By Clare Harrison | Cover photograph by Glenn Chickering
Rice may be the food of the gods in Bali but it’s the maligned enemy of low carbohydrate dieters in the West. And few recent fad diets have put rice on centre stage, with the exception of Dr. Walter Kempner’s Rice Diet plan, which promised to cure obese patients of a range of ailments including kidney problems and high blood pressure. But that scarcely counts as re- cent: it was formulated in 1939. With the exception of the odd poached egg, I take a pretty dim view of the content of most low carbohydrate diets, however. So I was delighted with my assignment; to eat rice for every meal during a day in Bali. Three different varieties of rice are consumed here. From the most ubiquitous white rice, to the less com- mon black and red rice. There is also yellow rice (nasi kuning), which, it’s a relief to discover owes its luminous colour not to genetic modification or nuclear contamination, but to turmeric.
If you want to follow my lead, you could do as I did, and begin your day with a rice milk smoothie. I opted for a raw cacao smoothie, which is a blend of organic raw cacao, banana and rice milk. Initially I mistook it for a cafe mocha and I was about to lodge a com- plaint until I touched it and realised it was cold. It also tasted far better than a mocha, which made for a favourable first encounter with rice milk. If you’re still peckish, trade your usual breakfast granola for black rice pudding (bubur injin). A signature dish in Bali, it has a treacly appearance and is made with coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaf.
Prone to hunger pangs around elevenses? On this rice diet chances are you’ll be able to power through until lunch, which was useful as I had a walk planned. And where better to have a rice-themed pilgrimage than in Bali? I hitched a ride to Sideman in East Bali to experience the scenery that makes this place so famous. You can hire a local guide to take you on a tour, but I just opted to amble around by myself. The Balinese don’t mind you walking through the rice ter- races as long as you are respectful about where you step, and don’t litter, even though you will see plenty of it. When it comes to footwear, wear something sensible because there’s a high risk you’ll slip, get muddy… or both.
At lunchtime it was time to eat more rice at in the name of research. I headed south, this time for some Nasi Campur with a sea side view. High up on a cliff in Uluwatu I enjoyed a hearty portion of Nasi Campur with aromatic rice, beef rendang, corn fritters, curried calamari, bean cake and long beans. It’s a signature dish that is fills you up without making you too lethar- gic. After some post lunch lounging around, it was time for more rice, though not of the edible variety.
Rice isn’t just good for eating. It’s also good for your skin. It doesn’t have the same beauty applications as say, aloe vera but it has its merits. Some experts rec- ommend it for the treatment of wrinkles, acne, rosa- cea, and eczema. After the exertion of the morning’s activities, I needed a rest so I treated myself to a two hour rice scrub in Seminyak at one of the many spas that populate the city.
Soon after the spa it was dinner time, and that meant hunting down more rice. I headed north to Ubud with Nasi Goreng on my mind. The great thing about Nasi Goreng is that no two dishes are the same. A fun game to play with your fellow diner is to take bets on what form your dish will take. Will it come with prawn crackers? Will there be a whole fried egg on the top? Or will it be sliced into little pieces? One thing is for certain though, your Nasi Goreng will arrive with rice as mine did. The prawn crackers were a little stale and the egg a little rubbery but the vegetable rice served with kecap was faultless.
Clare Harrison is a freelance writer who is not averse to the odd bit of rice.by