The Images, Tastes and Smells of Bali

The Images, Tastes and Smells of Bali

by Maia Bedson

Spring 2017, Living Well Magazine

Selamat Siang
(Good Day)

Having just returned home from the incredible experience of the Foundation’s first retreat program in Bali, I still feel dazzled by the images, tastes and smells of Bali’s rich culinary heritage.

Our retreat was located in a traditional village, surrounded by rice fields and people farming, just as they have done for generations. It was rice-planting season, after the harvest of a few weeks ago and we saw and heard this ancient custom, preceded by many ceremonies and offerings to the gods for their blessings of the new crops.

It was inspiring for our group to witness the farmers thigh-deep in thick, wet mud going about their work with ease and joy over many hours each day.

The separate but connected rice fields are flooded in turn via an ecological and sustainable irrigation system that originates from the 9th Century, which was fascinating to observe.
There are many water temples scattered across Bali and the priests of these temples hold the overall influence of the relationship between the gods, nature and the communities. Rice is considered to be a gift of the gods.

Water for the rice fields flows from rivers and streams, through the water temples and then onto the rice paddies, where the local farmers collectively manage the sharing of these life-giving waters through a system of rustic gates that can open or close the flow of the water into canals as needed. It really is quite ingenious.

Our retreat was a further exploration of meditation and the stillness of being. It included an overview of the human energy system called “chakras”, and the participants were guided in understanding and connecting with these energy centres as an extension of mindfulness meditation. Bali was the perfect location as the people and the land embrace such a deep spiritual heritage.

The food we had on the retreat was a delight to the senses. Fresh, local ingredients were used to create delicious, healthy meals made with love and skill by our Balinese chef Nyoman.
Accompanying many of the meals was sambal, which is a relish, used as a condiment for a variety of dishes. Although there are over 300 different types of sambal across Indonesia – typically containing ingredients such as chilli peppers, garlic, shallots, ginger, Kaffir lime leaves and juice, lemongrass and tomato – we were served a traditional Balinese sambal matah which is a raw version containing shallots, lemongrass and chilli.

And although the ingredients appear simple, the combination results in a taste sensation that lifts rice, vegetables, salad, noodles, toast and fish.

I’m not usually a fan of much chilli in a dish, however we were spooning this over everything and Nyoman had to keep making bigger batches for us.

Sambal Matah

Here is an adapted version of Nyoman’s recipe. Feel free to adjust the ingredients for your tastes.
It’s essential to have a sharp knife and a meditative attitude for all the chopping.


Shallot, finely chopped

5 Birds-eye Chillies, slice lengthways, remove seeds with a teaspoon before finely dicing

3 Kaffir Lime Leaves, stems removed and finely chopped

2 stalks Lemongrass, remove the tough outer layer, trim the green tops, slice in half lengthwise and with a ‘v’ cut out the hard bulb ends, before finely slicing the remaining stalk

1 medium Tomato, finely chopped

½ teaspoon Salt

Juice and zest of 1 Tahitian Lime

Combine ingredients in a bowl, mix well and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes, to allow the flavours to meld.

Terima kasih, selamat makan 
(Thank you, enjoy your meal)

Maia Bedson
Therapist, Facilitator, The Gawler Cancer Foundation & Yarra Valley Living Centre
DipHol Couns, Grad DipCounsHS, Grad DipClinNut

Maia is a counsellor, meditation instructor, a practitioner of various forms of natural therapies who has worked in the area of energetic healing for over 20 years, and has worked at The Gawler Cancer Foundation since 2000. She has a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Nutrition as well as formal qualifications in plant-based nutrition, counselling and psychotherapy. Maia uses her various skills and the experience gained from her own healing to inspire and support others on their path to wholeness and has a particular interest in helping people to access their own inner wisdom.