December 18, 2010

Temples on the day of Kuningan


Today was Kuningan, the last day of the Galungan festival which span a period of ten days and occur every 210 days in the Balinese calendar year (the Pawukon). It is a time celebrating the victory of Dharma over Adharma (or good over evil). During that time the gods and the spirits of the ancestors return to earth and rest in the family temples. All the temples are dressed and decorated with offerings to honor gods and ancestors.

It is a time of great celebration when families reunite to honor the gods and their family's ancestors (and have fun too). Kuningan mark the day where the gods and the spirits return to heaven and everyone has been busy to prepare offerings for this occasion. This morning, we woke up early to decorate our temples and pray.

 Then, we went to visit the Mother temple of Komang's family (the Ibu temple) and the Pemagsan.

These temples are very old and have beautiful carvings and delightful little statues.

On our way home, we first stopped at Komang's uncle and prayed.

December 17, 2010

Made is getting married!

Made Suarta aka Made Pintar (Smart Made) got married to his long time sweetheart Ketut Sepi (Quiet Ketut). Not only Ketut is quiet and beautiful, she is very patient as well since Made and her dated for 8 years!

Marriage in Bali is one of the last life passages rituals that every Balinese will go through, from birth to death. As in the rest of the world, it is a very important life event and many things have to be prepared. 
First, the Pemangku, the villlage priest, finds an auspicious date for the bride to move in with the groom and chooses another auspicious date for the cerenomy to take place. There is always a lapse of time between these two dates; during that time the bride and groom have to stay in the house compound and are not allowed to leave the property. Made and Ketut had to stay home for 5 days but sometimes, as in the case of one of Komang's friend, it was 34 days!
A high priest is contacted and arrangements are made for him or her to come and  perform the ceremony on the chosen day. Since that day is auspicious for more than one couple, they are in high demand and sometimes the ceremony is very early before sunrise or late in the day, depending of their busy schedule.

It takes a lot of people to prepare for the wedding, many offerings have to be made in the week preceding the ceremony and they all will grace the house and the temple on the wedding day.

All the people who come and give their time to help are offered breakfast and lunch, therefore, there is a special crew of people whose sole occupation is to cook (and need to eat too). It is not rare to have at least 50 people helping every day.
At night, someone (similar to a husher in the West) stands at the entrance door and welcome the guests with a happy "Om Swastyastu", the Balinese words of greetings and protection.

The presents of sugar and rice, piled in a basket and covered by a crocheted top are received by a member of the family and placed in big bags.

These will be distributed amongst all the helpers after the ceremony. No wedding list at Bloomingdale's here, a marriage is not about receiving material presents, it is about a community coming together for this very important occasion. Most of what has been given by someone will be given back to someone else. It is a circle of thankfulness and understanding that, when we all share, we all have plenty.

Jaja Nganten
These beautiful small cakes are made for weddings and represent the union between a man and a woman.

At night, an area is set up for the preparation of the drinks and cakes which are given to the arriving guests. Young girls pass around the guests with coffee or tea and a plate of Jaja, the little cakes all Balinese love to nibble on. 

Dadar Unti
 Crêpes with Coconut and Palm Sugar filling
make 12
Crêpes batter:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup rice flour
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla essence or 1 vanilla bean, seeds sraped
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water

Coconut filling:
1 cup  fresh grated coconut
1 pandan leaf tied in a knot
1tsp vanilla essence
5oz of palm sugar
3/4 cup water

Sift the flours into a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the eggs, salt, sugar and coconut milk, add the flours, whisking until smooth. Add water. Let rest for 2 hours.

To make the filling, put the palm sugar, water, pandan leaf and simmer until the liquid has somewhat reduced, about 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the syrup and remove the leaf. put the grated coconut in a pan, add the syrup and cook for 3 minutes at low heat. If the mixture seems runny, add some grated coconut.

Brush a small frying pan with a pat of butter, add 1/4 cup batter, swirl it around (it should be very thin) cook until set on the edges, flip it and cook 2 minutes longer. turn out of the pan the crêpe and keep covered with a towel, repeat until all the batter is used.
Fill each crêpe with 2 tablespoons of filling and roll like a spring roll.

The night before the wedding, after all the offerings have been made, it is time to prepare the feast for the wedding. Pigs and chickens have to be killed, spice pastes, satés, lawar and the rice are cooked during the night and will be first placed in the temple as offerings to the gods.  
On the morning of the wedding, a stylist arrives early to prepare the bride and groom. They will be dressed like a Prince and a Princess for the day, wearing the rich (and heavy) Songket woven with gold threads, jewelry and flowers in their hair. 

The Pedanda, most of the time a Shiwa priest, will arrive and perform the ceremony sitting on the temple altar, chanting the rituals mantras in Sanskrit accompanied by the haunting sound of his bell, tying knots in a leaf of alang alang for Made and Ketut to place around their forehead protecting them from the kala, the unseen negative forces (what we would call the demons) and giving them the Tirta, the sacred water scented with flower petals, to drink. And everyone will pray.

And then, all will have been done. Tomorrow will be a new day in the life of Ketut and Made.

December 8, 2010

Celebrating Odalan

I have been going back and forth between 3 continents for the past few months and it feels really good to be back in Bali. In three days, Komang's family will be celebrating Odalan, the anniversary of the family temple.

Temple dressed for Odalan

 For this occasion, which occured about every 6 months or so, many preparations have to be done beforehand and we start very early in the morning making Banten, which are the  traditional offerings, all the while drinking coffee, chatting and joking.



Odalan is a happy time of family gathering and honoring the gods
A lot of cooking has to be done as well to feed all the helpers for breakfast. And this happens in the beautiful kitchen of Komang's aunt, Ibu Kelemun. I love being in this dark room watching dishes after dishes being cooked on the old wood burning stove with blackened pots and woks.

Low benches lie on one side where spice pastes are prepared in volcanic stone mortars and hiding within small wooden cupboards, one can always find the pungent terasi, the sour and sweet lunak, the kasuna, bawan merah, the laos, kunyit and jahe, the basic aromatics of Balinese cooking.

Out of this very simple kitchen by Western standards, complex sambals and fragrant dishes come out, one after the other, effortlessly. This reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen in France where most of the cooking was done in the fireplace in earthenware pots and in which, as a child, I always felt safe, nurtured and comforted.

In the meantime, on the other side of the road at the Banjar (the village meeting hall where people gather to discuss village matters and prepare food for ceremonies), men are busy preparing the spice pastes for the different meats, making lawar, skewering chickens and grilling the satés, all in a perfect harmony like a dance known by heart,  with the background music of the knives chopping rythmically.

Preparing the meat for saté

Working the line Bali style

Chickens waiting to be grilled

Made Mudre  working solo
Saté Lilit
Saté Asam
Grilling saté
            Not very far, the Babi Guling crew is at work, cleaning and preparing the babi for the pit.

Babi Guling is the ultimate beloved Balinese dish of a suckling pig rubbed in fresh turmeric paste, stuffed with cassava leaves and spices. It is spit roasted for hours over an open fire of coconut husks to a delicious perfection: the meat succulent, juicy and tender with a hint of milkiness; the skin crispy, shattering in the mouth with an explosion of flavor, a thin layer of quivering and translucent fat underneath melting on your tongue; the stuffing, slightly bitter, a little bit sweet and hot providing the counterpoint and balance of the whole dish. 
It is pure heaven and no ceremony is complete without at least one Babi Guling. So much luck that the gods are content with the Sari, the emanation of the offerings, and that us, mortals, can partake on their leftovers!

Babi Guling
Balinese Roasted Suckling Pig
serve 25 people

1 15 lbs suckling pig, cleaned
1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
3oz fresh turmeric, chopped and grind
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil

2 lbs cassava leaves, cleaned, blanched for 5 minutes and chopped
12 oz of shallots, sliced
15 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 long red chilies, finely sliced
15 to 20 bird's eye chilies, finely sliced
3 oz fresh turmeric, chopped
5 oz galanga, finely chopped
2 oz lesser galanga, finely chopped
4 oz fresh ginger, finely chopped
12 candlenuts, chopped
10 salam leaves, chopped
5 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
10 stalks lemongrass, chopped
2 oz tamarind paste
1 Tbs shrimp paste, roasted and crumbled
1 Tbsp peppercorns, crushed
3 Tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 Tbs sea salt

Combine the turmeric with the water and oil and process in a blender until smooth. Strain the liquid and press to extract all the liquid, set aside in a bowl.
Rub the pig, inside and out, with the salt.
Combine all the ingredients for the stuffing and fill the pig cavity with the mixture. Close the cavity by either sewing it with a trussing needle and string or with bamboo skewers.
Brush the outside of the suckling pig with the turmeric mixture.
Place on a roating rack in  the center of a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 1/2 hour, baste with some of the turmeric mixture and turn the pig over, continue to cook for another 1/2 hour, baste again, lower the temperature at 350 degrees F and cook another 1 to hour longer, basting occasionally, the skin should be crispy and golden and when pierced, the juices should run clear.
Let rest for 15 minutes in a warm place.  Remove the string and place the stuffing in a bowl.

Carve the skin and some fat first and then carve the rest of the meat.

Serve with rice, some stuffing, skin and fat and some pieces of meat.

shrine in Jasri beach