Forty Delicious Years is the story of Bali’s most enduring culinary landmark – Murni’s Warung in Ubud. Narrated by some of the Warung’s most intriguing patrons, with a Preface by Murni herself, the book tells the story of how a humble roadside stall became an institution – in fact a must visit on a magical must visit island.
This easy to read and immensely enjoyable collection of vignettes was published to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Murni’s Warung in February 2014.
“It’s an institution. It’s a favourite, and a hive of memories and friendships. It’s Murni’s Warung.”
Jero Asri Kerthyasa
“It’s not just food and a good time that you get at Murni’s Warung, but a complete sensual experience.”
Professor Michael Hitchcock
“Murni’s Warung … the best clubhouse in the Universe.”
“Murni is and always will be one of my favourite mothers in town.”
Janet de Neefe
“For forty delicious years Murni’s Warung has been somewhere to relish life, excellent service, good food, and the company of friends.”
José in den Kleef
Bring your copy to dinner at Murni’s Warung and if Murni is there she will sign it.
Hello Bali, Editor’s Finds, February 2015
If you have been living in Bali for some time, chances are you know and love Murni’s Warung in Ubud. Dating back to the 1970s, Murni’s Warung is a treasured food joint with authentic Balinese food and Campuhan River views. Furthermore, Ibu Murni herself is a beloved figure whose hospitality has earned her many friends and loves over the years. However, if you don’t yet know who Ibu Murni is or where to find Murni’s Warung, it’s high time you do. One of the best ways to do that is to read Forty Delicious Years, a compilation of stories about the warung and the namesake founder told by the warung’s eclectic patrons. It’s an interesting insight into what it’s like to be among the island’s insiders.
Ubud Icon Murni’s Warung Turns Forty
She is often referred to as the “mother of Ubud,” and her restaurant has been a longtime favorite among both travelers and locals: Ni Wayan Murni, a Bali native who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Murni’s Warung with the launch of a book that includes personal memories and anecdotes of people who have accompanied her on her journey from the 1970s until today.
Author and photographer Jonathan Copeland, co-editor of “Forty Delicious Years,” as well as a good friend of Murni, said that it felt right to celebrate this milestone “in a more tangible way than simply a T-shirt and party.”
“We didn’t want a book blowing our own trumpet — there are enough of those vanity publications around — but instead a book focussing on the times and life of Murni’s Warung as seen through the eyes of its guests over 40 years,” he said.
It is an approach that gives readers the chance to learn more about Murni and also about Ubud and Bali in general, and particularly how significantly it has changed over the years.
The first thing that needed to be done was to decide on the number of contributors; 40 contributor for 40 years was the logical solution.
“We then compiled a list of colorful, engaging and interesting characters whom we thought we could contact,” Copeland said. “We went through the time-consuming process of trying to track them down. Some were easy to locate but some were impossible to find. We were delighted with the final list as they comprised a wide range of nationalities, occupations and ages which cover the life of Murni’s Warung from day one until the present. They are all busy people with big jobs and we are very grateful for the time they spent on this.”
Murni, who was born in Penestanan, just a few minutes away from Ubud, began selling breakfast snacks before going to school in the 1950s. Less than 20 years later, Murni already owned four shops on Sanur Beach and established Murni’s Warung in Campuhan-Ubud.
Besides traveling the world and collecting Asian antiques and textiles, Murni built Murni’s Houses and Murni’s Villas catering to the growing number of tourists, and recently opened the Tamarind Spa at Murni’s Houses.
In the book, Murni writes that she still finds it incredible to look back at how she started Murni’s Warung — with no more than a bowl of soup and a sandwich.
“I wasn’t a cook and had no knowledge of what Western food was. I had no business plan, no mission statement, and no spreadsheets. I didn’t have electricity or a fridge or an electric oven. I didn’t have staff or suppliers or a car,” she said. “But I did have passion and drive and energy. And I had friends and customers and hard work. Luckily, Murni’s Warung grew and prospered and has been able to serve food and drinks to thousands of people these 40 years.”
Murni also has a very special connection to the restaurant’s location on a gorge above the river Wos, which is sacred to the Balinese people.
“It has been part of my life, going back more than 40 years,” she said. “When I was a very young child […] I played and bathed down there at the river and among the rocks. When I was older, I helped carry rocks up from the river bed to the road for construction use. Later still, after my parents split up, I secretly met my mother below the bridge. I never dreamed that I would be able to buy part of the gorge, live there and go to sleep to the sound of the sacred river crashing over the rocks.”
Copeland, who has worked with Murni on three previous publications, said that not many people can survive in the highly competitive F&B industry, especially these days, when new restaurants pop up everywhere in Bali.
“Restaurants often start out as flavor of the month and fizzle out,” he said. “It is not an easy business and diners are demanding and unforgiving customers who don’t give you a second chance.
“I think it’s easy, in retrospect, to see how Murni’s early success came about,” he added. “In the early days there simply wasn’t a place in Ubud to get good food. Murni’s Warung was a beacon for early travelers to hang out. They spread the word and they still do. But obviously there had to be substance to it. I think the substance is what has made Murni’s Warung remain a favorite for so long. Murni is a perfectionist. She is very concerned about the comfort and happiness of her guests. And she is a traditionalist concerned about the preservation of Balinese culture. Murni’s Warung is a Balinese building with Balinese food served by Balinese waitresses in Balinese dress.”
Dr. Lawrence Blair, an anthropologist, author and filmmaker who has been based in Bali for almost 40 years, was among the warung’s earliest customers and still vividly remembers a quiet Ubud.
“Instead of tourists, there were only a few ‘travelers’ and barely a handful of eccentric resident expats,” he writes in his section in the book. “And the place to meet them was Murni’s Warung. But the first real draw to Murni’s was the discovery that hers was the sole place in Ubud to have mastered that most rare and esoteric art of producing a sunny-side up properly fried egg. Further cause for enthusiasm was when she also became the first person in Ubud to provide natural yoghurt and wild honey with one’s tropical fruit.”
Blair was also witness to some of the illustrious figures who have visited Murni’s Warung over the years, including Richard Branson, Mick Jagger, Richard Gere and Diane Von Furstenberg.
“My only regret is that they weren’t all there at the same time,” Blair wrote.
Australian-born Janet de Neefe, founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, has also been a regular to Murni’s since the 1980s.
“Many of my fondest memories of Ubud in the Eighties are wrapped up in the walls of this multi-leveled eatery,” she writes in the book. “We’d sip on freshly squeezed lime drinks brimming with crushed ice while slowly eating nasi campur or nasi goreng . Lunchtimes drifted into dinner and it didn’t matter. There was nothing urgent to be done except chat about life, love and cosmic heroes — there were no mobile phones, Internet, e-mails, reality TV, not even Facebook.”
De Neefe, like the other contributors, have always enjoyed the peaceful surroundings as much as the delicious food. But they also all agree that Murni, the heart and the soul of the restaurant — some might even argue, of Ubud — has always been the real draw and the secret of the restaurant’s lasting success.
“Back then, I remember that one of the greatest joys about visiting Murni’s Warung was simply Murni,” de Neefe said. “She used to sit at the front desk and invariably wander up to your table and have a chat. There is so much to love about Murni. Whether it be her heart that’s as big as the moon, her gentle nature, grace or soft humor.”
Forty Delicious Years, 1974-2014
“I enjoyed every chapter of this book. A wonderful collection of stories from long-term residents, many of whom are famous authors, artists and scholars. An entertaining and interesting read of reflections of Murni, the “Mother of Ubud”, who started a humble little restaurant some forty years ago. It’s a journey of loving, living and laughter through these pages. Highly recommended read.”
Author Indonesia’s Hidden Heritage – Cultural Journeys of Discovery
Murni’s at 40
Ubud Culinary Icon Murni’s Warung Turns 40
An Ubud icon – Murni’s Warung is celebrating 40 years of operations with the publication of a new foodie book.
Murni’s Warung, located in what is arguably the cultural capital of Bali, was Ubud’s first international standard restaurant and, on February 20, 2014, it marked 40 years of continual operations.
Celebrating the landmark, The Orchid Press publication “Forty Delicious Years” is the story of Bali’s most enduring culinary landmark—Murni’s Warung in Ubud.
Narrated by some of the Warung’s most noteworthy patrons and with a preface by the legendary Murni, the book tells the story of how a humble roadside food stall became an Ubud institution and a ‘must visit’ on a magical ‘must visit’ island.
According to Ibu Murni, considered by many to be a “Mother of Balinese Tourism”: “The 20th of February in 2014 also happened to be my calendar birthday and, what’s more, this date also fell on the same day as my Balinese birthday. This rarely happens, so it’s was a triple … no, a quadruple celebration.”
6 April 2014
FORTY DELICIOUS YEARS IS THE BEST BOOK ON BALI–TAKE A VOYAGE TO THE CULINARY AND SOCIAL HEART OF THE ISLAND OF THE GODS
By Vivienne Kruger on July 7, 2014
Forty Delicious Years is one of the finest books ever produced about the mystical, legendary, god-blessed island of Bali–the sacred, unsullied morning of the world. Bali is a brilliant, bright emerald jewel set in the elongated necklace of 17,000 islands that comprise the brooding, primeval Indonesian archipelago. Anyone who has ever visited my beloved Bali–or is planning a sojourn of personal discovery or food discovery–should bring this book along with them. Forty Delicious Years is an incredibly revealing and intimate masterpiece about Ni Wayan Murni, her gorgeous gorge-side Warung restaurant in Ubud, and the constellation of notable expatriates and international personalities that have made Murni’s Warung their social and culinary home away from home. The tell-almost-all book is filled with the charm and beauty of Murni’s universe, reflected in the anecdotes, accolades, reflections, and stories penned by forty of her often famous, well-known (Mick Jagger) customers and fans. These intensely personal, soul-revealing chapters empower all of us to be expats on Bali for awhile, and experience life as very lucky strangers in an unknown paradise. I lived in Bali for two years, and know first-hand the seductive, permanent pull on the soul by the spiritual, always-god-conscious Balinese and this very fertile, bountiful island sanctuary.
The writing is incredibly alive and spectacular, and is delightfully easy to read and digest. The book takes us into the sanctified world of Balinese cooking, traditional village social life, tinkling gamelan orchestras, and culture–seasoned with Murni’s kindness and career, and deep, longstanding friendships in the community. Situated near the old Dutch suspension bridge in Campuan-Ubud, Murni’s Warung was built from the ground up, and is a legend in its own time. For almost four scrumptious decades, it has been the ultimate place for Ubud expatriates (and tourists alike) to fulfill their most deep-seated Balinese and western dessert fantasies. The stunning, four-level restaurant is carefully decorated with Murni’s exquisite antiques, Balinese stone statuary, Buddha images, and artworks–and enjoys a spellbinding, natural riverside location and view. A visually and spiritually enlightening, five-foot-tall bronze statue of Ganesha the Elephant God symbolically creates prosperity and removes all obstacles in the Lounge Bar of Murni’s Warung. Ordered by Murni as a specially designed commissioned piece in 1997, it took highly esteemed, respected, experienced Balinese artisans-craftsmen five years to complete!
Murni remains an integral part of her village of birth and her island of Bali–and the forty testimonial chapters written by forty different long-time expatriates, visiting Bali scholars, and international adventurers/wayfarers are personal, unique, revealing and priceless. This book is a deep and memorable journey through residence in Bali, religious devotion, ceremonial splendor, and life as an expat (or repeat, Bali-obsessed visitor) eight sacred degrees south of the equator. As a first-hand travel journal collection in its own right, these personal tales of adventure–and longing for the spirituality and benediction of Bali–are amazing. And they all swirl around the wonderful people of Bali, Balinese life, and Murni’s longstanding contributions to and dedication to her community, family, local temples, and the gods. One of the best stories is about a very loyal, Kintamani Bali dog named Dausa–who spent his life lounging on the front steps of Murni’s Warung as Murni’s personal guard dog. He lead a charmed life, and enjoyed such delicious foods as chicken sate sticks and Murni’s highly coveted chocolate chip cookies! A very pampered Balinese dog indeed!
I am an expert on Bali, as well as on traditional Balinese food and food culture, and have complete admiration for this very special new book about one of Bali’s most important and iconic purveyors of Balinese food, art, antiques, and hotel accommodation on the unforgettable island of the gods.
Reviewed by Dr. Vivienne Kruger, Ph.D. Author of Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali. Tuttle Publishing, 2014.
Forty Delicious Years – 1974-2014, Murni’s Warung, Ubud, Bali, From Toasted Sandwiches to Balinese Smoked Duck