Bali: Farmers’ Market and Cooking Our Own Balinese Lunch

Today we were picked up early and taken to a Farmers’ Market in the north of the island.

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We got there around 9:00 but the market opens at 5:00 am. Most of the locals do their shopping before the kids get up for school.

Our guide (Sang De) walked us through the stalls stopping to tell us about the ingredients we were going to use to make our meal: tumeric, ginger, shallots, garlic, small hot peppers, large red chili, coriander seeds, kafir limes…

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The market had flowers (both edible and for offerings), spices, rice, feed for chickens and pigs, even a dry goods section:

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From the market we were taken to Sang De’s family compound where he has facilities for a cooking “school”. First he explained the layout of a Balinese family compound – a Balinese home is a multi-generational affair – including a family temple, a place for family ceremonies, as well as individual “houses” for the family groupings, a kitchen, bathroom facilities (which are communal, not part of the individual houses), and a grazing area for chickens and other small livestock.

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The kitchen was large enough that all 9 of us were involved in the meal preparation: first chopping the “spice” ingredients very finely so the mixture could be ground in a pestle. Next we cooked it in a pot, adding chicken stock, bay leaf and a leaf of kafir lime. This mixture was used to make the unripe mango soup as well as the curried chicken. It was also added to the puréed chicken thigh to make satay. We spent over an hour and a half getting the meal ready.

Before eating, Sang De explained how offerings to the gods are made as part of each meal. Balinese lives are tightly interwoven with their religious beliefs.
Offerings everywhere on the streets, on the ground in front of shops, on shrines along the streets, in lots of other locations. They consist of small woven palm leaf dishes filled with flowers and topped with a burning incense stick; beneath the flowers is an offering of the meal about to be eaten (I assume the offerings on the street are the same).

The meal was delicious (more than twice what I was able to eat), if a bit under spiced – I like.hot spicy food, but the other gals asked for mild, so while I found the food flavorful, it was lacking in heat.

We left with copies of the recipes we’d made so we’ll be able to make them when we get home.

Bali: Rice Paddy Walk and Visit to a Spa

We started the day early by driving a distance toward the northern mountains from Ubud to the start of a trail through a series of rice paddies back to town – something like a six km walk downhill.

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The paddies were of various sizes – some smaller ones obviously intended to feed a family; some of the harvest from the larger ones probably would be sold.

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The path was narrow, we needed to walk single file; nevertheless there was quite a bit of motorcycle traffic going in both directions. When a motorcycle came into view we had to step to the edge of the ditch beside the paddy to let it pass – not always easy to do.

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Some of the families have been enterprising by building small shops on the path – they sell art, trinkets, food items, gifts, you name it. However a majority of the shops were closed for the day due to a big religious festival where thousands of people get dressed in their going-to-temple white outfits and walk from Ubud to the ocean – a bit of a hike. In the afternoon we saw the procession returning in 100 trucks all decorated and carrying a load of people and large religious statues.

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What became obvious as we got closer to Ubud, was just how much construction is going on (much of it resorts being built) which in 5 years will likely obliterate much of the rice paddies. If tourism remains stable or grows that will mean income for Bali, but I couldn’t help wondering how the poor will be able to afford imported rice – the essential in the Balinese diet.

Later in the afternoon I visited a spa not far from the Rama Phala Resort where we’re staying. I had chosen a traditional Balinese massage. The masseuse began by loosening every joint starting with my feet – I go for a massage regularly at home – this was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. When the gal was done, I was so relaxed I could barely move. Quite wonderful – to be recommended to anyone visiting Bali. There are spas everywhere so I know for sure I’m not the only visitor to take advantage of the service. I hope to be able to have another massage before I leave.

Bali: Fire Dance

Two evenings ago we attended a performance of a “Fire Dance”. The Balinese name for the dance is “Sekaa Kecak”. It’s a dance not accompanied by instruments but by a 100 member male chorus.

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It’s an old ritual dance based on an ancient Indian epic. It involves gods and princesses and other important persons in a series of abductions, rescues, deaths… All very convoluted.

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Can’t say I understood much of what went on. The finale involved a rather large bonfire in the midst of the square and a dragon character who dashed through the fire scattering the burning cocoanut husks repeatedly. The performance was in the round so those scattering ashes came very close to the audience! Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any photos of the dragon and the fire – the fire was too bright.