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.