March 28, 2010

Pasir Putih, the White Sands Beach

On Sundays mornings, Komang and I wake up with the sunrise and after a cup of coffee, head down to Pasir Putih, a short bike drive from our house.

At that time, we have the beach to ourselves, sand untouched,  turquoise water glistening in the morning sun. This is a place of serene beauty, unspoiled, peaceful, close to my heart and where I always want to return to.

Pasir Putih is a natural harbor, safely guarded by high cliffs of volcanic stone where many fishermen keep their boats. I love walking on the beach and looking at these beautiful little boats with their carved fish heads and brightly painted eyes to guide the fishermen through the night.

When we see the jukungs coming back towards the shore, we go to meet them and buy some of the fish they just caught.

Most of the time, it is awan (a kind of mackerel) 

but sometimes, we are in luck and they have caught snapper or umah umah, the most delicious fish for grilling.

Small warungs dot the beach, they are simple places where the freshest fish and seafood is served grilled and accompanied by the mandatory mie goreng (fried noodles) or nasi goreng (fried rice) with sambal and iced tea.

Mie Goreng with Prawns

Serves 2
4 raw prawns, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1 1/2 cup of julienned cabbage
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 bird's eye chlies finely sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) 
1 tsp kecap asin (light soy sauce)
1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 scallion, finely sliced for garnish
1 package of  ramen style noodles

Boil the noodles for 3 or 4 minutes, drain. Blanch the cabbage and carrot for 1 minute, drain. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok and sauté the shallots, garlic and prawns until fragrant, add the kecap manis, kecap asin, fish sauce and sesame oil. Add the noodles, hot sauce and chilies. garnish with the scallion and serve.

March 27, 2010

Nengah Madu and Honey from the Temple

A few months ago, I was stirred in my sleep by a familiar buzzing sound that I could not place, a persistent humming very close to me, near my head actually, bzzzzzz, bzzzzzzzz, what could it be, I wondered? It was still dark, just before dawn. The humming was gentle and soothing but getting stonger by the minute.
Fully awake by then, I realized we were surrounded by hundreds of bees! A bee colony had decided to make our bed their new home!
What to do? Bees are sacred in Bali and believed to bring good fortune but we could not imagine going to sleep every night in their company. Komang decided to call his cousin, Nengah Madu, named so (madu means honey) because he has a way with bees since he was a child and can handle them without any harm done to himself or the bees whatsoever.

He came a while later, installed a bee house in the frangipani tree just outside the bedroom and moved them, we watched in wonder as the swarm moved outside of the bedroom.

Ahhhhhhh,  it's done, we thought! But no, we were wrong, the bees did not like this place,  they went back to the room and then, a few went straight to the temple, checked the location and finally decided this was an acceptable home for settling down.
Now, every night when we pray, Komang gives offerings to the bees who are in good company near Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.

During midday, at the hottest time, we can see hundreds of them busy bringing pollen and fanning the hive, we think they must live in the Ijuk roof of the temple.
Very near this location, another small temple sits to protect the land and some of the bees have set residence in it. Every now and then, when it is almost impossible to place offerings there, Nengah Madu comes and takes out some of the honeycombs.

We let the honey drip in a jar from the combs and when they are emptied, not only do we have delicious, wild raw honey but Komang's mother prepares a very special Jakut Urab.

Jakut Urab with Honeycomb

I am not really expecting you to make this recipe, I am giving it as an example of something you might be offered as part of a meal if you lived in a Balinese family. It is a case in point of using the most of what there is and turning it into a nutritious and delicious dish (if quite unexpected).

Once the honey has dripped out of the honeycombs, you are left with the wax, a bit of honey and the larvae. Once boiled, this is chopped finely, bee larvae and all. Then, chopped bird's eye chilies, crispy fried sliced shallots, a handful of toasted grated coconut, salt, some lime juice and a bit of roasted shrimp paste are mixed in with boiled and chopped water spinach and starfruit leaves.

At a time where bees are alarmingly disappearing in great numbers (you can read here and here about this), we feel so grateful to have these celestial creatures grace our land.

life is perfection in the smallest things