies are also good – especially the Apple with lots of cinnamon.  

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The gallery currently has an interesting exhibition by the Eco defenders #Kudamacan, a local cyclist group who are passionate about protecting the environment, while the library shelves are filled with titles in Bahasa Indonesian, English and other languages. Set up as a space for the community, Wisnu Open Space has developed into quite a gathering place, a true melting pot of musicians and artists including locals, expats, and increasing numbers of tourists who are looking for cultural insight. We are also in luck as the Black Valentine community events gets underway just after sunset and some great local bands take to the outdoor stage to belt out some good old fashioned rock n roll.

 

What started as a simple restaurant review turned into an inspirational experience, marked by excellent coffee, interesting people, good music and a genuine sense of community.

 

Kopi Kultur   Jalan Pengubengan Kauh 94    P +62 361 798 3222