Ubud’s new culinary gem
A modest eatery in Ubud has placed Indonesian traditional food back on center stage in a town predominantly known for its magniﬁcent pasta, upscale grilled ribs and chic bakeries.
The diner is the brainchild of wealthy Jakarta businessman Hadi Sunyoto and cultural enthusiast Prayitno, who has resided in Bali for decades and is well-known among the island’s artists and authors. It was named Pulau Kelapa, an obvious reference to the archipelago’s past epithet as “the Island of Swaying Coconuts”.
“It’s all about history and heritage.
We would like to present the richness of Indonesian culinary heritage once again. This country has so many delicious traditional foods and it really bothers us that our culinary heritage has yet to achieve the global recognition that other countries’ foods, such as Japanese and Thai cuisines, have reached,” Prayitno said.
An unassuming, traditional Javanese-style wooden house is the centerpiece of Pulau Kelapa. Prayitno took the house from its original site in Padangan, East Java, and planted it in Sanggingan, Ubud, some 200 meters east of Neka Museum of Art.
Numerous art pieces — Balinese wooden masks, Chinese ceramics, Javanese traditional puppets, and Dutch-made coffee grinders — adorn the walls and corners of the house, lending it a nostalgic aura.
“The food here is also quite nostalgic in nature. It is all prepared in the way our grandmothers did decades ago. We want to be as authentic as possible, not only in terms of taste and ingredients, but also in the way we grow and prepare our food,” Prayitno said, stressing that no MSG is used in the cooking.
An organic garden of herbs and vegetables that lies next to the house is clear testament to Pulau Kelapa’s authentic drive. The items on the menu are further evidence to that effort. Prayitno recalled the extended selection process he administered to present not only the most authentic pecel (Javanese-style mixed vegetables with peanut sauce).
“I sampled 20 different pecel peanut sauces from different regions in Java before creating a shortlist of ﬁve sauces from Malang and Blitar regions, and ﬁnally settled on the sauce from Blitar.” Pecel Blitar has now become one of Pulau Kelapa’s most requested items. The Kenikir (Cosmos caudatus Kunth) leaves give the pecel its strange yet addictive ﬂavor.
Other items on the menu reﬂect the country’s diverse cuisines, from West Sumatra’s spicy rendang, Madura’s rujak petis (fruit salad with shrimp paste) to North Sulawesi’s ikan sambal woku (steamed fried wahoo ﬁsh with green chili).
Dining in Pulau Kelapa is an exhilarating journey for the taste buds and also for the heart that yearns for that sentimental period when foreign food had yet to reach our shores.