Cooking in paradise: a healthy vegan demo at Alila

Bali, Health Retreats, Healthy Travel


If you read my recent review of Alila Ubud, you know that I had an incredible experience at this gorgeous resort in the Bali jungle. But my favourite part of my stay deserved its own special post: a healthy vegan cooking demo. So much fun!


The demo was held in Alila’s own organic garden. We actually cooked in the garden for about 2 hours amongst Bali’s gorgeous scenery. That morning, we went to the local food markets – early – to source all the produce we would need.


It was incredible to witness how the local Balinese source their food. Not at all from a supermarket! The places we visited were more like small farmers markets.


As you can imagine, the ingredients were all local and organic – everything fresh from the earth and so close. I was so inspired by the value they place on organic produce. It was really impressive to see how healthy some of the Balinese dishes can be.


Back at Alila, we got to work with the chef to prepare several local Balinese delicacies and to learn about the connection between food and mind.


Indonesian jamu is part of an ancient Indonesian system that helps us to maintain good inner and outer health and beauty. I had never heard of this before! It includes natural herbal medicines, and it’s influenced by a number of other cultures (think India, China and Holland). Some of the most common herbs included in jamu perscriptions are ginger and cinnamon.


This was evidenced in our cooking – we used lots of turmeric, ginger, galangal and cinnamon, which are so therapeutic for the body. I was impressed by the Ayurvedic influence found in Balinese food. It’s truly healing!


I’m very excited to share with you two of the recipes that I created there:

Bumbu Bali 

A bumbu is a selection of spices and herbs made into a paste. This recipe is mostly used in Balinese cuisine. Every household has its own recipe, which can chance on a daily basis depending on what dish it is used for.


  • 20 grams chopped garlic
  • 30 grams chopped shallots
  • 10 grams crushed kencur root
  • 10 grams crushed ginger root
  • 10 grams crushed galangal
  • 10 grams turmeric
  • 5 grams good quality shrimp paste
  • 5 grams black pepper
  • 1 gram coriander seed
  • 1 gram candle nut
  • 1 piece large red chili
  • 2 pieces small chili

Combine all ingredients and grind until a smooth paste forms. Put a small pan over medium heat and add a little coconut oil. Add the paste and lightly saute for 2 minutes. Add 100 ml water and cook for another 5 minutes. Cool down and store in the fridge (keeps well up to two weeks).

Sayur Urap

A light and easy Balinese vegetable salad seen in most homes all year long. The slightly sweet and sour taste combined with the crunch of friend shallots makes it an excellent salad for whetting the appetite.


  • 20 grams grated coconut
  • 10 grams Bumbu Bali
  • 20 grams fried shallots
  • 10 grams friend garlic
  • 10 grams fried large chili
  • 5 grams roasted shrimp paste
  • 40 grams blanched cassava leaf
  • 40 grams blanched long beans
  • 20 grams blanched water spinach
  • 20 grams blanched fern tips
  • 20 grams blanched red beans
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Bali lime, to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Adjust flavour when necessary with salt, pepper and lime juice.








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Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.