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Balinese Sweet Treats  

by on Monday, 12 June 2006One Comment | 1,909 views

The Balinese are extremely partial to sweet treats and most households invariably have a selection of cakes for the family to snack on throughout the day. Apart from fruit, these colourful cakes are also an important part of the ritual offerings are made to appease the Gods.


Balinese cakes or ‘jaja’, as they are colloquially referred as, are normally produced by women in a kind of home-industry set up to be sold in local market places. It is common to buy an assortment of different cakes early each morning to be consumed with a glass of aromatic coffee to begin the day. However, this is only considered a light snack and a more substantial breakfast of rice and small servings of meat, vegetables and condiments is taken later in the morning once the daily cooking preparations have been completed.



There are many different types of Balinese cakes and the one thing that they all have in common is they are usually very sweet. Unlike western cakes, these traditional treats don’t include ingredients such as butter, cream and chocolate, which all tend to spoil in a tropical climate. Instead the ingredients are those that are more readily accessible like rice flour, palm sugar, coconut, fruit and rice. As most households don’t have conventional cooking ovens, traditional Balinese cakes are usually steamed over a pan of boiling water on a gas stove or deep fried in coconut oil.

One type of popular cake is known as ‘bantal’, which translates as pillow cake in English because it resembles a small plump cushion. It is made from a mixture of sticky rice, desiccated coconut, salt, sugar and a filling of banana, jack fruit or red beans. A long strip of young coconut leaf is wound into a tube shaped parcel about 5cm in length. The ingredients are pushed into the hollow and the ends fastened with the spine of the coconut leaf. These little parcels are then tied up with string and steamed in a pan or rice cooker on low heat. Part of the novelty of eating bantal cake is the process of unwinding the leaf.



In traditional markets all around the island vendors sell a mixture of puddings and cakes known as kue Bali. For as little as Rp1,000- you can purchase a small parcel consisting of a scoop of sticky black rice, a miniature pancake, steamed banana, tiny dumplings in syrup and jelly portions topped off with grated coconut. Each type of pudding and sticky cake in this delicious parcel is a different colour and very filling due to the high sugar content.



Many sorts of Balinese cakes are rice based and very similar to crackers as they have to be sun-dried for several hours before being fried in coconut oil. These vary in texture and shape; some types are crisp and crunchy, while others have a chewy consistency. A variety of authentic Balinese cakes can be purchased daily from any local market. Major grocery stores also stock cakes, but these are usually mass manufactured and differ in flavour and quality to those prepared daily by diligent groups of home-industry workers.



If you are interested, most travel agencies offer package tours to traditional markets led by a local guide who will show you a selection of typical Balinese cakes and help make any purchases.

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