The age of wellness tourism is upon the island and if you pardon the cliché, a holiday in Ubud might just change your life.
Once the bastion of surfers and sun worshippers, Bali is now drawing a different kind of pleasure seeker – one who would rather catch a yoga class than a wave and happily pass on the Bintang in favour of a beetroot juice.
Known as the cultural and spiritual heart of the island, this once-sleepy arts village nestled amidst scenic rice fields and tropical forests has transformed into the vibrant holistic heart of Asia. Along with yoga and healing therapies comes healthy eating, and these days raw food is all the rage. Dedicated raw food cafes have names such as The Seeds of Life and Living Food Lab, while month-long retreats teach the art of not cooking your food.
Why Raw Food?
Raw foodies claim that plant-based food eaten in its natural state retains its essential life force, keeping intact enzymes and minerals that are destroyed in the cooking process. But whereas once raw food meant tossing a salad or eating an apple, it has now evolved into a proper cuisine, so you can munch on a macadamia crust pizza, dip your crunchy kale chips into a dill cashew cheese and get a sweet fix with a slab of raw chocolate cheesecake. As Ubud’s contingent of passionate raw food chefs have gleefully discovered, with a blender, dehydrator and an abundance of imagination, almost anything is possible.
The Rise of Raw in Bali
According to Daniel Aaron – yogi, raw chocolatier and founder of Radiantly Alive Yoga Studio, there was very little raw food in Ubud when he arrived in 2004. “Having eaten raw for a long time, and worked in the business of raw food education, my culinary meccas were New York and LA. Now, 11 years later, I’m confident Ubud has more amazing raw-food options per capita than any place in the world. The proliferation is phenomenal and, more importantly, delicious.”
When it comes to chocolate, forget the Snickers – full of chemicals, refined fats and sugars. Raw chocolate is tasty, nutritious, magnesium-rich and high in antioxidants. It also retains high amounts of anandamide – known as the love chemical – which induces feelings of bliss, much like falling in love. The gleaming deli counter at Alchemy brims with insanely tasty raw treats, like chewy chocolate bars, bounty bars with fresh, shredded coconut and mochachino cups filled with cold-pressed coffee. As the raw-food movement has taken off, so too has Alchemy and this once tiny cafe is now a buzzing hive of raw and healthy goodness. It’s a place where hip meets hippy, a recipe book is on the way and its parfait bar – decked out with almond goji crumble, berry chia jam and coconut yoghurt – brings a whole new meaning to “energising breakfast”.
An Organic Vegetarian Cinema
Ubud is also home to Paradiso, the world’s first organic vegetarian cinema, with an eclectic array of films – from classics to inspiring documentaries and kids movies. The menu features raw food, so you can settle into a sofa with a nut burger on flaxseed almond bread and a fat slice of blueberry pie. Down the road at Hubud, a collaborative work space housed in a bamboo building, the Living Food Lab overlooks the rice fields and serves up cold-pressed organic coffee, corn tostadas and bliss balls. It also offers a home catering service and has a branch at the supremely eco-conscious Green School, where wealthy expats send their kids.
Raw Food Fine Dining
Over in the tropical forests of Mambal, the lush healing retreat Fivelements takes raw food into the realms of fine dining. Enigmatic founder, Chicco Tatriele, describes the food as “transformative”, adding that it is “a cutting-edge culinary experience that goes beyond the concept of vegan and vegetarian. It’s healthy but also inspirational, tasty and structured”. Working your way through a seven-course tasting menu is revelatory – especially if it’s your first experience with raw food. Incredible flavours aside, each course will leave you increasingly energised, stimulated and ultimately nourished. Those who are curious can learn the basics of preparing raw food in the newly introduced Cuisine for Life retreats, while also being treated to nightly chefs’ tasting menus and food-inspired beauty rituals, from coconut-milk baths to turmeric facials and chocolate-almond scrubs.
Eating raw food certainly doesn’t have to be a life choice but learning to eat more consciously is an illuminating experience and Ubud, with its healthy/healing, vibe may well be the perfect place to do it.