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!