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. 

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Time-lapsing Cuca

As I mentioned before, we have decided to make a documentary to capture the process of creating Cuca. Today we spent the morning deciding the location and procedure to make a time-lapse video of the entire construction. 

Time-lapse is a photography technique whereby a camera takes a sequence of photos with an interval of time between each image. The interval can be anything from less than a second to a day or more. When the images are played back the interval of time is speeded up creating a shorter time. Here you will see a beautiful example of this type of video about my hometown, Salamanca:

There are quite a few factors to take into consideration when planning for this type of video: the length of the project, the speed of each step of the construction, the capacity of the memory card, the battery-life, the height of the building, frames necessary for the whole video, etc. Raymond, our photographer, is assisting us in this project and with him and his team we analyzed the drawings and layout of the restaurant and decided the exact place where we will fix the GoPro camera. We will soon install the pole to house the camera and start the shooting!