UBUD, Bali (Reuters) - Balinese chef I Made Runatha, who discovered raw food at the age of 52, creates gourmet cuisine that consists of organic raw plants blended into luscious meals.
The classically trained chef worked in kitchens from Beijing to Bali and Warsaw to Cairns before becoming head chef for Fivelements Health Hotel in Bali where he turned off his ovens, switched on a dehydrator and found that rice noodles can come from coconuts.
In the process, he lost 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and has never felt healthier.
Runatha spoke to Reuters about discovering and experimenting with raw food and adapting it to Balinese dishes.
Q: How did a classically trained chef turn to uncooking?
A: “It was a long story that started three years ago. The owners of Fivelements here in Bali sent me to The Living Light Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, California, to study gourmet raw foods. I spent two months learning about this incredible raw food. It really interests me as it is all about health, love and also about life. When we do the raw food we really use our hearts to make it.”
Q: What is gourmet raw food cuisine?
A: “Raw food is based on plants that are not cooked, are unprocessed, have no chemicals and are organic.”
Q: As you do not use a stove, what equipment replaces this primary tool in your kitchen?
A: “For raw foods like bread, we use a dehydrator to make the bread crispy. The dehydrator can also warm soup and thicken sauces. For the sauces we need a good blender, also this is for cake fillings and making nut cheeses. The bread we first make in the food processor, then (put it) into the dehydrator. The basic ingredients of bread are nuts and flax seed, then whatever you want.”
Q: What are the pillars of raw food?
A: “You need to learn about the five flavors to make a choir of the food — how to bind these flavors to get the best result.”
Q: What are the binders used in gourmet raw food?
A: “Binders are avocados, young coconuts ... Sweetness is sourced from dried apple, dried pineapple. We also use flax seed for bread and this gives Omega 3. We use dates and nuts, also for a sweetener agave and raw honey ... We use no dairy products, no animal products at all - so this is vegan.”
Q: What is your protein source?
A: “You can get protein from vegetables like soya beans and sprouts. You can use spirolina in juices and raw nuts are great protein.”
Q: How does raw food mesh with your traditional Balinese cuisine. Is there an overlap or fusion?
A: “That is the challenge for me. It’s not easy and I need to always experiment in the kitchen. Like sate, it can be made with raw foods using the binders. Last week I even prepared Empek Empek, a dish from Palembang (Sumatra), so we can do it, but don’t ask me if it tastes the same. It really is a challenge to make Indonesian foods as raw food. Even mie goreng (fried noodles), I can make it, but I call it not Mie goreng.”
Q: What is the one ingredient you miss from traditional cooking?
A: “Actually I am not missing any of my old ingredients. I can get everything I want from raw foods.”
Q: What has been the benefit in changing from traditional cooking to working as a raw foods chef?
A: “There has been a real change in my life. I have more energy, I look younger and brighter. Before I had a stomach problem, I was always constipated, now all that has disappeared. I also sleep well.”
Raw Kway Teow recipe - Yields 1 1/2 servings
70 grams zucchini noodles (strips of zucchini)
50 grams young coconut noodles (strips of young white coconut meat scored as noodles)
30 grams bok choy cut in 1 centimeter bias
30 grams bean sprouts
20 grams sliced Shitake mushrooms marinated with lime juice and tamari
10 grams julienne sliced scallions
10 grams julienne sliced red pepper
5 grams cilantro
One half a chopped hot chili
1/2 teaspoon organic tamari
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons tamarind-almond chili sauce (see recipe)
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, combine well and adjust flavors.
2. Decorate the dinner plate with the tamarind-almond chili sauce and place the Kway Teow on top and garnish with coarsely chopped Cilantro to serve.
Tamarind-almond chili sauce
Yields 70 grams
26 grams seeded and chopped red chili
35 grams almonds soaked for two hours
2 cloves minced garlic
16 grams minced shallots
1 chopped hot chili
35 grams tamarind paste
1 tablespoon organic tamari
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth, adjust the flavors and place in a sealed container in the fridge. The sauce will last up to three days in the fridge.
Editing by Elaine Lies and Patricia Reaney