SEMINYAK, Bali: Each plate of nasi campur is a meticulous art. A warm heap of fluffy white rice takes centre stage, surrounded by small portions of side dishes arranged in a neat and tight circle.
Vegetable curry, spinach, tempeh, cucumber, beef rendang, prawns and tofu are among the choices ordinarily available for this Balinese dish.
It is often accompanied by sate lilit, minced fish with grated coconut wrapped around a lemongrass stalk.
At Made’s Warung, nasi campur has been its crowd-puller for the last five decades, attracting not just the travellers but also dignitaries the likes of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Its secrets for thriving amid the fierce competition in Bali? Original recipes tried and tested over the years, revealed Mdm Nyoman Reniathi, the senior chef.
“Also, we use chicken powder as seasoning, unlike some others who rely on artificial food additives,” said the 61-year-old who has been with Made’s Warung for 43 years.
From its humble beginning as a small food stall, Made’s Warung has grown into a successful establishment with four outlets in Bali and one in the Netherlands.
It has become one of the must-visit eateries on the island of gods, winning over the foreign visitors with authentic Balinese flavours.
Made’s Warung is named after its owner Mdm Made Masih.
Her younger sister Mdm Nyoman Sadihasih said the eatery was first established in 1969 by their parents in Bali’s now-famous touristy area Kuta, which back then was still a little fishing village.
The restaurant was originally a warung – a small food stall – which only sold Balinese snacks and gado-gado, an Indonesian salad served with peanut sauce dressing.
“Over time foreigners started to come to Bali. Hippies, people with long hair. They often visited our stall,” Mdm Sadihasih, 62, told CNA.
Their parents were poor back then and could not afford to hire staff, so everyone in the family had to help out at the warung.
But it was Mdm Masih, the second of five siblings, who was especially involved in the operations, until tourists started calling the food stall “Made’s Warung”.
It was also here Mdm Masih met the love of her life, a Dutch businessman who regularly visited the food stall.
The food stall grew bigger and the family expanded the business to other parts of Bali - Seminyak, currently the biggest branch, Canggu and Bali’s airport - and Amsterdam.
Another outlet will be opened in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta by the end of this year.
While Mdm Masih takes a back seat these days, Made’s Warung remains a family business.
Mdm Sadihasih takes care of everything, assisted by the other siblings, their children, as well as loyal staff.
She is the quality controller ensuring consistency of taste in all outlets. All chefs have to be trained by the family, including the new chef for the Jakarta outlet.
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THE FAMOUS NASI CAMPUR
Over the years, the menu at Made’s Warung evolved from traditional Balinese food to include other Indonesian and Western delights, based on requests from tourists.
But nasi campur, priced at 95,000 rupiah (US$6.80), has remained the star of the show.
What sets this Balinese version of nasi campur apart from their counterparts in other corners of Indonesia is the spices used.
While nasi campur is often served with babi guling (spit-roasted pig) in Hindu-majority Bali, here at Made’s Warung, it also comes with Balinese ayam betutu (roasted chicken) and Balinese bebek betutu (roasted duck).
Every morning, chefs at the respective outlets will prepare the various side dishes.
The variety is a main draw, said Mdm Sadihasih. The wide selection is not only reflected in the menu, but the condiments as well.
“If someone asks for chili sauce, we have different kinds of sambal here – Balinese sambal matah, fried chili, chili shrimp paste, etc,” she counted off on her fingers.
CUSTOMERS FROM NEAR AND FAR
Photos of famous personalities dining at its restaurants lined the walls of Made's Warung in Seminyak.
Mr Widodo was here in December 2017, while former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dropped by in 2007.
Celebrities such as Mick Jagger and Richard Gere had also been to Made’s Warung to have a taste of its delicacies.
“We never invited them, they just decided to eat here. Maybe they came to know us by word of mouth,” Mdm Sadihasih said.
A tourist from Jakarta, Mdm Meirina Endah Permana Dewi, 57, is a regular at Made’s Warung.
Every time she visits Bali, she makes sure she has nasi campur here.
“The presentation is beautiful. It tastes good too. It’s unique, clean, neat, so we like to eat nasi campur here,” she said.