Cooking In The Forest

Cooking In The Forest

Today, with Kevin Cherkas from Cuca are cooking bamboo fish in the woods, a food tryout based on our experience with the Dayak tribespeople.
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Soaking Up The Dayak Culture

Soaking Up The Dayak Culture

In order to create new dishes, I look for inspiration by meeting people, cooking with them, discovering new ingredients, and soaking up the local culture and traditions of the indigenous tribes. Today, with Kevin Cherkas from Cuca, we are visiting a traditional Dayak village where we get to chat with some of the locals and witness their candlenut harvest (kemiri in Indonesian).
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The Dayak Tribe

The Dayak Tribe

Discover with me how the Dayak tribespeople reconcile their traditional way of life with today’s modern world.
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Cooking With The Dayak Deah People

Cooking With The Dayak Deah People

Follow me today, as I experience the Dayak cuisine in South Kalimantan with my partner in crime Kevin Cherkas from Cuca Bali. In pursuit of knowing more about the district and its edible delights, we landed in southern Kalimantan recently to discover the stories behind its delicious traditional dishes. We immersed ourselves in the history, recipes, culture and nature of the region and merged our experience with our lifetime of knowledge in the kitchen, for a traditional feast we organized in Som Chai, on May 11th, 2019.
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Ideas, Innovation and Inspiration in Indigenous Cuisine

Ideas, Innovation and Inspiration in Indigenous Cuisine

Welcome to the world of Will Meyrick, renown “Street food Chef” and restauranteur. Executive chef of internationally awarded Mamasan, Sarong and Hujan Locale as well as Som Chai and Billy Ho the latest of Will’s creations. Impressive as this all sounds none of it was an overnight success and today, at the beginning of 2019, he stands once more on a new threshold and is about to share yet another exciting journey.

NOW Bali took the opportunity to sit down with Will and his partner in this innovation, David Metcalf, of David Metcalf Photography, to discover what new wonders lie in store for us here on the island of Bali.

Will and David met through their passion for the visual image, David is an acclaimed international photographer with many years of experience in using the power of photography to bring about understanding of environmental issues.

Through his tours he creates pathways for sustainable, positive change in the indigenous communities he visits, specifically in the legendary lands of the Dayak Tribes of Borneo.  In 2018 David curated, with Dayak run Ranu Welum’s Young Indigenous Film Maker Project, the very first Indigenous Film Festival in Bali, an event that will run again in May this year, and has showcased International films made by Indigenous groups from as far away as Peru and as close as Papua.

Determined and dedicated in their own fields to the support and promotion of Indigenous culture Will and David recognised during a recent trip to the far North West of Vietnam that between them they could create experiences that allowed for more than a visual introduction to the deeply rooted, essential communities that form the basis for the true meaning of society.

As Will explained the continued existence of communities that lie beyond the reach of ‘modern living’ are vital to the survival of all cultures and globally, while under threat from all kinds of pressure including here in Indonesia the proliferation of Palm Oil plantations, there is a growing awareness of the urgency with which sustainable support of and authentic connections to Indigenous cultures need to be promoted and preserved.

“When I first brought the concept of Asian Street Food into the fine dining scene I did it, not because the food was great, although it is, but because I wanted to tell the stories of the cuisine culture. Asian Street food has always been about the migratory stories, the tribal stories, the journeys that took place from the great explorations of the Silk Routes, land and sea, and the journeys of colonial powers and their slaves.

Communities arriving in strange places created food for themselves that reflected their origins, and eventually, as we see so clearly across Indonesia, the blending of cuisine cultures creates a fusion. From the Tamils of Medan to the Afghans of Denpasar, the Chinese diaspora and the Portuguese brought Africans food of the “homelands” infiltrated and adapted to their new environments.

And, when a modern economic model, including ‘Transmigrasi’, imposed itself on the indigenous of Indonesia, the Batak, the Dayak, the Sasak and the Madurese, and drew them into cities and townships their food soon followed.

So here you have in the streets of the cities the genesis of an Indigenous food culture, but sadly now many of these cultures at their roots are facing an extinction moment of their own.

No longer is it enough to preserve and show, I feel David and I are at this point where we can join a growing wave of commitment to actually, in partnership with the people of the communities, empower global Indigenous cultures to build stronger futures.”

David was keen to point out that while the ideas of sharing the impactful images of the cultures was a good one, and the idea of instructive introduction was important, people really need to connect to the purity and beauty that is Indigenous culture, and beyond what is seen in magazines and maybe on tv what does the average person actually know about Indigenous Culture?

Discovery of what Indigenous culture is means two things, either going to visit or learning about it in other ways and it is through this approach that Will and David have come up with an ingenious innovation that they are enthusiastic to share.

Will continues: “The thing here is that this is not actually about me, or David, what we are planning is to be a kind of invisible bridge. Sure we will have our images, David’s connections, my restaurant but what people will engage with and enjoy are the incredible Indigenous stories and dishes prepared by guest chefs, experts in their fields, with deep and practical knowledge of indigenous cuisine. We invite and encourage attendance through the resonance people have with the Sarong Group, with the knowledge of David’s expertise, our bridge, but once here the journey becomes their own, and who knows they may leave having had a great meal, contributed to the support of two indigenous projects Handep Haruei www.handepharuei.org  and Mother Jungle www.motherjungle.org  that currently offer practical support to the indigenous Dayak women of Borneo, but also quite possibly they may leave thinking ‘What’s next, Lombok is not so far away, Toraja has great tourism opportunities and why not get into Borneo’s Dayak Culture before it disappears?’ These events are designed to open up all sorts of possibilities that may lead who knows where.”
So starting with an event every two months, held at the exquisite and atmospheric Som Chai Will and David will curate unique immersive culinary experiences, enhanced by visual media in the form of photography and film footage in the hope that all involved will come closer to the essence of what exactly what it means to be Indigenous. It maybe just what we have all been looking for, the ability to begin our reconnection to the multitude of real world cultures where, as Joseph Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness “What thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. “ This article was written for NOW! Bali, and originally published in February 2018
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Trincomalee

Trincomalee

The challenge to find a holiday destination in July to August is actually more difficult that you’d think, especially when you live on an island paradise, like Bali, and everything is at your doorstep. We have the school holidays to consider and I do like to get away with the kids, taking them somewhere different each year and giving them an opportunity to extend their knowledge and break out of their comfort zones. I call it backpacking with the kids, they call it travelling rough with dad.
Everywhere in South East Asia at this time is in deluge, it is wet season during Bali’s dry so the decisions have to be made with one eye on the weather news. Sri Lanka though has two seasons at the same time, and while it rains it is also guaranteed sunshine, and given some research I discover that the north-east coast is best to visit between June to October. Also I discover that this area of the country had been torn by civil unrest, escalating to Civil War and then rebellious uprising since the year of my birth and peace is new but thankfully not fragile. One of the things we learn very quickly, and not I might add from anything taught in schools, is that war torn countries have been saved from the ravages of tourism. Not that I am advocating war as a method of preservation, it is just a fact, there has been little development in Sri Lanka and the tourism infrastructure is in early days.
I selected to start our journey at the ancient city of Anduraphura and travel to Trincomalee by private minibus. It seems to be the best way to get around as the roads are quite winding and the views promised to be sensational. Anduraphura is worth a visit, the impressive Buddhist stupas and the ruins mark the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, you will find a lot of Buddhist landmarks across the country and they mark a history of how far and when Buddhism travelled across the south-eastern lands.
Fortunately most journeys in Sri Lanka rarely take more than four hours, so the mini bus is perfect. The public bus drivers are positively hair raising, I dread to think the process to gain a licence, and the train takes three times as long so with a couple of motion sickness tablets for the kids we are on our way through lush hillsides, elephant hazard signs, crocodile signs, random cows on the road and crazy bus drivers bearing down on us. Our journey took around two and half hours, but I would say do it in three and use a few stops to catch your breath.
Trincomalee is a sleepy backwater fishing town in the middle of the east coast of the island, 10 k’s to the north is Neveli which has beautiful beaches but only very low key accommodation with one exception, it’s higher end and if you are looking for solitude and quiet this is the place to be, or you could try south of Trincomalee at Upevili which is similar, however we stayed in neither place, opting instead for Trinco Blue, a resort run by the well regarded Cinnamon Group who manage and run properties across Sri Lanka.
Trinco Blue is forty years old and while charming as is there are plans for a big renovation to keep apace with the expanding demand from the world of selective tourism that is beating a path to Sri Lanka before mass tourism floods the market. Trinco Blue was already fully booked with visitors from all over the globe sending a strong message that Sri Lanka is the next frontier for people who like to discover the new rather than find home comforts in far away places. While the town is small the shoreline stretches an impressive ten kilometres and is dotted with attractions from scuba diving to whale and dolphin watching. Behind the beaches there are bustling markets selling fish and fresh vegetables, and the impressively girthed old Fort Frederick that now houses a Buddhist Temple and Military base, illustrating for some the curious conundrum that is Sri Lanka’s past, present and possible future.
The fort was completed by the Portuguese in 1624 who pretty much managed to place forts across the East from Goa to Timor L’Este. The fort was then possessed by the Dutch 1639 who lost it to first the French, who handed it back to the Dutch momentarily in 1784 until in 1795 it came to the British with whom it remained until 1948. Interestingly although Sri Lanka was independent of Great Britain it was not until 1972 that it became a republic and then the civil war broke out in 1983. It’s quite a fascinating place to visit with history so fresh that you can see the divisions and effects of it clearly.
It was during the Portuguese occupation that the port of Trincomalee suffered as the Portuguese, determined to rid the country of it’s ‘evils’, swept the temples and sacred statues into the sea from the cliffs. Now in their watery grave they have become an attraction for divers. While not exactly diving for the Lost Ark or being a Tomb Raider, the statues look more like garden ornaments, the dive is worth taking. I selected the hotel’s dive company as they had a Western guide, and after my experience with the safari guide’s English I was erring on the side of caution, and we had a good time, although the effects of the Boxing Day Tsunami are apparent below the surface as the coral reef is still recovering.
Given all there is to do during the day the Trincomalee night is something of a contrast, which is why a good hotel is important and if you are so inclined you need a nice bar to hang out in after the government imposed curfew of 10pm. This article was written for NOW! Bali, and originally published in November 2018
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