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 

Temples in Bali

You find them clinging to steep volcanic slopes, perched on craggy cliffs, or nestled in the branches of towering banyan trees.  Some seem to float on serene lakes, while others are tucked away amidst the frangipani in family compounds. Known as Pura, Bali’s temples are the meeting points of humans and gods and here, on the island of the gods, a temple is never far from view.

More than 10,000 temples are scattered across the island and commemorate virtually every aspect of life: harvest, rain, prosperity, life, death and protection. Generally, the greater gods are worshipped in larger public temples while lesser gods and deities are worshipped in smaller local temples. The most important are known as the nine directional temples or Kahyangan jagat and occupy auspicious locations, like mountains, cliffs and lakes.  Unlike smaller regional temples, these are considered to be relevant to all of Bali and protect the island and its inhabitants from evil spirits.  From these, six are classed as sad-kahyangan, supreme holy temples and are considered the pillars of the island.  These generally include Pura Besakih, Pura Uluwatu, Pura Goa Lawah, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, Pura Batukaru, Pura Pusering Jagat.

Pura kahyangan jagad: mountain temples

Bali’s majestic mountains and volcanoes are thought to be the abode of the gods, and these temples command impressive settings with panoramic backdrops. They are places  of pilgrimage – especially during full moon ceremonies and odalan (temple anniversaries.) Pura Besakih – the  mother temple is the most important of all and occupies an enormous complex 1000 m high on the slopes of Mount Agung – Bali’s holiest mountain. Believed to be the spiritual and religious centre of the universe,  Brahma, Wisnuand Siwa are worshipped here, as well as  a host of other deities. The  tropical rainforest of Mount Batakaru is home to another important – if less visited –temple, Pura Luhur Batukaru, which is dedicated to the god of plants and growing. While over in the north east, Pura Lempuyang  (the dragon temple) perches on a lonely, windy mountain ridge and is dedicated to the god Iswara, ‘keeper of the peace,’ and is reached by way of 1,700 steep steps cut into the mountainside.

Pura segara: ocean temples

These mighty Balinese sea temples were designed to appease the wild and unruly gods of the ocean, and have particular significance during the Melasti purification rituals that precede Nyepi (the Balinese new year.) During this time sacred objects and effigies are carried in long and colourful processions to the ocean where people bathe with the deities, in a symbolic cleansing of body and soul. With its dramatic setting on the cliffs of southern Bali, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the island’s most famous sea temples and is dedicated to Rudra, the god of storms and wind. While Pura Goa Lawah hugs the coast of Kusamba and is associated with the after life. Commonly known as the Bat Cave (there are hundreds of them – but they are not  objects of worship,) it is said to be linked to Pura Besakih by a 30km tunnel which, according to mythology, is inhabited by a giant dragon-like snake that feeds off bats.

Pura tirta: water temples

Unlike other temples which serve purely religious purposes, the picturesque water temples also have a practical role to play in the management of subak (rice irrigation system), with temple priests managing the water allocation among  the surrounding rice paddies. Some of these temples have sacred springs and bathing pools making them a popular destination for cleansing rituals, the most well known being Pura Tirta Empul.  Believed to have been created by Indra, the ruler of heaven, and god of thunder and rainfall, the holy waters of Tirta Empul are said to have strong curative properties.Other water temples are built within lakes, such as the stunning Pura Ulun Danu Bratan which appears to float on the water and is dedicated to the worship of the goddess of lakes and rivers.

Khayangan Tiga: territorial temples

Each village іs required by adat  (traditional law) to have аt least three temples. These include the pura puseh (temple оf origin) dedicated the village founders and located аt the kaja (pure) side оf the village. In the center of the village, the pura desa (village temple) is for the spirits that protect and bless the village, while the pura dalem (temple оf the dead) is situated аt the kelod (unclean) end and also acts as a graveyard.  There are also functional temples belonging to different professions and their relevant deities. For instance Dewi sri, the rice goddess, is worshipped at rice temples, while farmers and merchants have temples located next to Bali’s markets  which are dedicated to Dewi Melanting, the goddess of seeds, gardens and markets. Family temples are the smallest and the most numerous and can be found in every Balinese Hindu compound. Ancestors are worshipped at these hereditary shrines which are honoured with daily offerings .

 

Free Diving Amed


“The one who controls his breath is the ruler over his mind and body”

Swami Satyananda Saraswati.”

Photographs courtesy of Cdelacy / www.apneista.com  

More on Amed

Learning to free dive

 

Amed with its rugged mountain scenery and vibrant coral reefs is increasingly known as a centre for free-diving in Bali, and is home to Apneista, the island’s first free-diving school.  With a beachside yoga shala, cafe and juice bar on the picturesque bay of Jemuluk, Apneista  offers a range of courses that combine the essentials of free-diving with yoga, stretching, pranayama and advanced breath work – all  components of going ‘down the line’ into the big blue.   “Yoga breath is the bridge between mind and body, the conscious and the unconscious  says Matt, founder of  Apneista. “Rather than yoga being simply part of our free-diving training, we see free-diving as the oceanic part of our yoga practice.”

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People have been free-diving for thousands of years, scraping the ocean floor for pearls, shell fish and sponges, but free diving as a sport was relatively unknown until the iconic film of the 80’s, The Big Blue.  The movie, loosely based on the real life rivalry between two champion free-divers, Jaques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, captured the glory days as divers reached record depths and in so doing challenged the notions of human biology. It was discovered that humans, like sea mammals possess the mammalian dive reflex – when  the body is submerged in cold water all major systems slow down, minimising the need for oxygen. Known as the dolphin man,  French-born Mayol mastered his free-dive technique by swimming with dolphins –   in mimicking their behavior he learned how to integrate himself with the ocean. By adding the power of yoga and meditation, he revolutionised the sport, becoming the first free diver to reach 100 meters.  As yogis have always taught us, when we become aware of our breath, incredible things can happen.

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While adrenalin junkies still strive to go ever deeper, these days many are drawn to the more gentle, recreational aspects of free diving, and the opportunity to enjoy the peace and stillness of the underwater world unencumbered by a  tank. While scuba diving enables you to stay underwater for a longer time, passively observing the reefs and marine life; free-diving allows a full aquatic immersion as you float gently on the currents, completely at one with the ocean. There is an extraordinary sensation of weightlessness and silence, time seems to stand still – in fact it doesn’t seem to exist at all. The outer peace of the surrounding deep blue ocean creates an extraordinary sense of inner peace – or perhaps it’s the other way around… its hard to tell when the  body and mind are acting as one and flowing effortlessly, seamlessly into an intensely beautiful experience.

Asanas and free diving

Just as yoga asanas are often inspired by animals,  free-diving – sometimes referred to as ocean yoga – teaches us to move like a fish, gliding slowly and gracefully through the ocean. “Yoga teaches us alignment of the body, with practice the body becomes more fluid in nature as we develop flexibility and make space, but this is not a  thing only of ligaments and muscles, it is a thing of energy,” says Matt. “We don’t do this for the sake of sitting in ever-more complicated postures, we do this so the body’s subtle life juices can flow better. With free-diving our focus is precisely on this type of fluid movement, to move like water through water. We learn that rigid movement is wasteful movement the forgiving nature of water allows us a fluid realignment of the body.”

The benefits of Pranayama

“The list of benefits of yoga for the free diver are long – from teaching mental clarity and thoracic flexiblity to emotional well-being, but  the benefits of free-diving to the Yogi, when practiced in the right spirit, are equally profound,” says Matt. “ The most obvious  is the control and understanding of the breath, free-diving as a door into the science of pranayama.”   Those who practice pranayama regularly are naturally able to hold their breath longer and are accustomed to exploring the breath and the mind’s reactions to the body, perfect tools for free diving which requires  a range of breathing techniques, including a pre dive ‘breathe up’ and a ‘post dive’ recovery breath.”

 

Underwater Meditation

Yoga and meditation teach us to let go of tension, to be in the moment, as we learn to passively observe thoughts and physical sensations without putting energy into them. This is essential to free diving where the mind may initially rebel against the idea of going deep and being unable to breath – but it is only by confronting our fears that we are able to move beyond them. “This drawing together of mind and body into one focused moment is some of the essence of yoga,” says Matt. “In Bali the sea is considered a place of many dangerous spirits yet also a place of purification,” he adds. “In a romantic way we can see free-diving in the Balinese context as a ritualised confrontation with the our ‘low spirits’ of fear and needless anxiety. When we free-dive sometimes the mind turns against us becoming mischievous or fearful, we can become plagued by our own inner ‘demons of doubt’. But with the ritual of our weighted line and safety procedures  and our faith in physics we can see beyond the doubts to the deep blue face of mother nature. Then we free-dive mindfully, infused with calm and a sense of home coming.

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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

 

Kreole Kitchen

 

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The food alone is enough of a reason to stop at Kreole Kitchen, but the retro ‘old school’ Melbourne vibe creates a wonderful sense of nostalgia that has me  reminiscing about the carefree days of my childhood in Australia.

Lime green Tupperware, pots shaped like pineapples, vinyl album art and lamp shades made from tea towels printed with kangaroos and kookaburras evoke the 70’s.  A black board lists homemade pies, and a glass cabinet is filled with the kind of sweets I used to bake with my mum – like peppermint slices, crumbly short bread and chocolate crackles, while I could swear the vintage crockery and framed teaspoon collection came from my grandma. However the rice field views from the breakfast counter at the back don’t let me forget that I am in Bali.

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Annick,who formerly worked in the design industry started the cafe in 2012 and  now spends her days cooking and playing gracious host to her many regular guests. “I am living my dream,” she says with a smile, “I feel blessed.”  While her heritage is Mauritian Creole, she grew up in Melbourne, and the menu and the paraphernalia reflect both.The space is nurturing and comforting, heavy on the human touch, with a dose of spirituality thrown into the mix. Paintings of three female deities preside over the open  kitchen to “bless the food,” and the counter has wooden  boxes marked with ‘magic bits’ and ‘fairy dust.’ “We sprinkle it on all the food,” she tells me with a smile. Whether its magic or just good old-fashioned home-style cooking techniques,  the food is delicious.

The popular Kreole Platter releases a fragrant aroma as it is set on the table – a thali tray with a thick yellow dhal; a light, yet fully flavoured okra and vegetable curry, creamy raita; tasty Mauritian-inspired coconut chutney, chapati and a mix of red and white rice. Aussie-style pies are also a crowd favourite and include Chunky Beef Pie  encased in golden pastry, a hearty mashed potato-topped Shepherd’s Pie and real, homemade Sausage Rolls,soft flaky pastry filled with chicken, beef, carrot and just a hint of apple. The mini Spinach and Feta Borek are excellent – I cook good borek myself – and although it kills me to admit it,these are better.

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There are no sugary soft drinks on the menu, instead  fresh juices, young coconut, herbal teas and homemade cordials like Rosella and Vanilla Bean and Ginger and Lime mixed with soda water. Annick also stocks the rather  hard-to-find, but very good Bali Cider and organic F.R.E.A.K(Fresh Roasted Enak  Arabica from Kintamani) coffee  which is cold-pressed, smooth and full bodied. It is  the perfect accompaniment to Chocolate and Peanut Hedgehog a crunchy chocolate nutty slice, a Lemon Slice and  a Melting Moment – shortbread that really does melt in the mouth.

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Kreole Kitchen

JalanDrupardi 11 no.56

P +62 361 738514