The Traditional Balinese Kitchen
Nowadays, it can be a little difficult to find an authentic Balinese kitchen, especially in modern houses in urban areas. There are a few reasons to why this original architectural feature is no longer appropriate in the modern world. Limited spaces available within the compound is first to blame, with every meter of land worth a fortune and getting more challenging to afford, citizens try to design their houses as simple as possible. Getting firewood in the city is also another challenge while modern gas stoves become a viable solution. Using gas also means reducing smoke that contaminates the air inside the house and cause soot buildups on the kitchen’s walls. In villages today, they also implement modern kitchen designs while keeping their traditional kitchens for certain occasions such as ceremonies and holidays where family members need to cook more varieties of cuisines. Cooking with firewood is said to produce tastier foods while it also allows you to save money on gas.
Balinese architecture follows rules of measurement called Asta Kusala Kusali (much like Chinese Feng Shui), and the Paon is first to be built near the entrance of the Balinese compound, through the ‘angkul-angkul’ or main gate. Philosophically, it ensures that Agni or the element of fire will burn and neutralize negative energies as we enter the household. Nowadays, some move their kitchen to the back of the house for sanitation reasons, not to mention those with modern designed houses. If an area allows one to have a well or an artesian well, they normally dig down close to the kitchen where family members need water the most. Otherwise, they provide different types of water containers instead, to contain water taken from the nearest river or spring. The Balinese also believe that positioning water and fire sources side by side is to balance and stabilize the hot and cold elements within the house. In real life, it makes it easier to source water, in case of a fire.
Artistically, a paon is a small separate building in the Balinese household compound designed for daily cooking by the family members. In the past, the Balinese used local materials such as mud and bricks oin the construction of their paon. Like any other building in the house, the paon is also built with walls, a roof and spaces for cooking and preparations, which are also mostly used as a dining room. The paon in particular will have one main hole for firewood and three holes on top to place cooking utensils. The size itself is very much adjustable depending on the available space. Other than the main paon, the Balinese usually build another small one close to the main paon called “Tumang” for simpler tasks such as boiling water. Sometimes you can find Tumang in the rice fields. These days, we can even see modern designed Tumang using coal as their primary materials.
Every kitchen will be equipped with water containers, placed in accordance to each of their purposes for the family. A “Pulu” is one to keep drinking water (taken from sources or springs in the village) made of pottery or ceramic, and “Grombong” is the one made of solid stone to keep the daily used water. For villages that have no access to clean water sources, the nearest river will be their savior in this case. They build bigger water containers called “Gombang” somewhere in the kitchen or outside, and place “Topo” in the middle of it to obtain cleaner water. A Topo looks like a grombong but a little bit slimmer and made of softer sandstone that allows water filtration, producing better quality water. It will not be a surprise if you see some villagers place their topos directly in the river to instantly produce clean water. In this case, these topos are referred to as “Suwukan”. *BB-RM*