Tuesday 18 December 2012

Sent to chase a wild goose

I would have never imagined how many things can go wrong simply by choosing the wrong floor for a professional kitchen. If you are half as naif as me and believe you would be safe by simply asking the contractor, you are in for a big surprise...

Last week we met our contractors for the first time and they kept on asking us questions we had not yet thought of. One of the many was about the kitchen flooring. They recommended "epoxy" but before we said yes I, the tireless researcher, thought we better did some research before confirming our choice. This decision unexpectedly triggered a chain of field trips, meetings, findings and surprises that kept us busy for the week.

Our goal is finding a flooring solution that stands the test of time, resists chemicals, spills and stains, it is hygienic, easy to clean, anti-slip, affordable and looks good. Secondary research showed a few options which we narrowed down to three, and a deeper look into them proved that each had unique pros and cons. Let me enlighten you:

Epoxy quartz floor

It is applied in multiple steps. First a resin is painted on the floor, then quartz is broadcast into the resin. The dry quartz then soaks up much of the resin that would otherwise soak into the floor. After it cures, an epoxy is painted over the quartz.

Pros: it is highly resistant, hygienic, exceptionally durable and soft on the feet.
Cons: it is quite expensive compared to the other options, it chips so it needs to be replaced periodically, it could be slippery and the biggest con of all, it requires a very long time to prepare both the surface and each layer, and extremely skillful labor, quite scarce here.

These are some of the scary consequences of a poorly applied epoxy flooring:


It is usually made out of natural clay and applied to the floor with a troweled-on cement based mortar. 

Pros: it is comparatively inexpensive and easy to install, can be individually replaced and readily available.
Cons: it is very hard on the feet, it is a porous material so can easily grow bacteria (specially in the grout joints), it breaks quite easily both under impact or as water eventually goes through it and the grouts are very difficult to keep clean as grease, water and food particles get trapped.

Vinyl flooring

This is a finished flooring material used primarily in commercial and institutional applications. It is made up of a mixture of polyvinyl chloride and plasticizers pigments are added for color. Vinyl flooring is usually flexible, fine textured and appears to be relatively non-porous. It is applied to a smooth, leveled sub-floor using a specially formulated vinyl adhesive that remains tacky but does not completely dry.

Pros: it is soft on the feet, it looks good when new and is cheap. Also it is quick and easy to both install and clean and it has high resilience to abrasion and impact damage.
Cons: it does not work very well at all under wet conditions. Almost always, the water gets underneath and the floor starts coming off.

Lost in these lists of advantages and disadvantages, we decided we needed to better understand our options in Bali so we visited several professional kitchens around the island to see what they were using and get their opinion. The outcome was a myriad of advice. Our decision would change every time we ended a conversation or faced the disturbing truth of a wrong choice.

Will keep you posted on our decision but as you can see, there is never a dull day in our adventures in Bali.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Pick up table 12!

While regular cash registers used to be acceptable, it seems that a restaurant cannot longer efficiently operate without a Point-of-Sale (POS) system, a must in today's technologically advanced world. 

We recently decided it was time to start checking our options for POS and understanding their prices so we have met a few suppliers who briefed us on their respective systems. 

Basic systems are commonly offered in restaurant packages and usually are a combination of hardware and software. They typically include: a touchscreen monitor to enter data (for example customers’ orders), a receipt printer, a cash drawer, a reservation system, kitchen printers, wireless tableside order-entry devices, etc. 

Beyond serving as a method for collecting payments, POS systems also help track sales and inventory and streamline the accounting process. For example, if you start the day with 50 bottles of beer, after entering customers’ orders of 40 bottles, the system will alert you that the restaurant is low in beer stock so you know when you need to order more. Furthermore, they are a powerful communication tool between the dining room and the kitchen. After the waiter has entered a guest’s complete order, he can then transmit to the kitchen, through the POS, the timing on when each dish needs to be served.

Premium features are really smart. For example, nowadays POS can split bills, get instant pairing recommendations to help upsell, reward repeat customers, alerts for customers’ long waiting times, etc. 

The good old days of a waiter coming to your table with a pen and a notepad seem to be coming to an end…

Saturday 8 December 2012

An intense week of learning

This week has been heavily loaded with meetings and trips to search for suppliers. Kevin was delighted because he misses the action of the kitchen so coming and going to meet many people is the closest to hectic activity he can get for now. 

One of the main missions of the week was to understand our options regarding audio systems. The biggest challenge for Cuca is to be able to play music at different volumes in the several spaces we have designed. Each of them must offer its own rhythm and tempo and we wanted to differentiate the experience not only with a well-defined space but also with the appropriate lighting and music level. We were relieved to find out that this was definitely possible thanks to dedicated space control devices.  Another goal we need to achieve is even sound coverage within each zone, not so easy when one setting will not work in all areas as each has very different properties, especially in outdoor spaces like our garden patio. Furthermore, all the equipment will have to be chosen taking into account the different time slots of the day / night, the type of music, the player we select, the location of the controls, etc. There are many, many decisions to make along the way but we believe we found the right professionals to guide us through this journey. 

We have also been introduced to the power of laser. As you know, we can find lasers everywhere: in CD players, dental drills, speed measurement, for tattoo removal, hair replacement, eye surgery, etc. But at this moment in our lives we are interested in laser engraving. This technology, facilitated by a computer, consists on converting the beam of a laser into heat and delivering this resulting energy to change the surface of the material under the focal point. It may heat up the surface and subsequently vaporize the material, or sometimes the material may fracture and flake off the surface. Different patterns can be engraved by programming the controller for the laser beam to traverse a particular path over time. The trace of the laser beam is carefully regulated to achieve a consistent removal depth of material. The benefits of this method are that it allows the engraving of very fine precision patterns on even the tiniest of items and it is a very clean technology with no harmful residues.  

Can you guess where are we applying this magic? We are actually engraving our logo in several items… but you will have to wait to see the end result!

Thursday 6 December 2012

Balancing Forces

December first post is about the captivating religion of Bali. This is an very complex subject and, from my point of view, an extremely interesting one, so today I offer you just an introduction.

A fascinating amalgam of native animism and Indian Hinduism splashed with Buddhist elements, the Balinese religion is followed by about 95% of the population and is the largest Hindu outpost in the world outside of India. 

Like the India Hinduism, Balinese Hinduism (called “Agama Hindu”) believes in the long cycle of birth, death and reincarnation of one’s soul and that rebirth continues until the spirit is freed from all desire. It also recognizes the universe as an organizing force that maintains a cosmic order in which each person, animal and object plays an integral part. To maintain the equilibrium, the Ordering Force must be kept at least as strong as the Disordering Force, both of which are constantly at battle with one another. 

This is the reason why every single day we are trapped in a blocked road in Bali waiting impatiently for a procession to pass by: only by the correct and timely execution of rituals, disorder – a disease, a volcanic eruption, a drought – can be made orderly again. So while we wait wondering how many ceremonies are held daily in every corner of the island, Balinese are hard at work keeping Bali in harmony with the natural forces. They believe themselves a blessed people who have been leased a magic land to cultivate it and live from it and they look upon themselves as the custodians of this “Pulau Dewata”, the Island of the Gods. 

Although both types of Hindus share a non-violet temperament, a sense of religious obligation and their identification with the forces of nature, Bali Hinduism is in reality too close to the earth, too animistic, to be taken as the same esoteric religious as that of the Hindus of India. Using his God-given talents, a Balinese needs only to perform daily offerings and participate actively in village and temple events. The emphasis is on the routine of ceremonies and rituals rather than on theology and on behavior and service rather than on belief. 

All Bali’s many gods are merely realizations from the one God, Sanghyang Widhi, the omnipotent supreme being. This deity manifests himself to man in three forms called Trisakti (the Holy Trinity): Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. The latter is seen and felt by people through suffering and sickness. Appeasing him will bring prosperity, happiness and finally liberation. 

Although Bali Hinduism is essentially monotheistic, the average Balinese does not utter prayers or make offerings directly to Sanghyang Widhi and none of the island’s temples is dedicated to him. Instead, in many temples there stands a three-seated pedestal enshrining the Trisakti. Before a ceremony the temple guardians decorate the pedestal with bright wraps of colored cloth: red for Brahma, white for Shiva and black for Vishnu. In the hierarchy of the divine, below Sanghyang Widhi and the Trinity, there is a multitude of other protective spirits: Dewa male and Dewi female, each closely link to nature. 

As in many other aspects, the Balinese have been extremely liberal in matters of religion. Every time a new idea was introduced into the island, instead of repudiating it, they took it for what it was worth and, if they found it interesting enough, assimilated it into their religion since no one knew what power there might be in the new gods…     

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Meetings, Merchandise and Macet

We are back from our trip to Jakarta. We had an amazing time there and managed to get done everything planned. 

Our priority was to meet with our interior designers. The meeting went well and we are very happy to welcome them on-board.  Now decisions will be easier to make, counting on the support of someone who can safely sew together all our wild ideas. 

We also took advantage of this trip to visit Food & Hospitality Indonesia. This is a yearly event where everyone involved in the industry gathers to showcase their products and services. We were very interested in attending as Cuca will only use Indonesian ingredients so we welcome any opportunity to learn more about our options. Since some of the companies were selling their products at the expo itself, we bought some kitchen tools that we had not been able to find in Bali. 

During our time in Jakarta we did as much as possible but it is difficult to plan lots of things for a day as transport in Jakarta is basically this:

Yes, the famous Jakarta “macet” (traffic jam). We had heard lots about it but this time we could finally experience it for ourselves… In Jakarta your life is planned around the traffic jams which often continue through the day. Travelling even short distances can take hours and some parts of the city are in a constant state of jam. The situation seems seriously critical. A 2007 study by the Yayasan Pelangi Indonesia, an environmental NGO, predicted that if nothing is done to improve things, traffic will grind to a complete halt by 2014. Can you believe it??? To ease the situation, the government has implemented schemes such as the “three in one”, which requires vehicles to have at least three passengers on busy roads at peak hours. However, Indonesians have seized the latent business opportunity and a new profession has emerged: “the jockeys”. These are hitchhikers who are taken at the beginning of the main roads, dropped at the end and paid to ride with single drivers who otherwise would not be allowed to use these roads. 

Despite this chaos, Jakarta is a very exciting city with a vibrant restaurant scene. We were especially impressed with the design of quite a few restaurants and we look forward to the next opportunity to go back, this time with a good book to combat the jam.

Tuesday 27 November 2012


Before telling you about our recent trip to Jakarta, I leave you with some interesting facts about this city for those who do not know much about it:

  • Jakarta found its origin in the small early 16th century harbor town of Sunda Kelapa. 
  • The Dutch East Indies Company, which captured the town and destroyed it in 1619, changed its name into Batavia and made it the center for the expansion of their power in the East Indies. 
  • Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Batavia fell into the hands of the invading Japanese forces that changed the name of the city into 'Jakarta'.
  • It is located on the Indonesian island of Java.

  • It is the capital and the largest city of Indonesia.
  • The number of people residing in greater Jakarta is estimated at 23 million, making it the fourth largest urban area in the world.
  • Jakarta is nicknamed Big Durian, because the city is seen as the Indonesian equivalent of New York City (the Big Apple).
  • There are about 13 rivers flowing through Jakarta.
  • The northern part of Jakarta is a plain land. Some areas here are actually below sea level and therefore subject to frequent flooding. Meanwhile, the southern parts of the city are hilly, and consequently designated for reservoirs. 
  • With a tropical climate, Jakarta's average daily temperature is 27 degrees Celsius during a day, sometimes exceeding 35 degrees Celsius in the hot season. 
  • It has two seasons: the wet season from October to April (with the heaviest rains falling from December to January), and the dry season from May to September. 
  • Most residents in Jakarta are Muslims, i.e. 85.50%. Other religious followers are Protestants (5.20%), Roman Catholics (4.77%), Buddhists (3.56%) and Hindus (0.97%). 
  • Jakarta is a city of contrasts: the traditional and the modern, the rich and the poor, the sacral and the worldly, often stand side by side in this bustling metropolis.
Colonial Jakarta and Current Jakarta

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Table "matters"

Our mission this time was to go through endless options and carefully choose the glassware where we will be serving our beverage and the weapons you will be given to attack our food. 

The idea for the glassware is for it to be above all functional, but also to “dress” every drink, especially each of our cocktails. We left the house armed with our beverage menu and we started to look for the glasses that would best match the character and look of each cocktail. We put our favorite options on a table and once done we got their prices and took the selected glasses with us as samples to be tested at home with their respective cocktails. We went to a few shops to do the same and thus be able to compare brands and prices. It is funny because as soon as we favored one of the makes, the shop manager told us that that supplier was not reliable at all as it took ages to get the stock, if ever. We are facing similar scenarios every other day so we are doing our best to cope with this uncertainty by rolling with it and like MacGyver overcome problems with creative solutions… 

Then it was time to look for cutlery. We prefer a very simple, clean design. Something understated that feels great in your hand, easily grabs our food and goes well with the minimalistic design of Cuca. We have pre-selected a few options and we would love to know your opinion. Will let you know soon how to help us to choose!

Monday 12 November 2012


You will have already noticed from the tagline in our logo what our focus will be at Cuca. From the beginning we agreed on the importance of “concept clarity” and after endless discussions and loving arguments pondering our options, we decided on the three items we both love the most: tapas, cocktails and desserts.

TAPAS: sharing experiences

We want Cuca to be a place to share a great dining experience. As Charlotte Brontë wrote, “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”  This is precisely what we believe, that food is tastier when we share it with those we love. 

On the other hand, our menu is going to be so delicious that we cannot be as cruel as to make you choose…  Tapas provide you the opportunity to try several dishes at very affordable prices and without having to limit your choice to a single main course. Beyond our lunch or dinner, Cuca always welcomes you to graze on a tapa or two…

COCKTAILS:  blended concoctions 

We want to make drinks as thoughtful and unique as our food and cocktails offer us huge room for creativity. 

Our cocktails will be bold, exciting, refreshing, playful. Flavor and balance will reign over anything else. As a form of cuisine in their own, we are developing our signature beverage in line with our style of food and coherent with Cuca philosophy.

We want the artful blending of flavors in our cocktails to contribute to Cuca’s memorable and emotional experience.

DESSERTS: sweet cravings

At Cuca we are determined to celebrate life, food and good company. And what kind of celebration is one without dessert?  Our desserts will be mildly sweet, rather light but still heavily delicious. A well-crafted range of flavors to be enjoyed at any time and for any excuse whatsoever. 

Without wanting to reveal too much, trust me when I tell you that our selection of new sweet classics will definitely give you one more guilty reason to come back for more. 

Tapas, Cocktails and Desserts: three categories developed with the only purpose to ensure you feel spoiled. 

Saturday 10 November 2012

Bali Baby

Let me open the door for you to the wonderful, unusual, fascinating world of the babies of Bali... 

In Bali a child is believed to be a reincarnation of his deceased ancestors and is thus looked upon as a god. Offerings are made during pregnancy to ensure the upcoming god’s well-being and after birth the placenta and the umbilical cord (representing the child’s spirit guardian brothers) are buried in the family compound. 

The smaller the child, the holier he is and the closer to heaven. Babies are not considered to be “human” until they are 210 days old at which time a ceremony is performed, along with the necessary offerings. Until then they are called Idewa (”god”). 

Balinese believe that anything below (including the ocean) carries negative connotations and is an evil matter. This conviction cause them not to permit children to crawl on all fours, and before a child is three months old he may not even touch the earth and is carried everywhere. 

Once babies turn 210 days old, they are named individually. The full name of every Balinese not only indicates his caste but also his sequence of birth in a family. That is to say, the first four children to be born are called Wayan, Nyoman, Made and Ketut.  After all these names are used up, the rotation starts all over again. Believe you me this was such a revelation for us… we finally solved the mystery of keeping on meeting “Wayans” and “Nyomans”… 

To make matters worse, the parents’ names change after the birth of each child. They instantly become called “Father or Mother of X”. Astonishingly, in Bali people are identified by their descendants rather than by their ancestors to reflect that time flows from the present to the future rather than from the past to the present. 

A child is never beaten as it is believed it will damage his tender soul or drive his soul from his body. He is not considered responsible for his actions because as they say “his mind is still undeveloped” and it is the god within him that acts through his body. At home there is no regular discipline and no pampering; the parents do not intimidate their child bur rather coax him into obedience as an equal. Nothing is hidden from children, they listen attentively to adult conversations and they know facts about which an adolescent in the West is totally ignorant. In line with this custom, babies are fed the Balinese peppery food as soon as they are weaned and will not touch food without spices. 

From the time the child can walk, he is left to himself and falls in the care of other children. Small girls know how to take care of babies with the same proficiency as their mothers and it is common to see babies carried on the hips of girls only slightly older. The sight of child crying is extremely rare. He learns early to be self-sufficient and is free to wander all over the village and to do as he pleases. Frequently the father more demonstrative than the mother and it is common to see a man with his child in his arms, taking him everywhere and talking to him as if he were a grown-up. A boy assists his father in the work at home and in the fields and cares for the cattle. Little girls learn from their mothers to cook, weave, thresh rice and make offerings. 

The independence and lack of pampering may explain the well-mannered seriousness and the self-sufficiency of these kids but if you are intrigued about the astonishingly well-behaved nature of Balinese children, I strongly recommend you to read The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff.  This researcher visited Bali in 1992 and compared her findings from the Yequana people (in Venezuela) with the Balinese customs. 

Source: I learned so much partly thanks to Island of Bali, by Miguel Covarrubias, a highly recommended work that depicts in depth Balinese customs and traditions.  

Wednesday 7 November 2012

A salty trip

Amed is a once-remote village on a beautiful bay in Eastern Bali with waters so clear that coral and fish can be seen with the naked eye. The pace of life here is slow and the coastal scenery stunning. 

This is the most recent tourist development area in Bali, now well known for diving and snorkeling. Although only a few years ago that it was a solitary village inhabited only by fishermen and sea-salt processors, nowadays tourism is growing and salt production is declining. We traveled here in search of the salt makers as we are developing a very special product derived from their crystals. 

Salt production is very hard work and the painstaking method used in Amed consists of the following steps:

1. Take water from the sea and pour it into prepared soil fields. The salt workers carry the water in double-bucket shoulder poles.

2. Smooth the soil in the fields to allow even drying. Allow salt water to dry / evaporate for three days.

3. Rake the dried, salty soil paddies to break them up.

4. Put broken up soil into wood funnels.

5. Pack down the soil by walking on it inside the funnels.

6. Collect more sea water and pour it over the soil in the funnels.

7. Allow the sea water to seep down through the soil. This soil works as a natural filter. 

8. Collect the filtered salty water from below the cones.

9. Pour this water into the drying trays (“palungan”) lined up in rows along the beach.

10. Allow to dry and evaporate for 3-4 days. The salt is then scraped out and put in baskets. 

This technique produces a lower yield than others but the result is a salt prized for its flavor. that caught our attention and trigger a new idea for Cuca. All we can say for now you will love our salty little plan. 

Friday 2 November 2012


This week is being especially productive and it feels great to see we are definitely moving forward despite the relaxed pace of the island. Our most recent achievement was to select the tableware for Cuca. Since the structure of our menu is finalized, we knew exactly what to look for. We had decided to use ceramic ware as it feels warmer and more organic, the precise sensation we want to convey. Furthermore, ceramic offers more room for creativity as it allows different texture, color, finish, shape, design and even engraving. 

Bali has quite a few artisan ceramic producers and we visited some of them to learn about their process, compare their styles and explore the possibilities of customizing our plates. Although it was difficult to choose a manufacturer based only on their stunning products, we needed flexibility as our quantities are quite low (we are using different plates to serve each dish) so we made up our mind and headed to Jenggala to start selecting plates. 

Jenggala has been established for more than 35 years and this is important as we need them to be around in the future for our yearly stock replacements. They work mainly with stoneware (high-fired at a temperature well above 2000 degrees Celsius) to make their products chip resistant and suitable for a heavy usage. We spent a whole day in their biggest showroom among beautiful pieces and endless options and at the end we left the shop tired but satisfied with our choices. Production will have to start soon as the factory needs at least 2 months to produce and deliver our plates. 

We are now waiting for samples and can't wait to see Kevin’s food on them!

Thursday 1 November 2012

Let there be rice

Once upon a time, the Balinese for food had only the juice of sugar-cane. Wisnu, the god of fertility and water, felt pity for them and came down and raped Mother Earth to fertilize her. She then gave birth to rice but this still did not solve the problem as rice was still unavailable to humans. Wisnu intervened once again and forced Indra, Lord of the Heavens, to teach men how to grow rice.  This is the story of how rice was born, a gift from the gods of earth and water.

Having such a dramatic origin, it is not surprising that life for the Balinese revolves around rice. The most memorable landscapes on the island are the gorgeous rice paddies and from planting time until harvest the growth of rice is watched with as much attention as that of a child. Bali’s scenery evolves regardless of the seasons with the life of the rice: from flooded fields reflecting the clouds, to jade colored freshly replanted shoots, to the swaying green or robust gold of a mature crop. Along this cycle men and women take specific turns: men plant it, women harvest it. 

Since a farmer is unable to build and maintain elaborated irrigation systems that compensate for the island’s mountainous nature, only through cooperation with neighbors have the Balinese become known as the most efficient rice-growers and recently been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status for their “subak”, an extremely efficient use of irrigation water (read entry from Unesco official site). The "subak" is  a communal association consisting of growers, tenants, and sharecroppers acting as a sort of local "water board," that controls the distribution of irrigation water and organize joint work projects to build and maintain dams, canals, tunnels and aqueducts. In existence in Bali since at least A.D. 896, the "subak" is also responsible for achieving optimal growing conditions and it reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature (I will talk more about this concept in future posts). 

Although the majority of rice cultivated on the island is white, reddish-brown rice and black glutinous rice are also grown, and even yellow rice (dyed with the turmeric root) is produced on festive occasions. 

Rice is the centerpiece of every family’s meal in Bali: it is consumed for breakfast (boiled rice-flour dumplings sweetened with palm sugar syrup), for lunch (steamed white rice with vegetables and very little meat) and the leftover rice is often transformed into Nasi Goreng (fried rice with various savoury ingredients). 

In this island of Gods, man lives off rice and as legend states his body and soul are built from it. This explains the deep rooted reverence and respect Bali holds for its rice and its farming. 

Monday 29 October 2012

Hot but good

Sambal is basically a chili-based sauce used as a condiment in quite a few Asian countries. In the Indonesian archipelago alone, there are as many as 300 varieties of sambal. Its intensity ranges from mild to painfully hot and lovers of spicy food are always opinionated in choosing the right sambal to go with their meal. It is essential it has the right flavor and texture and specially the right amount of kick. 

As many other regions, Bali has its own version: “sambal matah” (matah means “raw”). This condiment is extremely fresh and aromatic and adds a well-balanced power to any dish. Below you will find a good and easy recipe for you to try. If you cannot find the roasted dried shrimp paste in your supermarket, substitute it with miso paste; they are not the same but at least your sambal matah won’t be missing its unique salty fermented flavor. Good luck!

Saturday 27 October 2012

What shall we wear?

The agenda of the day yesterday was to meet up with the designer who is going to help us with Cuca uniforms. He has worked for big names here in Bali and we were looking forward to share with him our concept and have him dress us. 

We chatted about the style we had in mind and how much we value functionality in the end product. It hardly took him a few seconds to start drawing non-stop and together we came up with several interesting ideas. He not only draws and creates custom-made models but also designs the print of the fabrics so the result is meant to be something really unique. 

One of the many things I loved the most about him is that he keeps in mind the shapes of the people who are going to wear his creations and only proposes what is going to make them feel great. I could not resist myself to test this ability and I ended up trying some of the samples he suggested. Not wanting to reveal much more, I think we are in good hands!

Harry giving free rein to his imagination
Harry's previous designs
Sketched uniforms
Our  first sketches
Harry Row
Harry unstoppable!

Thursday 25 October 2012

Survival food

Bali offers a superb array of fresh produce as a result of its volcanoes occasionally fertilizing the land with ash, rivers watering the rice fields and the sun gently kissing the crops. Despite the variety available in the island, daily meals here are not sociable affairs and the Balinese normally eat quickly, silently and alone sitting on the floor and using their right hand as the left one is thought to be unclean (like in many other countries in this part of the world). Usually rice and the accompanying dishes are cooked in the morning, after a trip to the market, and left in the kitchen for the family to eat whenever hungry.

In general and compared to Javanese food, Balinese dishes are more pedas (spicy) and less manis (sweet). Typical ingredients of everyday food are:

  • Rice: steamed or boiled, it is the staple food of the Balinese and base on their meals. Although the majority of rice cultivated on the island is white, red and black glutinous rice are also grown. For breakfast it is eaten in the form of boiled rice-flour dumplings sweetened with palm sugar syrup and freshly grated coconut. 
  • A variety of vegetables, most of which are gathered wild: young shoots of trees found in the family compound (starfruit for example), young fern tips, immature fruits such as jackfruit and papaya are also used as vegetables. 
  • Mature coconut: grated and added to vegetables, fried with seasonings to make a condiment or its grated flesh squeezed with water to make coconut milk for sauces.
  • Very small amounts of meat, poultry or fish. 
  • Crunchy extras such as peanuts, cryspy-fried shallots, fried tempeh (a fermented soybean cake) or many types of crisp wafer (krupuk)
  • Starchy foods such us as cassava, sweet potatoes and corn that provide a variation of flavor to rice.
  • Spicy condiments or sambals with chilly being the star ingredient.

The most popular sea products are ikan teri (a dried and salted anchovy) and sea turtles, now difficult to obtain but still eaten on festive occasions for special ceremonies. Although the seas bathing the island are rich in fish Balinese are not too keen on eating it, maybe due to the fact that mountains are traditionally regarded as the reign of the gods and in contrast the sea is believed to host the evil spirits.

Beef is very seldom eaten although certain breeds of cow are successfully raised in Bali. Generally Hindu people don't eat beef as the cow is considered holy. It is believed that cows were used as the form of transport for the god Siva and in view of this the "Pemangku" (priests) do not eat their meat. Probably derived from this, most Balinese feel uncomfortable about eating beef as they think it will give them an allergy such as getting an itchy skin or headaches. But regardless of the religious reasons, for many beef is just simply too expensive to buy so by selling the cows instead of eating them villagers can buy other much cheaper products.Pork and duck are the favorite meats, usually stuffed with spices before roasting. 

In contrast with the above, food prepared for festive occasions is elaborate, often exquisitely decorated and eaten communally. I will be going deeper into these delicacies as I get to try them...


Marvin Harris, an American anthropologist, examined the cultural and material roots of dietary restrictions in many cultures. Regarding the avoidance of consuming cows among Hindus, Harris explained that in India cows were more valuable alive than dead given the fact that they provided key services to the community: they were draught animals, they gave milk and their dung was used as fuel, fertilizer and flooring. The temptation to kill them in times of drought or famine was fought by a strong religious taboo and thus they became holy animals.

La traducción en español la podéis encontrar aquí.

¡Gracias, Antonio!

Sunday 21 October 2012

Friday 19 October 2012

They are alive!

We have lately been working on choosing fonts for Cuca. This seems an easy enterprise but get into it and you will start seeing a new world of possibilities… and with each of them unique complications.

The first step was to choose a corporate font for our business cards, flyers, advertisements, etc. It was obviously important that this font agreed with our logo so there was much debate to select the best one and define its scope (shall we use it only for titles? Or for our tagline? And what about using it in the menu for our signature dishes?). There are so many fonts available… Reading about their description is overwhelming: warm, cool, comforting, approachable, artistic, intellectual, effective, modern, clean, trustworthy… After a while you see life in these fonts!!! But then they eventually become all blurred and you just want to give up and simply use Arial…

If this wasn’t difficult enough, we then had to choose a font for online platforms: web, blog, etc. There is then a new set of factors to take into consideration. First of all, we had to bear in mind that our target audience would use different screen sizes, Operating Systems, browsers… so the font had to be available and easy to read in all type of computers. Shall we then stick to a Sans font even if we had chosen to print on a Serif one? And what about the size? And for the headlines and titles?

Well, the hundred decisions have been made and we are crossing our fingers hoping that you love our choices as much as we do. The mystery will be revealed soon… stay tuned!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Say Cheese....

Kevin had always wanted to have a small photo studio where he could take and log photos of his creations as he develops them and thus keep them organized and easily accessible. As we will need our own photos to market Cuca, we decided to get the studio done as soon as possible and we sought the advice of Raymond, the amazing photographer who is also helping us with our documentary. We bought the equipment we needed and we put it together. We absolutely love the light tent Raymond recommended, it is very easy to assemble and functions very well. It comes with several backgrounds so you can play with different colors as a contrast to the food in front. Raymond and Suyanto have been testing it and Kevin enjoyed sharing his creativity and food styling skills. Will show you the results soon!

Assembling the light tent
Testing the light

Testing Kevin's food styling skills

Tuesday 16 October 2012

A morning to remember

Our morning yesterday was quite an unusual one…

First fishmonger at 5am
We woke up at 3.30am to be among the first ones to welcome the fish at Jimbaran Bay. As we approached the beach everything seemed very quiet but amidst the dark we were greeted now and then by several “Selamat pagi!” (good mornings) that revealed the fishermen already waiting. They were having a coffee (a super “manis” one… very, very sweet!) and chatting among themselves so we joined in and later followed them as they make their way to the sea shore.
Waiting time

Some fishmongers beat us there and were already displaying their fish from their evening’s catch but most took positions squatting and looking fixedly at the sea. The water was spattered with bobbing boats and we were wondering what would happen next as none of the boats seemed to be approaching us.
Boats at Jimbaran Bay
After an hour or so, when the sun had already risen, the fishermen came back to life and started to gather empty baskets that were soon loaded into small wooden boats. Men jumped in the boats and went out to sea while the women remained on the shore. Quietness returned to the beach for another hour and we were starting to grow impatient when suddenly the whole beach went crazy with activity. The small boats were returning and women and children started to run towards the water. Not wanting to miss whatever was coming next, we imitated them and had a privilege view of what was happening: the fishermen unloaded the baskets full of fresh fish on the heads of the waiting women while the children stealthily snatched small fish from the baskets ignoring reprimands from the adults and putting away their loot in small plastic bags.

Innocent looking children wandering around :)

Our cameraman filming the women carrying the fish
This scene took place every time one of the boats reached the shore and kept on happening for a couple of hours, every single time with the same excitement. Slowly the beach filled up with fish baskets and an equally mysterious activity developed… some people started to check the fish and shout prices while others were taking notes. Although the scene was mesmerizing, we realized that the children were nearby holding their own little auction and selling the few fishes they had managed to grab from the grown-ups.

When the commotion died down, we looked at our watch. It was already 9am! We had spent the last 5 hours captivated by a glimpse at the everyday lives of the fishermen at Jimbaran Bay.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Location, location, location

The first thing which strikes the visitor to Jimbaran is that the landscape is totally different from the rest of the island. Jimbaran is located in the “Bukit” (the hill), the peninsula at Bali’s southernmost tip, and has an ecosystem characterized by its lack of surface water so during the dry season the vegetation looks more Mediterranean than tropical. During the raining season, however, the vegetation becomes quite lush as it rains profusely. 

View Jimbaran, Bali in a larger map. 
Zoom in or out to get closer to Cuca real life location!!!!

The Bukit rises to about 200 meters above the sea level and it is ringed on all sides by steep cliffs overlooking white rollers world famous among surfers. To the north it is connected to the rest of Bali by a narrow isthmus, where lies the village of Jimbaran and the broad expanse of the tranquil Jimbaran Bay facing the Indian Ocean.

Since the weather does not allow for wet-rice farming the population looked to the sea for survival. Almost all fishermen in Jimbaran use "jukung" (traditional wooden boats) and fish with gill nets or large round cast nets. The nets are set out in the bay in the late afternoon and the catch is collected early the next morning. 

Everyone in the family helps to take the fish from the nets

Jimbaran went unnoticed by tourists until only a few years ago when world class hotels and resorts realized its extraordinary natural beauty and the unusual tranquility still prevailing in the area. A few months ago we also felt the magic of this place and found the perfect spot to build Cuca...  

Isn't it gorgeous? Just seems to be missing Cuca!

Sunday 7 October 2012

Unity in Diversity

There are few places in the world that offer such cultural variety and geographical complexity as Indonesia. Blessed with a phenomenal array of natural resources and unique cultures, Indonesia has been a magnet for every shade of entrepreneur from the west: determined missionaries, unscrupulous traders, unruly adventurers, artists in search of inspiration… The country has been occupied by Dutch and Japanese armies, surveyed, drilled, dug up and shipped off by foreign mining companies, analyzed and written about by ethnologists and anthropologists and more recently invaded by tourists. Despite this fatal attraction, Indonesia’s thousands of islands remain barely touched. 

Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world after China, India and the United States with 237 million people (2010), comprising some 300 ethnic groups who speak an estimated 583 languages and dialects. The glue that binds the people together is the usage of the Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, and Pancasila, the national philosophy, which stresses the doctrine of unity and universal justice for all Indonesians.

Over two thirds of the population resides in Java. By contrast, the province of Papua represents 22% of the total land mass, yet has only 1% of the population. A government transmigration policy resettles people on the less populated islands, and Indonesians have been alerted to the importance of only two children to a family to control the birth explosion.

Indonesia is the biggest Islamic nation in the world, with Muslims forming about 90% of the population. Bali, however, is almost entirely Hindu and everywhere there are Buddhists and Christians. But, strangely enough, there is no official state religion – freedom of thought being guaranteed by the Constitution.

With more than 17,000 islands, nearly 60 percent of forested land and a significant portion of mountainous and volcanic land, Indonesia is endowed with endless wonders in one unforgettable destination.