Frijoles Carboneros (Burned Beans)

A Balinese holiday recipe to accompany the film “Sita Sings the Blues”


  • 1 copy Sita Sings the Blues (below)
  • 1 non-stick sauce pan (possibly 2)
  • 1 slosh olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 avalanche ground cumin
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 restaurant nearby, just in case


1. Cue up Sita Sings the Blues:

2. Note play time (1:21:32). This calls for a burrito, which starts with ‘b’, which stands for beans!

3. In non-stick pan, heat chopped garlic in olive oil until fragrant.

4. Dump in cumin. If you live in the tropics you may need to bang the bottle until it all — Whoops!

5. Heat and stir cumin-garlic paste until toasty fragrant.

6. Dump in beans. What beans?? This $3.50 can is mostly water!

Sita Sings the Blues movie poster7. Reduce beans (lowest heat recommended) while getting a head start on Sita Sings the Blues. We don’t have all day here!

8. Marvel at how filmmaker Nina Paley got my cat, Monster, to star in this movie. She’s a natural! No doubt about it, that’s Monster on the bedside table at 00:06:16 —

9. Oh shit!! The beans!!!

10. Remove beans from heat. Duck to avoid smoke.

11. Note that this was your last can of beans. And it did cost $3.50. Actually more like $4 on account of the devaluing dollar…

12. Recall that the restaurant nearby is closed, due to yet another Balinese commemoration of a great cosmic battle, a la Sita Sings the Blues.

13. Remove beans from pan. If you’ve been following directions, by now they should delaminate as a black, frisbee-like mass.

14. Flake off the blackest beans. Appease Monster by putting these in her bowl. (You will need to remove them later.)

15. Return beans to pan. Add water. While crunching up and reconstituting, consider the etymology of “refried beans”.

16. Reduce beans. Again, lowest heat recommended.

17. Do not, I repeat do not, hit play on Sita Sings the Blues!

18. Taste beans. Are they, , the best beans you’ve ever tasted in your life??

19. Take a picture. I ate my beans too fast and have no evidence for this so-called “photoblog”.

20. It is now safe to resume ‘play’ on Sita Sings the Blues. And to send the filmmaker some love.

Seriously, this film is hilarious, beautiful and highly distracting. And the music rocks.

Like any art depicting deities, it’s taking heat (figurately). My take from Bali is that Nina Paley hit religious anachronism on the head. While most Hindus here would confess some confusion around their pantheon, they’d never let that get in the way of a good story.

And nevermind those Indian accents. The narrators of this tale are Indonesian shadow puppets. Cue photo!

Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play

A Javanese dalang (ventriloquist puppeteer) pits an evil ogre against the noble hero Ardjuna (my namesake?). The contest was one of many trials in an all-night performance for refugees of an erupting volcano. Hours of antics, inspired by local, modern-day farce, climaxed at 4 am -- when Ardjuna received the divine power needed to return the Earth to order. This puppet show drew more viewers than the Soccer World Cup semi-finals televised next door. My bet is that local folk would mightily approve of 'Sita Sings the Blues'.

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Frijoles Carboneros (Burned Beans), © Djuna Ivereigh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Excerpts may be reproduced with credit for DjunaPix Indonesia Photography linked to href=”

  • Joe Yaggi

    Now I’m hungry!

    This was an excellent way to spend my waiting time in yet another airport.

    Thanks Djuna :)