Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Retreat

Last night, I shared my room with a huge gecko and a tiny frog. Earlier that evening, one of the four dogs that live on the resort's grounds accompanied me back to my hut after dinner. I was surprised by a black snake slithering across my path, but the dog pounced on it at lightning speed before I could even scream. Did he sense that I was afraid?

I am on a Pilates Retreat at Desa Seni, in Bali. The resort lies in the middle of a rice paddy field in Cenggu, with authentic housing accommodations scattered around the property. My hut, called Rumah Erlangga, was brought in from Central Java. It was built entirely from teak in the 1920s.

The kitchen uses 80% of its own produce from its organic vegetable and herb gardens, hand picked by its resident farmers. We had an abundance of delicious salads and cooked vegetables for dinner, with flatbread and hummus, red rice and the token chicken or tuna dish. My favorite was the Desa Seni Salad - spinach, various sprouts and julienned vegetables, corn, tomatoes and walnuts, tossed in a sweet and tangy tamarind vinaigrette, topped with caramelized tempeh.

It starts to rain while I sit on my verandah, sipping ginger-lemon grass tea. The rustle of the rice paddy reeds, the bursts of breeze, the staccato of rain falling on the tiled roof is so calming. This mini-break to Bali meant thinking out of the box, stepping out of my comfort zone, and spending the days just being in the moment. The Balinese seem to have this quiet respect for what's around them. Is that the key to a happy life?


For the base:
150 g Palm Sugar
1/2 cup Thick Tamarind Nectar
1/4 cup Fish Sauce

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons Tamarind Base
2 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
4 tablespoons Canola Oil

Mix all ingredients for the tamarind base in a saucepan. Simmer until the sauce is well mixed, dark brown and thickened, about 20 minutes. Take 2 tablespoons of the tamarind base, add vinegar and oil. Whisk until thick.


  1. Aning! I was just about to tell you that Marge suggested you post some of your recipes naman. Nice looking blog! I tell you, you could be the next Filipina Rachel Ray! Galing!

  2. I didn't realize what a serious cook you are, Annie. Must be the Benitez genes.

  3. Annie, what can I use in place of thick tamarind nectar. Or better yet, do you think the oriental stores would carry it? Is Palm Sugar the same as regular sugar?

  4. Leng, try the Asian stores that carry Thai or Vietnamese produce. Usually this comes in the form of tamarind paste, which you dilute to a thick nectar. Palm sugar has a distinct flavor and consistency, but regular brown sugar is an ok substitute.