Sangsaka has the whole island buzzing with its fresh take on traditional Indonesian flavors. We speak with chef-owner Kieran Morland and discover why.


Sangsaka has the whole island buzzing with its fresh take on traditional Indonesian flavors. We speak with chef-owner Kieran Morland and discover why.

I MET KIERAN almost two years ago when we visited his other restaurant, Merah Putih. Set on the bustling main road of Petitinget, Merah Putih has attracted many visitors not only because of it’s grand interior and elegant design but especially for Kieran’s traditional and innovative take on Indonesian cuisine. Visually, Sangsaka is quite the opposite. Set off from the main road, with an dimly lit signage above the door, the venue is cozy in warm tones. Here, the food definitely speaks louder than the interiors.

“We wanted to make a small relaxed restaurant where we could concentrate on Indonesian flavors but using wood and charcoal as the cooking source. So many of my favorite Indonesian dishes have been cooked over a wood fire or smoked with coconut husks, or even cooked in the ground using coals as the heat source. Merah Putih is a really big beautiful restaurant almost for a special occasion, while at Sangsaka, I wanted you to feel like you could come three times a week and just enjoy the delicious food,” Kieran explains.


They change the menu every week at Sangsaka and are continuously tinkering with all the dishes. “My head chef Hans and I usually first start out with the base protein and brainstorm different ideas on how it could fit into our menu. We ask ourselves: does it fit the style of food we are aiming to cook? Is it interesting enough? But obviously, and most importantly, is it delicious?  We usually sit together to discuss over a beer every Sunday night,” Kieran shares with us his thought process in creating their dishes.

I had heard many good things about Sangsaka and could not wait to visit. So on a recent trip, I had dinner with a group of foodie friends. I noticed that the menu was very ingredient and produce driven and asked Kieran about it. “I guess the most important job of a chef is to source the best quality ingredients possible, and then cooking with those ingredients to the best of your ability.  Indonesia has so many interesting ingredients that really excite me as a chef. If I was a tourist and coming to Bali on holiday I would want to eat food that I couldn’t eat back home. That’s why I try to use ingredients in the dishes that are quite unique to Indonesia. or at least Southeast Asia.”


Kieran admits that there are so many ingredients in Bali and Indonesia that he loves. “I kind of get addicted to something and go crazy with it until I find something else to obsess over. But things I’m liking right now are jukut undis, which is like a plump purple lentil with a really unique flavor. I really like nasi jagung (local cornmeal) at the restaurant we prepare it almost like soft polenta. I also really like kemangi (lemon basil), andaliman (pepper), kencur (aromatic ginger), kunyit (turmeric), kecicang (torch ginger), jangu (no English transaltion, but is a must when making basa gede), and all the different chills in Bali are awesome too.”

We had an amazing meal at Sangsaka and I knew that I had to come back to feature some of the highlights. Tongkol, the yellow fin tuna dish, had been cured in soy and torch ginger flower, served with pickled palm hearts, cucumber and an avocado puree made using the flavors of sambal hijau (green sambal) as a base. Kepiting, the king crab dish, is a take on kare kepiting (Sumatran crab curry) but without the shells, they also use soft shell crab, and wood roasted baby corn. Kambing, the lamb dish, is wood roasted loin and slow roasted lamb neck with coconut husk smoked potatoes, and a sauce using the flavors of tongseng (similar to a goat curry without coconut milk, using sweet soy sauce). And finally, the dessert is ambon cake which is almost like a big sweet crumpet. Kieran says that he challenged his amazing pastry chef, Putu, to make this dish and she did a great job of it. It is served with a spiced chocolate brûlée and poached nashi pears.


Growing up, Kieran says that it must have been influenced to go into food by seeing his mum and dad and family cook barbecues and eating them on the balcony of their Mornington Peninsula holiday home. “Those are my earliest food memories as a kid. It’s a short walk to the beach in Victoria, Australia and we would spend our summers swimming at the Safety Beach sailing club.”


Kieran has lived in Bali for awhile now and I ask him what are his favorite eats on the island. “I really like ayam betutu from Warung Liku, babi guling from Ibu Oka, and the clams on the beach at Menega. My favorite higher end restaurants are Cuca, Locavore, Room4Dessert, and probably Mejakawi at KuDeTa.”


As a last question, I ask Kieran what his food guilty pleasure it. “I just really like good food and especially at 3AM, for some reason!” I assume it is because of late nights at the restaurants. “At that time of night the nasi padang on Jalan Petitenget in Kerobokan is pretty hard to beat. But I always wake up in the morning cursing myself for the five kilometer run I’ll have to do to work it off!”

A creative chef, a strong ethos, the best local ingredients, out together all make for excellent dishes, and a great meal as a whole. Make your way to Sangsaka now!

Jalan Pangkung Sari no. 100
Kerobokan, Bali
T: +62 812 3695 9895
IG: @sangsakabali
FB: Sangsaka Restaurant

Written by Jed Doble Photographs by AKI August 26, 2016.