All of a sudden, it seems, an intolerance for gluten (found mostly in wheat products) is affecting thousands if not millions of people around the planet – ranging from those who notice that eating bread or pasta makes them feel tired or foggy-headed, to those suffering full-blown celiac disease. So common is the complaint nowadays that restaurants across the West now offer gluten-free options, and health-food shops are crammed with gluten-free alternatives.
You may wonder why this problem is arising now, when wheat has been consumed for centuries. The answer lies in the hybridization of wheat: the new strands contain a much higher amount of gluten than the old varieties consumed by our ancestors. Gluten is hard to digest; it’s maybe too hard for the human digestive system, and while insensitivity or intolerance is hard to quantify, side-effects include digestive problems, headaches, migraines, arthritis, poor memory and fatigue. People who reduce their gluten intake experience a relief of these symptoms, and a radical increase in energy levels.
The gluten problem is being addressed in Ubud by a little café on Jalan Suweta. Nowadays, Localista is making gluten-free products its specialty. As the café’s name suggests, Localista strives to use only local ingredients – and this automatically eliminates products derived from wheat and rye. The café’s food advisor, Melati, is working successfully with tapioca and rice flours as a wheat substitute in baking, and she’s busy sourcing other, more exotic flours, to expand the gluten-free range for bread- and cake-lovers in Ubud who nonetheless wish to cut wheat from their diets.
Melati talked to Ubud Now & Then about the current explosion in gluten sensitivity and intolerances, and what she’s advising Localista’s bakers.
“For me the motivation is not health per se; it’s more about making people realize that flour is not local or locally sourced, it’s imported. Going gluten-free really emphasizes what I stand for, which is trying to get everything as locally sourced as possible.
Occasionally I use imported ingredients such as butter – especially with baking I find it difficult to do 100% local – I do like to use butter and I haven’t found a local Indonesian one that’s good enough yet. But we use rice flour and tapioca flour instead of wheat, and I’ve found one or two places doing gluten-free flours coming from Jakarta… I’m still sourcing them… like potato flour, sweet potato flour, a proper corn flour, bread-fruit flour, banana flour. They’re all locally produced, they’re all from Indonesia, and have lovely flavours.
Rice flour is the main ingredient for the bread and cupcakes…. as opposed to the brownies, where the main ingredient is chocolate (Monggo chocolate, from Java).
Localista produces four different kinds of chocolate cupcakes – Boston cream, double chocolate, chocolate and strawberry, and chocolate and vanilla. There are other vanilla variations like vanilla and strawberry, and we have pandan leaf which is really tasty, tiramisu, caramel, lime, orange, apple, carrot… All of these can be gluten-free.
Localista offers gluten-free bread, quiche, pop-overs, cupcakes and brownies – any of them can be delivered. Or they can collect their orders from the café.
We can do special orders too. For example we do birthday cakes, and mini and large cupcake orders. Vegan requests can be catered to, and for Christmas we’re doing mince pies, European Christmas bread, and Christmas pudding.”
To place an order with Localista, SMS: 082144993622 or email email@example.com
For special orders, please try to provide 2 days notice if possible.
NB Localista uses a majority of gluten-free flours, but wheat options are also available.
Localista is currently pairing up with Cinta Bahasa language school, to host Indonesian classes for beginners on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm. This is an opportunity to develop your language skills outside of a classroom, in a cosy café environment, with Cinta Bahasa’s best teachers. Cost: 100,000Rp per drop-in class.
Photos and text by Catriona Mitchell