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Balinese Cooking

Although the daily meal was frugal, the Balinese seemed exceptionally well fed, and people were always nibbling at some thing. They. were continually eating at odd hours, buying strange-looking foods at public eating booths, in the market, at the crossroads., and particularly at festivals when the foodvendors did a rushing business in chopped mixtures, peanuts., and bright pink drinks.

Every day a young vendor came into the compound and invariably found many customers. For five cents she served a large piece of delicious roast chicken with a strong sauce, accompanied by a package of rice that sold for an extra penny. Even small children, accustomed to look out for themselves, bought their snacks from the street vendors, waiting silently for their orders to be mashed and wrapped in neat little packages of banana leaf, paying for them with the kepengs they kept tied in their sashes.

Balinese food is difficult for the palate of a Westerner. Besides being served cold always, food is considered uneatable unless it is violently flavoured with a crushed variety of pungent spices, aromatic roots and leaves, nuts, onions, garlic, fermented fish paste, lemon juice, grated coconut, and burning red peppers. It was so hot that it made even me, a Mexican raised on chilipeppers, cry and break out in beads of perspiration. But after the first shocks, and when we became accustomed to Balinese flavours, we d.eveloped into Balinese gourmets and soon started trying out strange new combinations. Silob Biang understood our appreciation of their delicacies and often brought Rose new dishes to taste. Babies are fed the peppery food as soon as they are weaned and will not touch food without spices and peppers. Most Europeans, used to beef and boiled potatoes, simply cannot eat Balinese food, but on the other hand no Balinese of the average class can be induced even to touch European food, which is nyam-nyam to them - that is, " flat and tasteless."

 

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A Brahmanic priest we occasionally visited told us that under no circumstances may Balinese eat the following: " human flesh, tigers, monkeys, dogs, crocodiles, mice, snakes, frogs, certain poisonous fish, leeches, stinging insects, crows, eagles, owls, and in general all birds with moustaches "! We assured him nobody ate such things, but he remarked that it was well to keep it in mind in anyway. Being of the highest caste and a priest besides, he could not touch the flesh of cows, bulls, and pork, eat in the streets or in the market, drink alcohol, or even taste the, food from offerings from which the essence had been consumed by the gods. Members of the high nobility Brahmanas and Satrias are forbidden to eat beef, but many of the lesser Gustis do not mind eating it.

Outside of these prohibitions the common people eat everything that walks.. swims, flies, or crawls. Chicken, duck, pork~ and more rarely beef and buffalo are the meats most commony eaten, but the people are also fond of stranger foods such as dragon-flies, crickets, flying ants, and the larvae of bees. Dragonflies were caught in a most amusing manner; boys and girls wandered among the ricefields waving long poles, the ends of which were smeared with a sticky sap. The supposedly " rank conscious " dragon-flies must always stand in the highest branches and all the boy had to do was to hold the stick above the place where a fly stood; it flew onto the sticky trid of the pole and was caught in the trap. Great numbers were obtained in this curious manner, their wings taken off, and the bodies fried crisp in coconut oil with spices and vegetables. Great delicacies are also the scaled ant-eater (klesih), the flying fox (a great fruit bat) , porcupines (landak) , large lizards (alu") , wild boar, squids, rice, birds, from the glatek to the minute petingan, which was eaten.bones and all, and all sorts of crayfish. In every food-stand we saw small fried eels from the ricefields, looking suspiciously like shrivelled baby snakes. Although dogs are included in the klist of what not to eat, they aretaten in some of the remote villages in Klungkung and. Gianyar, but the rest of the Balinese will have, nothing to do with people of such disgusting habits.

With meat eaten only occasionally, the diet of the Balinese consists, besides rice, corn, and sweet potato, of vegetables and fruits, of which they have a great variety. Besides eggplant, papaya, coconut, bananas, pineapples, mangoes; oranges, melons, peanuts, and so forth, there are others unknown among us, such as the delicious breadfruit (timbul), jackfruit (n2ngka), acacia leaves (twi) , greens (kangkung) , edible ferns (pah) , and extraordinary fruits such as salak, a pear-shaped fruit that grows on a palm,. tastes like pineapple, and is covered by the most perfect imitation snakeskin; the- delicate diambu", fragrant wani" the rambutan (a large sort of grape inside of a hairy transparent pink skin), the famous mangosteen (manggis). (for which a prize was offered by Queen Victoria to anyone who found the. way to bring the fruit in good condition to England) , and the stinking durian (duren in Bali) - A good deal has been written both in favour of and against this spiky sort of custard apple, whose putrid smell has been compared with every decaying or, evil-smelling thing from goats to rancid. butter. The meat of the idurien is a creamy custard, the indefinable. flavors, and texture of which develops into a passion among those used to eating it.Most Europeans, however, object to its offensive smell to such a degree that they forbid their servants to bring durien within, a Aistance, of their house. The fruits are eaten raw and the vegetables 4re',boiled or fried after being, washed carefully in a special bowl. The Balinese peel vegetables away and not towards them selves, as is done in the West. Although the Balinese are not, fond of sweets, they make a delicious dessert of coconut cream with cinnamon, bananas, or breadfruit steamed in packages) of banana leaf.

We have seen that the women are reduced to the routine of cooking the everyday meal, but when it com es to "preparing banquet food, it is the men., is is universally the case, who are the great chefs and who alone can prepare the festival dishes of roast. suckling pig ( "be guling) and sea turtle ("penyu") , the cooking of which requires the art of famous specialists. Few bandjar enjoyed as great a reputation for fine cooking as Belaluan; there the great banquet dishes were . prepared most often because the bandjar was prosperous, and there lived famous cooks who were always in great demand to officiateat feasts. People spoke with anticipation when Pan Regog or Made directed the preparation of epicurean dishes such as " turtle in four ways, " or the delicious sate lembat.

On the road coming from the seaport of Benua we often met men from Belaluan staggering under the weight of a giant turtle flapping its paddles helplessly in space, and then we knew they were preparing for a feast. or days before the banquet of the bandjar four or five stupefied turtles crawled under the platforms of the ba16 bandiar awaiting the fateful moment when, in the middle of the night, the kulkid would sound to call the men to the gruesome task of sacrificing them. A sea-turtle possesses a strange reluctance to die and for man~ hours after the shell is removed -and the flaps and head are severed from the body, the viscera, continue to pulsate hysterically, the bloody members twitch weirdly on the ground, and the head snaps furiously. The blood of the turtle is carefully collected and thinned with lime juice to prevent coagulation. By dawn the many cooks and assistants are chopping the skin and meat with heavy chopping axes (blakas) on sections of tree-trunks (talanan), are grating coconuts, fanning fires, boiling or steaming great quantities of rice, or mashing spices in clay dishes (tiobek) with wooden pestles (pengulakan) .

The indicated manners of preparing the turtle are the aforementioned four styles:

lawar: skin and flesh chopped fine and mixed with spices and raw blood;

getiok: chopped meat with grated coconut and spices;

urab gadang: same as above, but cooked in tamarind leaves (asam) ;

kirnan: chopped meat and grated coconut cooked in coconut cream.

Coconut (nyuh) is an essential element for fine Balinese cooking. Grated coconut meat is mixed with everything, frying is done exclusively in coconut oil, coconut water is the standard drink to refresh one's guests, and a good deal of the food is cooked in rich coconut cream, sant6n, made by squeezing the grated coconut over and over into a little water until a heavy milk is obtained. Food containing coconut does not keep and must be eaten the same day.

Santen enters also into the composition of the other delicacy essential to banquets, the sate lembat or leklat. This is a delicious paste of turtle meat and spices, kneaded in coconut.cream, with which the end of a thick bamboo stick is covered and which is then roasted over charcoals. The sate lembat is presented with an equal number of ordinary. sate, little pieces of meat the- size of dice strung on bamboo sticks " en brochette " and roasted over the coals, eaten dry or with a sauce. Rose was always poking around where cooking was. going on, and to her I owe the following recipe for preparing the sate lembat given to her by the Belaluan cooks, who warned her, however, that it was a most difficult dish to prepare:

Take a piece of ripe coconut with the hard brown skin between the shell and the meat and roast it over the coals. The toasted skin is then peeled off and ground in a mortar. Next prepare the sauce: red pepper, garlic, and red onions browned in a frying-pan and then mixed with black pepper, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, sre (pungent fermented fish paste) , isen, cekuh (aromatic roots resembling ginger), ketumbah, ginten, and so forth, adding a little salt, all mashed together with the toasted coconut skin, and fry the mixture until half done. Take red turtle meat without fat, chop very fine, and add to the sauce in a bowl, two and a half times as much meat as sauce. Add one whole grated coconut and mix well with enough santen to obtain a consistency that will adhere to the sticks, not too dry or too wet. Knead for an hour and. a half as if making bread. Meantime sticks of bamboo of about ten inches long by a half-inch thick should be made ready and rounded at one end. Take a ball of the paste in the fingers and cover the end of the stick with it, beginning at the top and working down gradually, turning it all the time to give it the proper shape, then roast over The sate can be made of pork or chicken, but turtle remains the favourite of the Balinese of Denpasar. Turtles are expensive (about twenty dollars for a good-sized one), and ordinarily pork, chicken, or duck is the dish served at more modest, feasts.

Theymay be prepared in the form described above, in sates, lawar, getjok, or simply split and roasted with a peppery sauce. Duck is stuffed and steamed (bebek betutu) . Although the expression: " He has to eat banana leaves " is used to give emphasis to someone s extreme poverty, a delicious dish and a great delicacy is the kekalan, made of tender shoots of banana leaves cooked in turtle blood and lime juice. Balinese cooking attains its apoltheosis in the preparation of the famous be guling, stuffed suckling pig roasted on a spit, the recipe for which was also given to Rose by the Belaluan cooks:

After the pig has been killed, pour boiling water over it and scrape the skin thoroughly with a sharp piece of coconut shell. Open the mouth and scrape the tongue also. Cut a four-inch incision to insert the hand and remove the viscera. Wash the inside of the pig carefully with, cold water. Run a pointed stick through the mouth and tail and stuff the pig with a mixture of: red cbili-pepper (lombok) bogaron, tinke (nuts resembling ginger) garlic, cekuh (an aromatic root of the ginger family) red onions tumeric (kunyit) ginger (jahe), salt bogaron, tinke (nuts resembling ginger) cekuh (an aromatic root of the ginger family) black pepper (meritia) srg (concentrated fish paste) aromatic leaves (saladam or ulam) and ketumbah, a variety of peppercorn.

Chop all these ingredients fine, mixing them with coconut oil. Stuff the pig with the mixture, placing inside a piece of coconut bark, and then sew up the cut. To give the skin the proper rich brown colour, bathe the pig,,before roasting, in tumeric crushed in water, and rinse off the excen root. Make a big wood fire and place the pig not directly over it, but towards one side. Forked branches should support the -end of the -stick that serves as a spit, one end of which is crooked to, be used as a crank by a manwho turns the pig onstantly (guling means to turn) , while another man fans the fire to direct the flame and smoke ' away from the pig. The heat should be concentrated on the head and tail and not in the middle so as not to crack the skin of the stomach.

After a few hours of slow roasting the juiciest and most tender pork -is obtained, flavoured by the fragrant spices, inside of a deliciously brittle skin covered with a golden-brown glaze. Few dishes in the world can be compared with a well-made be guling.

When the food is ready and the guests are assem, bled, sitting in long rows, they are served by the leading members of the bandjar and their assistants, who circulate among them carrying trays with pyramids of rice and little square dishes of palm leaf pinned together with bits of bamboo, containing chopped mixtures, sat6, and - little side dishes of fried beans (botor), bean sprouts with crushed peanuts, parched grated coconuts dyed yellow with kunyit, and preserved salted eggs., Others pour drinks; tuak (palm beer), brom a sweet sherry made from fermented black rice, or more rarely arak, 'distilled rice brandy. More frequently water alone is served- it is only old men who are fond of alcoholic drinks, drinking, however, with moderation and never becoming drunk. During our-,entire stay in Bali we never saw a man really drunk, perhaps because the Balinese dread the sensation of dizziness and confusion, of losing control over themselves.

 
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