Murni and Murni’s Warung in Literature
Murni’s Warung‘s fame has meant that it’s been the setting for a couple of works of fiction: Gotton Island and Bali Gods Crying and has also figured prominently in a two recent works of non-fiction about culinary tourism and Balinese food : Ubud, The Spirit of Bali and Balinese Food, The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali
Murni’s Warung in Literature
The novel is the second of an ebook trilogy following the lives of two gay guys called Richard and Max, who live on Golton Island, Australia.
“Being much nearer to the equator than their own Golton Island, the sun set at about six o’clock and nighttime descended quickly. Max and Richard asked at the reception desk where they could go out for dinner, and were directed to Murni’s Warung, just over the river on the main road. The restaurant is also set on the side of the same ravine and, in daylight, some tables have a view down to the flowing river below. That night, Richard and Max enjoyed an entree of Lumpia, a deep-fried spring roll served with peanut dipping sauce, followed by Cap Cay, a vegetable stir-fry with everything thrown in together, and then Black Rice Pudding. Bintang beer accompanied their meal. Having made an easy start that day in order to catch their flight, Max and Richard then walked along the dimly lit road and hotel pathways back to their room and slept soundedly cuddled up to each other.
Back in the hotel, they rested and swam in the pool during the afternoon, then that night decided to go back to Murni’s Warung for dinner. As they were concluding their meal, Murni herself came to join them at their table, having introduced herself first. In her friendly way Murni chatted animatedly about her restaurant and her life, a smile often crossing her broad, dark face, her eyes twinkling. “What were things like in Ubud when you were a child?” Richard asked. Murni smiled and said, “Oh, very basic. We had no electricity, no running water, the roads were dirt tracks. No-one had any money and we had to make do with whatever came along.” “What did you do for food?” Max asked. “We ate whatever we could catch or collect. As a bare-footed child, I would catch capung dragon flies, with a sticky substance on the end of a long bamboo pole, and we would cook and eat them. Or I would catch eels in the rice paddies, or shrimps in the river, which we would also cook. And there was always fruit like pisang, bananas, or durians or coconuts.” “And now you’ve got this restaurant,” Richard observed. “Yes, and I hope that you have enjoyed coming here,” Murni said. “What else have you gentlemen being doing while you have been staying in Ubud?” They told her of the various things they had done, including the cooking class, and Murni said, “Thank you for contributing to the economy of this town. We all need as much help as we can get.”
Bali Gods Crying
Bali Gods Crying
Gateway Books International, 2013
The novel is based on true events in which unscrupulous criminals are threatening Bali’s Hindu religion and civilization. The heroine lives in Ubud.
“Maybe something romantic will happen to you,” said Oz wickedly. Celine was silent, looking around her. They had a late lunch at Murni’s Warung next to an old Dutch suspension bridge across the two rivers of Rsi Markandya in a comfortable lounge decorated like a Balinese antique gallery and overlooking the gorge she had seen from the suspension bridge. “Even your lunch venue has a special meaning,” smiled Oscar. “Murni’s was almost the very first tourist restaurant in Ubud. Sometimes Murni is here and loves to tell visitors about Bali’s culture.” On their way out of the restaurant the French language caught Celine’s eye from a selection of promotional materials on a low side table. “Un Momento Oz,” she called pointing at the table. “I want to see what they have in French.”
Celine remembered her way to Murni’s so she went there for a breakfast of eggs, fruit and coffee, much more than her normally frugal, diet conscious fare in France … Outside Murni’s she walked down a slight hill along an asphalt lane romantically overhung with long tendrils of trailing creepers, past the temple housing the statue of Maharesi Markandya that Oz had told her about, turned right and was almost immediately in the rice fields.”
Murni and Murni’s Warung in Literature
Ubud, The Spirit of Bali
Ubud, The Spirit of Ubud
Chapter 6 The Food Paradise
One of the major attractions of Ubud is its culinary tourism … For the Hindu-Balinese cooking is a form of devotion to Almighty God. Most of the traditional Balinese dishes we know today, such as grilled chicken or roast suckling pig, were formerly prepared for traditional religious ceremonies. These dishes only began to be served in restaurants after tourism became a major industry.
Restaurants began to develop in Bali in the 1970s. Though foreigners have been visiting Bali since the 1930s, there weren’t many restaurants because many of the early visitors were artists who stayed in local people’s homes, where they also took most of their meals. It was only in the 1970s when a greater variety of tourists started coming and the tourism sector in Bali began to expand, that restaurants started appearing one by one…
The restaurants eventually became meeting places where all kinds of people come together and interact, and not simply places to fill one’s stomach. Restaurants are venues for discussions on many topics…
A number of restaurants have become legends among food lovers, both for their food and for other reasons. Below are the stories of a few of these restaurants, some established by native Ubudians and some by expatriates.
Murni’s Warung was probably the first restaurant to become popular among tourists, especially foreigners. It’s located on Jalan Raya Sangginan, directly opposite the old iron bridge from the Dutch colonial days known simply as The Bridge.
The founder and owner of this restaurant is Ni Wayan Murni; this is why it’s called Murni’s Warung. The restaurant has a long history. Ibu Murni started out as a salt trader in the 1950s when she was not yet ten. She had to carry large baskets of salt from her home in the northern part of Ubud to Desa Penestanan, about two kilometers away.
Also, when she was very young, her parents separated. Little Murni went to live with her aunt in Denpasar. There she had to get up at two in the morning and sell food until five, before going off to school.
Some time later, young Murni returned to Ubud and lived with her mother. They had a small sjop in Pasar Ubud where they sold products such as beer, soft drinks and batik to foreign tourists. At the time theirs was the only stall in the market that sold beer and soft drinks, so drinks were often purchased from their stall to entertain guests at Puri Ubud. And President Sukarno, who often visited Ubud, once bought some of their batik.
In the early 1970s, Murni opened her own shop on a small plot of land on Jalan Raya Sangginan – the venue of the present restaurant – which she rented from a man called Pak Munut. The shop sold sarongs, carvings and paintings. Ibu Murni was no cook, so it didn’t occur to her to open a food stall. And there was little furniture, just one bamboo table and two chairs.
There was a customer from the United States, one Patrick Moore Scanland, who often asked Ibu Murni to make him sandwiches and beer at the warung. Eventually many other guests wanted the same, and that was the start of Murni’s Warung.
In 1974 Ibu Murni married Patrick. One year later, they bought the land and opend the restaurant, Murni’s Warung. At the same time they opened an antique shop with a collection of art works from all parts of Asia.
Murni’s Warung had, and has, a very loyal clientele. The customers helped promote Murni’s Warung adn taught Ibu Murni how to cook Western food. This is how Murni’s Warung became known as the first restaurant in Ubud to offer Western food to tourists.
The architectural design of Murni’s Warung is in traditional Balinese style, with an open air concept. The building has four stories, going down from street level, as it is built on the banks of the Oos river. There are paintings and statues throughout the restaurant; one of the most interesting portrays the scene around Murni’s Warung in the 1970s.
On one story, there is a room for special private events. Inside The Lounge Bar there is a large statue of Ganesha. On the lowest level, we can enjoy our food while watching the Oos flowing past.
The favourite dishes here are Nasi Campur Bali (rice with various side dishes), Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and typical Indonesian dishes such as cendol and sweet iced tea. As well as traditional dishes, Murni’s Warung offers many other choices.
In addition to the food, as mentioned earlier, Murni’s Warung has an antique store that sells a variety of souvenirs and antiques from throughout Indonesia: textiles, statutes, traditional heirlooms, paintings and so on. Ibu Murni herself often travels abroad and collects antiques from the countries she visits and to display and sell in her shop.
The present building of Murni’s Warung is very different from the original structure built in 1974. The present building is the result of a major renovation in 1992, but the traditional Balinese architecture remains the same.
Balinese Food, The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali
Book Review: A Spiritual Journey Into The Culinary World of Bali
17 April 2014
What a joy this book is! I love recipe books, but it’s short-lived; I enjoy the pictures for several minutes, read a few pages, and then my eyes glaze over. They are basically books to be used in the kitchen for one recipe at a time. This book, however, is in a different class altogether and designed to be read in its entirety. It’s in its own sui generis category; it has recipes at the end of most of the twenty-one chapters, but it’s a book to be read from cover to cover, yet it could easily be read chapter by chapter, in any order, as they are all self-contained. Every bite-sized chapter is a flowing narrative from a well-stocked brain encompassing Balinese culture, geography and history, while not losing its main focus: food.
As you would expect from a scholar with a PhD in history from Columbia University, the subject matter has been meticulously researched, not from books and articles and other people’s work, but from actually being on the ground and in the markets and in the kitchens of Balinese families, where the Balinese themselves learn their culinary skills, hands on, passed down orally, manually and practically from generation to generation.
Vivienne Kruger has lived in Bali long enough to get it right. That’s no mean feat, as the subject has not been fully studied before.
Yes, there are so-called Balinese recipe books, most, if I’m not mistaken, written by foreigners, and heavily adapted. The dishes have not, until now, been systematically placed in their proper cultural context, which is extremely important for the Balinese, nor has there been any examination of the numerous varieties of each type of recipe, nor have they been given their true Balinese names.
This groundbreaking book is a pleasure to read, not just for its fascinating content, which I learnt a lot from, but for the exuberance, enthusiasm and originality of the language. There’s not a dull sentence in the book. You just can’t wait to read the next phrase.
There are eye-opening and jaw-dropping passages for the general reader as Kruger describes delicacies from the village of Tengkudak in Tabanan district — grasshoppers, dragonflies, eels and live baby bees — and explains how they are caught and cooked. She does not shy away from controversial subjects, such as eating dog and turtle. Parts of it are not for the faint-hearted, but other parts make you want to go out and join the participants, such as the Nusa Lembongan fishermen, who sail their outriggers at 5.30 a.m.
The author quotes Miguel Covarrubias, the great Mexican Bali observer of the 1930s, who wrote the wonderful Island of Bali, and which has inspired all writers since, including myself and my co-author, Ni Wayan Murni, in our book Secrets of Bali, Fresh Light on the Morning of the World. There is, however, no bibliography, which I found strange at first. I can only imagine it’s a reflection of how original the subject matter is; there simply are no other sources.
The author in many, if not most, places mentions the prices of ingredients and dishes. This is interesting and helpful in giving an idea of the relative cost of goods, but it’s already out of date. I’m afraid that with Indonesian inflation currently at over 7 percent, and more for some items, the prices she quotes are on the low side. Furthermore, there are seasonal swings in prices. As every Balinese housewife knows, when a ceremony is approaching where, say, bananas are required to make the offerings, the price of bananas goes up. So, if the author quotes the price of pepper, just take it with a pinch of salt.
Throughout the book Kruger mentions Balinese and Indonesian words and sometimes discusses their derivations. It’s a Herculean task. I was intrigued to read that “satay” comes from the Tamil word for flesh ( sathai ) and that South Indians brought satay to Southeast Asia before Indonesia developed its own tradition. The book is full of interesting titbits like this.
I was hoping that there would be a glossary of all these words for future reference, but I can quite understand the publishers’ reluctance, as it would have doubled the length of the book. Perhaps an accompanying glossary for future publication would be worth considering. The book contains 47 recipes in all, 11 of which came from Murni’s own restaurant, Murni’s Warung, in Ubud. Mr Dolphin of Warung Dolphin in Lovina also contributed a number of recipes. Kruger adds an introduction to each recipe, with a detailed and usually very personal commentary.
I think my favorite, though, is from a village priest (pemangku), I Made Arnila of the Ganesha (Siwa) Temple in Lovina.
- Holy Water from a sacred spring or river, or regular purified drinking water – Pour the water into a metal container that holds holy water (sangku).
- Take small, bright pink bougainvillea flower petals from the offering trays around the central Lingga shrine (at a Siwa temple) and drop them into the sangku. This means that Siwa gives power. Fragrant, greenish-yellow blossoms from the Ylang-ylang, an East Indian tree (Cananga odorata) can be used instead of bougainvillea.
- Light an incense stick and place it in the offering tray beneath the Lingga.
- The pemangku sits on the floor to pray or stands and recites three holy mantras for holy water:
Mantra Ganesha Mantra
Guru Gayatri Mantra
- The pemangku distributes the fresh holy water to worshippers at temple ceremonies.
I don’t think many readers will be qualified to use the recipe for holy water, but I am sure most will enjoy this book enormously; I certainly did.
The author was interviewed for the Indonesia Expat magazine.
Vivienne Kruger: Balinese Food
6 May 2014
Considered a leading authority on the culinary arts of Bali, Vivienne’s book Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali was published by Tuttle in April 2014.
What inspired you to get into food writing?
I started out writing articles about a prominent Balinese restaurateur, Ni Wayan Murni, the owner of Murni’s Warung in Ubud. While researching her fabulous restaurant and the foods on her menu, my interests took an unexpected turn into traditional Balinese cooking—and I just kept going!
What’s so special about Balinese Food?
Balinese food is singular among the leading cuisines of the world. Dedicated to the gods and fuelled by an array of fresh spices, it’s inextricably bound to the island’s Bali-Hindu religion, culture and community life. The Balinese cook with love, art, reverence and exactitude. My book bears witness to Bali’s time-honoured, authentic village cuisine as well as its spectacular ceremonial feasts when food is carved, etched and painted into the rich spiritual shapes and divine colours of holy temples and imposing royal palaces. Curious strangers can only gape in awe, respect and admiration as they struggle to learn how to make these intricate food offerings.
Murni’s Warung in Literature