We recently got a taste of Balinese food, culture, and hospitality at the Embassy of Indonesia, hosted by one of Bali’s most luxurious hotels, the Viceroy Bali. Nestled in what has been termed Bali’s “Valley of the Kings,” the resort boasts amenities that will make anyone feel like royalty, including the tranquil Lembah Spa, a valley-top infinity pool with swim-up bar, the award-winningCasCades Restaurant, and an on-site heli pad (an upscale “airport transfer” option). We met Amanda Syrowataka, whose parents built the resort ten years ago and have owned and operated it ever since. Her mother, designer and managing director Margaret Bainbridge, helped to ensure that the resort’s 25 private villas (each with its own private pool!) combine the best of Balinese and contemporary design. Villas include modern amenities, like WiFi, iPad docking stations, and satellite TV (for those who just can’t “unplug”), as well as traditional elements, like alangs-alangs (thatched roofs), balés (gazebos), and locally-crafted bath products. Resort and area activities include traditional dance shows and classes, helicopter tours, yoga sessions, cooking lessons, shopping, and temple, monkey forest, and rice paddy tours.
At the event, we were treated to an exquisite meal, prepared by CasCades Restaurant’s Executive Chef, Nic Vanderbeeken, with assistance from local chef Jan Van Haute of Haute Saison Catering. Drawing inspiration from traditional Indonesian cuisine, Chef Vanderbeeken crafts a variety of European and Indonesian-influenced dishes using local Balinese ingredients and European techniques and touches. We sampled variations on his Indonesian degustation menu, including Sop Bobor (a savory chick pea ricotta dumpling, bathed in a refreshing spinach and young coconut soup with Salam leaf and lesser galangal), Cumi Kukus Dengan Saus Mangga (tender grilled Bumbu-spiced baby squid, served with sweet and sour purple carrots, a salty seaweed “sand,” black rick krupuk, and a mango-lime emulsion), and Gule Kambing (see the recipe below).
While we dined, we were entertained by performances of traditional Balinese and West Sumatran dances. (CasCades offers monthly full moon dinner and dance events, check for availability). Local travel agent (and Balinese native) Dyah Purwati of Sunia Travel told the group about the sights and sounds beyond Bali, scattered on the over 17,500 islands of the Indonesian archipelago. This vast country includes the world’s longest coastline (about 53,000 miles), many active volcanoes, and a breathtaking array of biodiversity.
Want to experience Bali for yourself? Then consider a visit to the Viceroy Bali! Emirates andQuatar Airways both offer flights to Bali from Dulles (with a connection in Dubai or Doha, respectively). Time your visit for the period leading up to Nyepi Day (the next one is March 9, 2016), and experience a uniquely Balinese ritual. Locals build papier-mâché effigies, which are paraded, “chased,” and then burned. Following days of revelry, Nyepi Day itself (also called Bali Day of Silence) is a day for quiet reflection in celebration of the Saka New Year. Tourists must remain on their resorts (no hardship if you’re staying at the Viceroy Bali!), everything closes, and lights remain off at night.
Want an Indonesian experience closer to home? Then find an opportunity to check out the Embassy of Indonesia. Originally built in the early 1900s by gold miner Thomas Walsh (it was the most expensive house in DC at the time) and once home to the Hope Diamond, it has been Indonesian soil since 1951. On the National Register of Historic Places, it has hosted the likes of American President Teddy Roosevelt and Indonesian Presidents Soekarno and Soeharto. On Monday, you can join a discussion with Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng about youth biculturalism. Or experience the beauty of the Balinese language by attending BASAbali’s simulcast poetry slam event (details soon on GregsListDC).
Although written about a fictional Pacific island, we couldn’t help but leave the embassy humming a refrain from a popular Rodgers and Hammerstein tune:
“Bali (Ha’i) will whisper
In the wind of the sea:
‘Here am I, your special island!
Come to me, come to me!’”
We hear you Bali, and we hope to answer your call very soon!
Gule Kambing recipe (serves 6)
3.5 lbs boneless New Zealand lamb, cubed
2 oz. red chilis
3.5 oz. shallot
1.5 oz. garlic
½ oz. ginger
½ oz. turmeric
¼ oz. coriander seed
¼ oz. cardamom
1 piece cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
5 pieces of lime leaf
3 pieces of Salam leaf (Indonesian bay leaf)
¾ cup of coconut milk
6 ¼ cups water
Salt and pepper
Sear the lamb cubes on all sides. Saute the spices with the leaves, then combine with the lamb. Add the coconut milk and water and simmer until tender.