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 

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.

Bali Detox: spa treatment

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Mulia Mermaid Detox treatment

So, its two weeks into my detox and I think its time for a heavy duty detox spa treatment. I have chosen the Mermaid detox treatment at the Mulia, which includes a rather divine ‘wellness suite’ (Georgio Armani has the same wellness suite in one of his manisons – so I know I am in good company) With hydrotonic pools, steam room, ice room and specially designed hamam tables (think warm stone) I know I am in for quite a treat.

Far more than a spa and salon, Mulia Spa provides an holistic escape into wellbeing, with aromas providing the key. Pure essential oils extracted from food and plants  are powerful tools in physical and emotional healing and can be inhaled, bathed in or applied as a massage oil.

The scent of lemongrass

Arriving at the spa reception my senses are immediately alerted to the intoxicating scent of lemongrass that infuses the air. This magical and highly medicinal herb is a mood elevator and has a wonderfully fresh and cleansing fragrance that calms and freshens the mind.  A refreshing chilled towel is also perfumed with lemongrass, and a glass of chilled ginger coolant provides a zesty ginger kick.  Thoughts of the outside world are already fading!

The healing power of water

The Mulia Mermaid treatment is a detox and purification ritual that incorporates the ancient spa practice of healing through water. Oxygenated hot and cold hydrotonic pools are filled with waterfalls and underwater jets that massage my body, increase blood circulation and ease away tension, while the tingling sensation of the bubbles sends me floating off on a wave of contentment. Utterly relaxed I am ready for the state-of-the-art wellness suite, the only one of its kind in the Asia/Pacific region.  Leaving the sunny courtyard pools behind I enter the ice fountain room, cooled to a chilly 1 degree Celsius. As in the adjoining sauna, steam and hammam rooms  – chromotherapy bathes me in soft, chakra cleansing light, gently changing from violet, to lavender to yellow.

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A peppermint blast

The sultry aroma steam room is fitted with emotional showers, so when I start to feel too hot I can press the ‘breeze’ button and a light spray from the ceiling infuses me with the heady perfume of peppermint. This cool icy fragrance is fresh and invigorating, and chills both my mind and my body. When the heat intensifies again, I push a different button to receive a refreshing and fruity passionfruit infused shower. Next I am lead to a specially designed, gently heated Hammam stone table, where my body is brushed, then scrubbed and sloughed with organic Balinese sea salt warmed with lemongrass and peppermint. Once again I am adrift in a sea of scents and sensations. A sea salt glow scrub draw the toxins from the body and increases skin blood circulation, promoting the growth of new skin cells. According to the International Journal of Dermatology, the presence of magnesium sulfate in marine salts,  stimulates the liver and adrenal glands to dump their toxins. Finally I am drenched in ocean-rich nutrients of a seaweed mask.

Showered, changed and replenished with fresh fruit and peppermint tea, I barely recognise myself in the mirror, stipped bare of tension and toxins all that remains is the  radiant glow of wellbeing.

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www.themulia.com

Bali Detox: Dragon fruit

Detox day 14

I have found throughout this detox that my relationship to food is changing and I am feeling much more aware of the effects of what I eat on my body. It’s as if I have rediscovered the joy of eating and feel my body absorbing all the goodness of healthy food that I am preparing with love. I have found myself really drawn to bright and colourful fruits and vegetables, and of course the dragon fruit is top of my list. As well as eating it I have discovered that it makes a great face mask.

About Dragon Fruit

There are few fruits that evoke the tropics quite so successfully as  the spiky vibrant pink dragon fruit, with its sweet luscious seed flecked flesh. Brimming with antioxidants, vitamin E which firms skin and reduces age spots, and  collagen, which we all know is the mother of all skin care products , it also makes the perfect face mask. I suggest using half a dragon fruit  – mashed with a few drops of vitamin E oil (or half a teaspoon of olive oil) and a teaspoon of honey. Apply to your face for at least 20 minutes, and enhance the pleasure of the experience by eating the rest of the dragon fruit while you wait.

Bali Detox: Tropical porridge

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Detox Day 13

Porridge makes a great start to the day.  Low in fat, but high in fibre, oats have the highest protein of any grains and also help reduce cholesterol and curb the appetite.   I usually like to add a little organic palm sugar to my porridge, but found that by adding strawberries  and just a little coconut cream that it was quite sweet enough.

  • 1 cup organic oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 2  tablespoons coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook the oats and water in a pan over a low heat, add coconut cream and cinnamon. Serve sprinkled with strawberries, coconut and seeds.

*Lightly dry fry the sunflower and pumpkin seeds if you want a crunchier topping

Bali detox: Fresh fruit salad

Detox Day 9

For the first week of my detox I cut out all sugars (including fresh fruit) this was probably the toughest aspect – I found myself craving the cool sweetness of tropical fruit. But now my detox is almost half over I am allowing  fruit back into my diet with this rather delicious  fresh fruit salad made with dark pink/red fruits that are high in anti oxidants. It combines the slightly sour taste of organic mountain strawberries from Bedugul, with the sweetness of purple grapes and dragon fruit, I also mixed in shredded coconut and a handful of goji berries and then sprinkled everything with lime juice and chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Ultimate Bali detox recipe

bok-choy

Detox Day 7

So far, so good. I am one week into my detox and have to say I am feeling great. The first couple of days left me feeling a little light headed and plagued by  headaches, but by day three I was starting to feel like my system had been kick started and everything was working better. I have really enjoyed making the time to source organic vegetables and fruit and to prepare healthy and nutritious meals that I am eating mindfully. I have been eating spinach and bok choy almost every day, and this is one of my favourite recipes.

Wilted greens with garlic and sesame

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 1 large bunch spinach , stemmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds for garnish

Warm oil in large fry pan  over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir until lightly browned, about 45 seconds. Add greens (do in two batches if necessary) and toss until just wilted, 2 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Health benefits of bok choy

Dark leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lutein. Chlorophyll helps eliminate environmental toxins from heavy metals and pesticides  and helps to protect the liver. Some people find the bitterness of greens a little overbearing, however tossing greens with garlic, salt and pepper takes the edge off the bitterness, and sprinkling with sesame seeds adds some crunch.