Keeping It FRESH

Chefs Ben Cross and Stephen Moore of Mejekawi use dry-aging to keep the best fish produce primed for use.

AT INFORMAL fine-dining restaurant Mejekawi, Chefs Ben Cross and Stephen Moore share a belief of using the best available produce to constantly craft exciting new dishes for their guests. Working in a paradise island surrounded by bounties of the ocean, one such method to make this possible is dry-aging fish. Fish drying is, simply put, the removal of water from fish.

Dating as far back as the 1880s, fish drying is meant to slow down, or stop, microbiological activity to prevent the fish from going bad, water being essential for all living organism. There are various methods for effective fish drying, including minimizing surface area, using elevated racks, even laying the fish out in the sun, but Ben and Stephen takes it a level further.

“It’s about storing fish in a moisture-free environment, and the best way to do that is to leave the fish whole so the flesh isn’t exposed to air, and after removing the gut, scales, and, ideally, the eyes, hang it so that no part of the body is in contact with any surface area. It needs to be hung in a stable, cool environment with not too much moisture. We use a small fan inside the chiller,” Chef Ben remarked.

The result is a fish that is preserved longer, and with the right texture and skin crispiness upon further processing. “Sitting on a surface, fish will last for two days before you start seeing changes, but with this dry-aging method you can keep it fresh for up to 15 or even 30 days, depending on the fish. You also get dryer fillet and crisper skin,” Chef Stephen added.

At the restaurant, this method is used extensively to prepare almost any kind of fish – from black cod to barramundi – to make all kinds of signature dishes. One such dish is the black cod grilled over coals served with roasted chilli paste, jicama, apple and lime.

An intimate restaurant delivering fine-dining experience in a laidback atmosphere, Mejekawi, taken from a Sanskrit phrase loosely meaning “sacred table”, offers scalable tasting menus prepared in an open kitchen and made perfect to enjoy while gazing out into the scenic backdrop of the Indian Ocean.

In addition to a vast selection of contemporary a la carte dishes with a touch of island flavours, Mejekawi offers a five-course degustation menu for guests looking to experience the full spectrum of Ben and Stephen’s prowess. The degustation menu includes a Fish & Chips appetizer with snapper ceviche, pickled shallot, glass potato, followed by six choices of two main courses, including Sop Buntut with katsuoboshi, tomato raisin and charred onions, Roasted Suckling Pig with Balinese traditional dry fermented sausages, pork floss, toasted coconut, and fern tip salad, or the Prawn & Kaffir Lime Agnolotti with chicken brood, skin crisps, and sesame oil.

After the main course, guests can opt for Smoked Earl Grey tea gelato with barbecued pineapple, cacao, and spices, or Bali Kopi, which puts together coconut and coffee ice cream with toasted milk solids, coffee cloud and gula kelapa. Kalamansi Marshmallow or Bedugul Sour wraps up the degustation experience for dessert.

Leading the unique culinary offering of Mejekawi are Executive Chef Ben Cross and Head Chef Stephen Moore. Chef Ben began his career at the award-winning Rae’s on Wategos in Byron Bay. A series of prestigious restaurants and a three Michelin-star bistro later Ben arrived at KU DE TA and opened Mejekawi where he applies contemporary culinary techniques to traditional ingredients, resulting in a menu that respects and showcases Indonesian cuisine in an innovative manner.

With over 20 years of experience cooking in some of the world’s best restaurants, British-born Stephen Moore has developed a food philosophy that is not only technique and produce-driven, but also holds great respect for local food culture.

“Sitting on a surface, fish will last for two days before you start seeing changes, but with this dry-aging method you can keep it fresh for up to 15 or even 30 days, depending on the fish. You also get dryer fillet and crisper skin.”

Jalan Kayu Aya No. 9, Seminyak, Bali
T: +62 361 736969
Instagram: @mejekawi
Facebook: @Mejekawi

Written by Refa Koetin Photographs by AKI May 12, 2018.