The Bali Bhairawa Fleur de Sel
Every morning, a farmer makes a short walk from his hut in South Bali to the beach to fetch buckets of mineral rich ocean water. He then proceeds to spill the sea water over the black volcanic soil that makes up his small plot of land. Although for some, watering bare soil may look like madness, he does this because he is a salt farmer. South Bali’s volcanic soil is rich in minerals, and the farmer wants to extract its goodness to add to his salt.
The next day, after baking in the sun, the volcanic soil he has watered has formed a 1-2 cm crust. The farmer transfers this crust to a basin carved out of coconut tree trunks from the area and adds more sea water to the mix. This solution is left to distil. Once distilled, this brine solution is transferred into pans and the solar evaporation process begins. Crystals that form on the surface become the Bali Bhairawa Fleur de Sel; crystals carefully scooped up and put aside. Over the next 5 days, the brine will evaporate and these will become the Slow Food Foundation boarded Kusamba Coarse Salt.
Among other unique properties, Kusamba Coarse Salt is chemical-free and mineral and heritage-rich.
When asked how long this community has been harvesting salt this way, the salt farmer only knows his father-in-law before was doing so. Beyond that generation, no one knows. One clue can be found in the basins carved out of coconut tree trunks; the oldest in Kusamba village is believed to be 200 years old.
The Kusamba village produces around 10 tonnes of salt a month; but unable to compete with mass produced and iodine fortified salts- which cost a fraction of Kusamba, it is a dying tradition. It is so unique it is noted by the Slow Food Foundation’s Ark of Taste, a unique collection of endemic products around the world.
So there we have it. When Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore in 1819, someone's father-in-law on a southern beach in Bali was going through the curious motions of watering beach sand.
A note on Perry:
When we first met Perry and the Indiana Supply Company, we spoke about his salt products from both Pakistan and Bali. It was clear from the beginning our interests aligned. Perry Ho, owns a company specialised in distributing amazing salt products, but it's his interest in connecting people through product and stories that has truly brought us together. Bacchanalia’s underpinning commitment has always been to foster positive actions in whatever field we can, Perry shares that belief.
As a chef you are very quickly taught of the importance of salt in cooking. Seasoning as a skill is elusive for a young chef; not only is it the mark of a good restaurant, but also that of a talented and promising cook. At Bacchanalia, we constantly talk to our chefs about stress’ impact on ones ability to perceive seasoning, how to tweak our seasoning in new dishes as acidity levels are inversely related to salt, and how our use of Umami lowers the need for salt in food drastically. These bits of information constantly remind us of how to moderate the use of this pervasive and significant ingredient.
It makes me happy to say that in our search for sustainable, quality endemic product with a positive print, we couldn’t be making a greater statement.