ALL FIRED UP

Chef Kieran Morland delves into the secrets of traditional Indonesian wood-fire cooking at Sangsaka

WOOD-FIRE cooking is a very dominant method in traditional Indonesian cooking, and this is what Chef Kieran Morland tries to capture and enhance at Sangsaka. “Every dish has to be fairly traditional in terms of flavor. I want those familiar with Indonesian dishes can feel the connection – like any ibu-ibu that comes in here will notice the familiar flavor but with a little something more than that.”  

Sangsaka is an intimate, 30-seater modern restaurant serving Indonesian classic dishes with a unique twist where “almost every dish has some element of smoked product in it, brought about by cooking with charcoal, wood, or overnight slow-roasting in charcoal ashes.” The inspiration comes from chef-owner Kieran Morland’s travels around Indonesia. “The mainthing from a lot of my travels around Indonesia was the use of cooking with traditional methods; such as cooking over fire or underneath the ground with charcoal or wood, and I think this really blends well with the many spices of Indonesia,” the chef added.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, the chef’s first exposure to Indonesian cultures and food was back in the year 1990 when he visited his sister who had relocated to West Java. There he enjoyed traditional food carts and plenty of street foods and fell in love with Indonesian cuisine. As his culinary career grew, Kieran worked at some of the world’s top kitchens, including Momofuku Ssam in NYC, 10 Greek Street in London, Syracuse in Melbourne, and KU DE TA in Bali.

Four years after launching Merah Putih in 2013, one of the best premier restaurants serving Indonesian cuisine in Bali, Kieran started his own baby project, Sangsaka. The food at Sangsaka is the marriage of the chef’s fine dining background and his passion for Indonesian traditional, wood fire-cooked food.

The catalyst for reenacting this traditional method at Sangsaka is a little homemade wood-fired oven with multiple racks which are also used to smoke or slow-roast different ingredients overnight. This method of cooking adds a very beautiful smokiness flavor to any ingredient. One time, a customer couldn’t believe there was only pumpkin in a dish, so rich were the smoky bacon flavorsin it.

Various factors come into play as Chef Kieran perfects this wood-fire method. For instance, coffee or rambutan wood is used for their fragrance. There’s also product selection. “I wanted to do a restaurant that was a little bit more next level dining, concentrating on fire and charcoal. Obviously we are using local products and local vegetables in particular. I’ve been trying to make a vegetable heavy menu but also with lots of seafood because the sea products around here are very good.”

However, this does come with its own set of challenges. “You want to be creative and inventive but still want it to taste like the original dish. And when you’re changing the menu every week there’s not a lot of time for trial and error. You have to nail it right every time. We go more with our instincts, and this makes it exciting because you’re cooking on the fly, with different variables and results every time.”

Some of the most popular signature dishes at the moment include the KelinciWoku, a rabbit dish with spicy woku sauce from Sumatra, and Carrot Betutu, which takes inspiration from chicken betutu smoked in banana-leaf, but with carrots slow-roasted overnight. Due to the slow-roasting, a lot of juice comes out of the carrot and turning it into a super carrot with enhanced flavors. Another wood-fired masterpiece at Sangsaka is the Ikan Bakar, which plates a beautifully grilled sea bass, clams, carambola, turmeric potatoes, and assorted vegetables.

Sangsaka serves tasting menus and a la carte menus, with new dishes every week in addition to the signature classics.  

“The main thing from a lot of my travels around Indonesia was the use of cooking with traditional methods; such as cooking over fire or underneath the ground with charcoal or wood, and I think this really blends well with the many spices of Indonesia.”

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SANGSAKA RESTAURANT

Jalan Pangkung Sari no. 100

Kerobokan, Bali 80361

T: +62 812 3695 9895

Instagram: @sangsakabali

Facebook: @sangsakabali

www.sangsakabali.com


Written by Refa Koetin Photographs by AKI May 14, 2018.

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