Eat, Pray, Love: My Bali Kitchen Journey

12931097_628911220605634_6357888010779546940_nSince moving to Bali I have been on a mission to create a sustainable working kitchen for myself. That may sound a little strange so let me explain. The reality is there is simply a plethora of dining options in Bali- from cute breakfast digs serving up dragon fruit bowls, good local coffee and epic breakfasts with all the trimmings, to lunch hang-outs dishing up traditional Balinese fare, fresh big raw salads, rice paper rolls, wraps and smoothies, to dinner options which can hop from Italian to Greek to French to Indonesian to Western favourites all in fifty meters of footpath. The options are endless and not only is the food fresh, delicious and vibrant, it is incredibly reasonably priced. Bali has become a real foodie destination and one #hashtag search on Instagram will prove that holiday makers are indeed not short on options or enthusiasm.

What it does mean however is that most guesthouses come without kitchen facilities and shopping for ingredients can be a little challenging. At the beginning I felt extremely disheartened that I wasn’t going to be able to spend all that much time cooking and creating. Being one of my greatest passions, I set out on a mission to change that reality. I wanted to share with you my small yet dedicated mission and the wonderful businesses, locals and ingredients that I discovered on my search…

10347398_622424314587658_5826097730973923069_nAs much as Bali is a holiday destination, increasingly it is becoming a place for foreigners to settle. Bali has a vibrant and passionate expat community which are slowly changing the face of the island. Rather than expats moving in and dictating the way the country should be operating, the expat community are slowly and gently leading by example, explaining initiatives and alternatives to the less-than-ideal Balinese ways of living. Practices such as dumping trash in rivers, using MSG in cooking, the lack of recycling facilities and the reliance on neighbouring countries for produce, is slowly turning, as new ways of living more sustainably are being introduced. Banning plastic bags and straws, on the spot fines for dumping trash, new organic farming practices and farmer’s markets are becoming increasing common in Bali which is ever so encouraging and relieving to witness.

As well as the rise in the expat community, Bali is increasingly becoming known as a healthy destination for yoga lovers, surfers, nature enthusiasts and retreat seekers, meaning that alternative and healthy options are becoming more and more accessible. Raw and vegan cafes, yoga studios, organic spas, retreat centres, eco-friendly boutique stores and a passion for overall wellbeing is tangible right across Bali. This indeed made my mission all that much easier. With a little bit of research and persistence, I was soon able to recreate a small portion of the goodness so easily accessible outside of the four walls of my apartment, in my own small kitchen space.

12670348_626041220892634_5421810540064689544_nI discovered a local farmers market in Canggu held every Sunday by the beautiful community-orientated Samadi Yoga. Here, local farmers meet to sell fruit and vegetables, spices and bread, coconut yogurt and dips, as well as sweets, pies and dried goods. Everything is organic and sold with a genuine smile. As well as the weekly Farmers market, I discovered a delivery service called Ubud Direct. The ease of this service amazed and delighted me. It is as simple as jumping on line, seeing what fresh produce is available that week and placing an order.  The next day, the order would appear on my doorstep, again, always with a smile. Within the first few weeks, my neighbours also started ordering after seeing the fresh deliveries arriving and I got a lovely email from Ubud Direct thanking me for being such a ‘great ambassador for the company.’ This made my day.

When it comes to dried goods, I discovered two wonderful places. Bali Buda and The Canggu Shop. Bali Buda is a Bali institution and has been around for 20 years now. Pioneers of the health food movement, Bali Buda now have five locations on the island, each as popular as the next. They sell everything from freshly baked bread to homemade nut milk to quinoa, nuts, muesli, tamari, seaweed, dried fruit, noodles and organic body and household products. The Canggu Shop is a much smaller health food store that sells a similar yet smaller range. Both stores focus on local products where possible and are primarily organic.

12049653_625623114267778_7517337715010886157_nBetween these four local businesses I have been able to run a simple yet functional kitchen! The other issue with deciding to be self sustainable when it comes to meals is the price. Believe it or not, in most cases, it is actually cheaper to eat all meals out than to cook at home. Western ingredients and health foods are indeed expensive in this country- to give you an idea, a 250g bag of quinoa can cost $18! A packet of 10 nori sheets can cost $12! A litre of almond milk can cost $10! So, the second hurdle was finding an affordable way to fuel my desire to cook. Of course, what it comes down to is (aside from trial and error!) sourcing local where possible. Import taxes in Bali are astronomical. Luckily, for a raw or vegan diet, Bali does have some great options- they have plenty of organic cashews, raw cacao, coconut products, organic brown and red rice and local seaweeds. Small companies are beginning to make things such as sauerkraut, kefir, coconut yogurt, dips, muesli, chocolate and bread. So sticking to local as much as possible has been the way to go.

I certainly miss the ease and convenience of Australian health food stores. Walking into a shop and browsing the bulk food isles and topping up on everything you could possibly imagine feels a little like a distant dream to me at times! Yet traveling and living abroad offers the opportunity for these challenges to become projects. Which is what my cooking experience in Bali has been. It has stripped back my creations to meals that are simple, yet nourishing and delicious. It has been an excellent experiment in what can be accomplished with a single knife, a small chopping board and a single camping gas burner!

12993515_633441253485964_4227879891665507064_nIn the end, it has also been a beautiful lesson in surrendering. It has been good for me to let go of the reigns a little and embrace eating out and trying new foods and dishes. I have been constantly inspired by the beautiful and abundant mix of healthy cuisine in Bali. It has been incredibly rewarding to also shift my focus a little away from recipe creation to other passions in my life- I spent more time on my yoga mat than I have in years and I have dedicated more time to writing which has also taken a backseat over the last couple of years in my life. Finding the silver lining in less-than-perfect situations is such a tremendous gift. I have also been inspired by a local yoga teacher in Bali who teaches the lesson of living a complaint-free life. I have been so moved by his lessons and each time I feel sadness, frustration or disappointment, I look for the positive- what can I learn and gain from this situation. When I catch myself complaining, I notice it, and do my best to let it go and move forwards- what a challenge in itself!

Life is never a walk in the park 100% of the time. Travelling more than anything  (except perhaps having children!) teaches you to let go, that you cannot always control a situation, that sometimes, you just have to roll with what life gives you. Putting up a fight and getting your knickers in a knot doesn’t get you anywhere- trust me, I’ve tried! Finding gentle solutions and ways around tricky situations is always a better option.

12985508_630765897086833_8467706704754929578_nI may not be making gourmet meals, I may not have access to all the ingredients and equipment I would like, but I wake up to the sound of roosters, I watch the Balinese people make their spirit offerings at dawn, I inhale the frangipanis everywhere my bicycle takes me, I watch a golden sun set daily over the beautiful ocean and I fall asleep next to the man I love. Whether or not I can make a raw vegan tiramisu here isn’t really all that important.

Below are two of my favourite go-to meals that have become a staple in my Bali kitchen. My breakfast and dinner go-to dishes that are simple, fresh and nourishing. If you find yourself in Bali, once you have tried all the delicious café offerings (that’s another blog post in itself!) if you’re itching to get in the kitchen, give these recipes a try.

Bali Breakfast Bowl-

Serves 2-

Fresh, vibrant ropical fruit is abundant in Bali, especially bananas, dragonfruit, pineapples and passionfruit. Add some nuts, seeds, cacao and coconut for some additional healthy fats and protein and you have a simple and delicious breakfast bowl.

  • 2 tablespoons of dried coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of cacao beans
  • 2 tablespoons of dates
  • 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 whole pink dragon fruit
  • 4 small lady finger bananas
  • 2 passionfruit
  • 1 cup of coconut milk/nut milk
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut yogurt (optional)

Arrange all of the ingredients in a bowl and top with the coconut milk and yogurt.

Enjoy in the sunshine.

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Bali Buda-ful Bowl-

Serves 2-

Gado Gado is a traditional Balinese dish that involves boiled vegetables, egg, fried tofu and peanut sauce. This is my homemade take on Gado Gado that opts for fresh raw vegetables, local tempeh and a healthy peanut sauce. Its delicious!

  • 1 large or 2 small purple or white sweet potatoes
  • 1 handful of long green beans sliced
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 small cucumber sliced
  • 1 block of tempeh
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh coriander leaves and mint leaves
  • 1 batch of peanut sauce

Peanut Sauce-

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of local, fresh, raw peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon of tamari
  • 1 teaspoon of local coconut nectar
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut milk

Steam the purple potatoes until tender and allow to cool slightly.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan and cook the tempeh strips until golden.

Arrange the raw vegetables, tempeh and potato in your bowl.

Pour the peanut sauce into small dipping dish and place in the center.

Sprinkle with fresh coriander and sesame seeds.