Sarah Douglas reviews some of the best superfood options from our sunny isle.
Eating right has become very annoying. You should eat this and you must do that. If we were to listen to the conflicting advice we get, our kitchens would look like science experiments, our lives lined with kale.
The truth is what our mothers taught us isn’t far wrong. Eat fresh, local food. Balance your diet with colourful veggies and keep it simple. Superfoods are all well and good but as a stand alone, they are only part of the story. Research suggests the vast ecosystem of organisms that live in our digestive systems can influence everything from mental health to athleticism and obesity. They call it poop doping, and while it may not sound good, can it taste good?
The art of eating is about enjoyment. We congregate, celebrate and even commiserate around food. Is the obsession healthy, or not? That depends. Drowning your sorrows with a whole block of chocolate is not advised but imagine if that chocolate not only hit the pleasure centre, but was also raw vegan and loaded with superfoods?
In A Pickle
The guys at Ubud’s famous Locavore restaurant are not content to rest on their laurels. The word locavore is applied to those who source their food locally. Chefs Eelke and Ray committed to this practice when they first opened in Ubud in early 2013. Catapulting them to Bali’s number one restaurant, voted by 50 Best Restaurants Asia, hasn’t slowed them down. Their commitment to local produce has made waves throughout Bali and expanded to other parts of Indonesia. Their focus has also given local farmers well deserved recognition for their part in the ingredient-driven restaurant scene.
The latest addition to Locavore Lane, otherwise known as Jl. Dewi Sita, is Localab. This is where science meets culinary art. The single room is lined with shelves holding jars and bottles reminiscent of a chemistry experiment. This is where inspiration for brilliance happens, and it happens to be right up there with the latest advice from nutritionists. Fermented foods, essentially pickles, feed the gut with healthy microbiome. The flavour profile adds acidity and layers of flavour to dishes, turning dinner into an experience.
A recent dinner resembling a smorgasboard, featured local cheeses, their own charcuterie, organic salads dressed adventurously, some experimental sourdough breads by Canggu bakery Starter Lab and a selection of home-style braises.
The pork stew, made with their locally sourced organic black pig, was old school, deep, thick, studded with vegetables with a rich broth that was taken to the next level with the addition of kimchi. The famous Korean pickle would not be found in any ordinary recipe but it resulted in a warm spice and deep flavour that made the mundane spectacular.
Chief lab chef, Jacob, explained they have over 200 different pickles and vinegars on their shelves and these serve as inspiration for new dishes every week. Locavore ticks a lot of boxes for healthy and sustainable food; for flavour, locally sourced ingredients, organic in most cases and for the quality of their ingredients that are packed with nature’s nutrients. Best of all you don’t feel you have to sacrifice anything. This is superfood at its finest.
Locavore products can be purchased at Locavore-to-go, while meat eaters will adore their butcher shop, Local Parts. Nusantara pays homage to Indonesia’s finest dishes while Night Rooster plays with exotic cocktails, the perfect ending to a night in ‘Local-lane’.
They may claim sourdough as their own in San Francisco but fermenting dough to give rise to delicious bread is an ancient technique. It also turns out that this fermentation process gives one of life’s great pleasures a healthy boost. Bread is essentially flour, water and salt. These days there are loads of people turning away from gluten, however the sourdough process makes it easier to digest. It also adds to the good bacteria profile and increases the absorption of the vitamins and minerals found in wheat and other grains. Add rye and there are even greater benefits. Sourdough is a prebiotic as well an essential part of maintaining a healthy gut, and that, say the experts, is where good health begins.
Starter Lab isn’t the only bakery turning out great sourdough, but their bubbly loaves are already turning heads. Newcomers Emerson and Min went out on a limb to do something they are passionate about. Emerson worked at Tartine in San Francisco and learned the art of sourdough. Teaming up with Localab on a recent dinner they experimented with including some of the lab’s pickled grains to up the superfood profile and honestly, nothing was lost in translation. The results were fantastic. Their little Canggu bakery is about to grow into a café but demand for their loaves is growing so watch out for it in your favourite café and farmer’s market.
The jury is out on juices, for various reasons, one of them being the high sugar content, however the juice fast remains a popular way to detox. Cold pressed juice is the way to go, the slower process means that the nutrients in the fruit and vegetables remain intact, giving you more vitamins for your money. In The Raw’s Mark Baker has been hawking his juice regime since he arrived on the island and many a party goer thanks him for it. The juices can be delivered to your door daily for those who choose to fast, the rest of us can head to the colourful Beach Garden café in Canggu and load up with the good stuff including raw salads, sashimi bowls, protein rich breakfasts and fruit and vegetables dressed up to dance. It’s nice to know they aren’t precious at In The Raw so alcohol and animal protein is on the menu as well. Phew. Put more veggies in your mix for better health and add additional superfoods like turmeric to boost your supers.
Be Kynd To Yourself
Choosing a plant-based diet has become all the rage for ethical and health reasons. While I’m a firm believer in balance and eating everything in moderation, there are those who don’t agree . . . and they will find a place they love at Kynd Community. Partners Lauren and Corinne opened Kynd as a commitment as much as a café, to feed themselves and their friends exciting plant-based foods. The response was so overwhelming they are expanding less than a year after opening in Jl. Petitengett.
Vegans know that in order to get balance in their diets they need to combine foods in a clever way. It is not as easy as it sounds. At Kynd, the cup runneth over with café classics redefined. From amazing super salads to toasties piled high with colourful, vibrant toppings. And, just because you’re a vegan doesn’t mean you miss out on dessert – they have some killer sweet treats at Kynd, top it off with a coffee with nut or coconut milk. Pop in for some kyndness and don’t forget to post on Instagram it’s almost required.
What Is That In The Jar?
Kombucha first became a fad during the ‘80’s but this spongy looking spore could easily date back to the dinosaurs. These days there is hardly a café worthy of its sea salt that doesn’t offer it.
Making your own is easy, but a little creepy (speaking from personal experience) so buying it is even better. Happy Kombucha stock a whole lot of gut-friendly products from kefir to their flavoured kombucha and their commitment to making healthy sexy has to be admired. The bottles are pretty, the flavours range from sour to soft, all with the tang that defines this super-packed beverage.
The live bacteria in kombucha gives it the superfood status and these mothers (that’s what the original spore is called) attract it like bees to the honey. Much like yoghurt, the culture is live and giving it an exact profile is impossible because the source is all around us and subject to change. This is where science fails us and a leap of faith is required but essentially, like yoghurt, our gut appreciates a bit of a challenge and Happy Kombucha is a delicious way to feed it. Happy Kombucha is available at many of our favourite cafes including Milk & Madu and Sushimi. You can also buy it directly from them.
Top It Up Nalu
Ordering up a Nalu bowl can be challenging as you may have to fight off a crowd of want-to-be Insta stars first. These guys saw the poké bowl trend coming early and created the Nalu bowl, a colourful craze that has spread around the island. There is more to these pretty bowls than simply good looks though. They are loaded with antioxidants in the form of fruit, including those super blueberries. The base is a frozen smoothie, made with yoghurt (bring on the bacteria guys) and topped with home-made granola and all manner of fruit. Non-dairy eaters can replace the yoghurt with coconut water or juice and skip the honey. Here you have the complete breakfast, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, enough to put a spring in your step and a smile on your dial.
The best news of all is that chocolate sits firmly in the superfoods camp. Loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, but before you get too excited, we aren’t talking Cadbury’s here. The closer the chocolate is to the cacao bean the better it is for you. In moderation of course, unless you fancy the 99% variety which can give you sleepless nights due to an alkaloid called theobromine. The darker the chocolate, the higher the content. Join the tours at Pod Bali for a real insight.
Elevated Cacao is a newcomer on the market. The brainchild of an ex-dancer and a former corporate executive from Melbourne, these guys have somehow managed to make raw, vegan chocolate taste good. The varieties available are all loaded with superfoods, from goji to pink sea salt, ginger to maca, nuts, seeds and fruit. It is clearly a labour of love and the creamy, dark and very sexy chocolate is ultimately delicious. And isn’t that the happy ending we all crave?
Good Cafes And Delis
Ultimately in life and in eating we seek out balance, flavor and satiation. If it is also good for us, that’s even better. Bali is full of creative cooks and chefs who are bringing the science of superfoods into our lives every day. Leave your guilt at the door and eat up.