Just about every country and culture I am introduced to, I always try discovering them through their cuisine. While exploring markets, local hotspots and trying new morsels around every corner are great ways to do this, taking a cooking class is the icing on the cake. Not only is it the opportunity to taste well-made authentically prepared recipes, but to try your own hand at them too. Most importantly though, it is a souvenir being able to bring home a foreign cuisine that has the ability to temporarily transport you back to your travels.
While I was in Indonesia I had no doubt in my mind that I would be taking a cooking class somewhere along my trail across the archipelago. Bali seemed the right spot to do this as there are dozens across the island, all varying slightly and Balinese cuisine seemed to have its own voice. I walked the streets of Ubud checking the brochures for half a dozen classes and compared the dishes, extras and prices. After some advice from the tourist shops and my own comparison I went with Bali Manggang.
Picked up at my hostel, the first stop was the local market for a quick introduction to the indigenous ingredients we would be working with. No matter how many markets I’ve explored and how well I already know the majority of ingredients, I am still always fascinated by them. There is always something I’ve missed or never seen waiting to be learnt about. Here I received some insight to the Balinese prayer offerings and watched there near mass production.
Next up, a short tour and tasting of a coffee plantation where the world’s most expensive coffee is harvested – Kopi Luwak. The coffee berry eaten by the Luwak works its way through the digestive tract fermenting the bean overnight before exiting the animal. It is then harvested and roasted with a slight sourness, I’m only assuming from the fermentation. This being the highlight, an extra 500 IDR for a cup, there was a free tasting of numerous coffees and fruit teas as well.
The main event as I was getting quite hungry, my stomach gearing up for lunch. We were brought to a traditional Balinese household where we would be cooking and dining. Like a painters palate all of our ingredients were laid out across a table, colourful and fresh. A beautiful tapestry to take in upon arrival. A quick overview of the menu before splitting into small teams while tasks were delegated to finish the mise en place for the many dishes. The workshop commenced with the chopping of garlic and chilies, grinding of spices in a mortar and pestle and forming fish balls of minced tuna.
Prep done, the burners were lit. The smell of onion, garlic, ginger and chili permeate the air as they hit the wok. The coconut husk coals wafting in from outside with the aromas of grilling chicken, pork and fish intermingled. The nuttiness of peanut sauce reducing. My stomach was growling as we shared shots of the locally distilled hooch and the dishes were assembled. I attacked the buffet with fury. Tempeh curry, urap, rice and grilled pork dipped in spicy, but fragrant sambal oelek. This was just the start, but it all ended with another shot and pisang rai, a boiled banana dessert. Waddling back to the van with my pamphlet of recipes, I was dropped off just in time to be induced by the inevitable food coma.
Fish Ball with Lemongrass Broth
Urap – Assorted Vegetable Salad with Grated Coconut
Tempeh Curry with Rice
Grilled Chicken with Sambal Oelek
Minced Fish Skewers
Marinated Pork Skewers
Pepes Babi – Pork Steamed in Banana Leaves
Pisang Rai – Boiled Banana Dumpling with Grated Coconut and Palm Sugar
Price: The brochure I gathered states the cost is 350,000 IDR. With that said, the price is negotiable depending on which tour operator you purchase from.
Balinese chef knives were also on offer as souvenirs. I purchased one for 250,000 IDR.
Have you been to a cooking class while abroad? Which one and where?