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Experiencing culture from a gastronomic point of view
19 Sep

Balinese cooking class is an experience of great satisfaction and self-gratification. The focus is not limited to the food only, but also the process and history behind it. You will be surprised to know that there’s so much history embedded within each meal you are about to cook. Each spice has a story, each herb has a fragrance, and when each of them is combined with meats and vegetables, they turn into a medley of culture and history. Each dish you create is a testament to the oral history of the cook.

Bumbu Bali

Aiming to discover the spiced flavours of Bali’s virtually unknown cuisine, cooking class at Bumbu Bali offers a fascinating introduction into the exotic ingredients and specific culinary heritage of Bali. It provides a valuable insight into the mix techniques of food preparation and the cooking style used in Bali.

Before the class starts, a small group of twelve persons will be taken to the local markets to purchase the ingredients, including spices, meat, chicken, and fresh seafood. This will be followed by a hearty Balinese breakfast at the restaurant. The participants will then spend a very informative morning in a specially designed kitchen, grinding a minimum of 20 spices, in small quantities though. Thatched roofed pavilions and a traditionally crafted village setup gives you the feeling of cooking in paradise. You will discover and feel the peacefulness of a harmonic Balinese home.

A lot of Balinese cooking revolves around tossing, stirring and steaming the dishes, which will be taught to you in five hours. Each enticing recipe prepared is accompanied by precise step-by-step instructions for easy reference. Your day will be filled with the bright flavours of lemon grass and kaffir lime, red chilies and the mild sweetness of garlic. The exquisite taste of coconut cream and the royal of dark palm sugars in the dishes take the cooking to a whole new level. Throughout the class, there are also pop-quizzes about handy cooking techniques.

After five most informative and entertaining hours in the kitchen, as the final task, it is time to enjoy your own creation – the mouth-watering dishes which the participants have prepared for the last few hours. A strong of hot Balinese coffee and some sweets will company you during the lunch.

The classes are hosted by Heinz von Holzen, a Swiss born chef, Restaurant proprietor and author of five highly acclaimed cookbooks. With him, you will embark on the best Balinese culinary journey. There are three types of classes conducted, which are “Normal Class”, “Vegan Class”, and “Extra Day Class”, of which each consists of six preparations. Please be advised that no politics talks are allowed during the cooking process. It will ruin the taste.

Hotel Tugu

Specialising in mainly Javanese and Balinese cuisine, the cooking class in Hotel Tugu introduces guests to the ancient Indonesian gastronomy and indigenous cooking techniques. The outstanding hands-on kitchen experience allows you to experience the exotic richness of old Indonesian culture, dining and cooking altogether.

You can choose up to 10 dishes from the menu, depending on your choice of Javanese and Balinese cuisine. Feel free to tell the culinary team of Hotel Tugu if you have any specific dish to learn, as they will be very happy to accommodate it. The class will start early in the morning to a nearby local market where you can buy your own spices, vegetables and meat. This is a unique experience, as you are introduced to Indonesian culture where you are allowed to communicate and bargain with the local shopkeepers to buy all that is needed. You are then brought back to the hotel outdoor kitchen.

The classes of a maximum ten persons are held by Iboe Soelastri, the Indonesian chef who began her journey of cooking since four years old. Amazingly, she has been devoting her life with Hotel Tugu for decades and had cooked for the past 3 presidents of Indonesia. Therefore, without a doubt, she has a bucket of stories to share, not just limited to her cooking experiences but also about Indonesian culture.

The cooking is done in a very traditional way, using stone grinders to blend spices and woks, steamers, and wood-fire terracotta stoves to prepare the food. You will be introduced to the old tradition of Indonesian gastronomy, specifically the authentic Javanese and Balinese cuisine. You are then offered a tasty lunch of some of the chef specialties and your own cooking.

Intercontinental Resort Bali

Located in Jimbaran Bay, side by side with the local fishing community in the area, cooking class in InterContinental Bali Resort offers a unique opportunity to learn about the famous Balinese Seafood dishes. The class starts with an early tour to the Kedonganan Fish Market, which only a cosy 15-minute drive from the resort. The chef will guide you through the entire process of purchasing supplies for the class. One of the benefits in this part for the participants is to know how to select the fresh and good fish to cook, as there will be a lot of tips are given for free. The small group of a minimum 5 people is then taken to the nearby spice market to choose from an array of fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables and aromatic spices.

The cooking process begins around 12 noon in the open kitchen of Bella Cucina. This is a hands-on cooking class where you will be taught to cook four Balinese seafood dishes using the ingredients you purchased earlier. The selected and famous dishes are Crab Soup, Squid Lawar (a traditional Balinese salad), Pepes Udang (steamed prawns wrapped in banana leaf), and Fish. All the dishes here are seafood centric, which is the specialty of this cooking class. At around 2PM you can relax in the opulent indoor dining room of Bella Cucina and sample your delicious preparations. You are also allowed to pack and/or take-away your lunch, in case you want to share it with your loved ones at home. A recipe book will be handed over at the end of the class for your future referrals.

Maya Ubud Resort

This resort has its own organic spice and herb garden where you will be taken on an informative tour before the class. After spending a leisure time at the garden, you will then be escorted to the village style kitchen where the cooking class commences. The cook will teach you the simple but tastiest of five Balinese dishes. Some of the local condiments used in most dishes are inger, kerupuk, laos, lemon basil, lemongrass, lime, nutmeg, shallots, turmeric and soy sauce. It is the unique blend of these quite common spices which lends a mouth-watering taste to the dishes. But there are also a few secret spices, like alam leaf, kencur and tamarind pulp which offer inimitable taste sensations.

The Balinese chefs also share their concepts of food and small cooking tips that will be very useful for your own benefit. The cooking class at Maya Ubud is both fun and informative. The motivational part of the class comes later on where you actually have lunch eating what you have prepared all this while. You will also receive an email of the recipes that you have prepared.

The Breezes 

Cooking at The Breezes allows you to learn about Balinese cooking in a luxurious way. There is one appointed head-chef and a lot of helpers in the kitchen. So you can either prepare the whole meal on your own or the helpers can assist you while you just watch them cooking and interact with them. The class is conducted in small lively groups. The staff is extremely friendly and always keen to answer all of your queries.

The chef will introduce the basic ingredients prepared on the table, like ginger, lemongrass, and other exotic spices that will be incorporated in the food. You can choose to prepare an entire 8-course-meal or just learn to make some quick and tasty Balinese starters. The friendly instructors will walk you through each classic dish and show you how to replicate with fresh produce and fragrant spices. Most of the dishes are laid on or wrapped in fresh banana leaves which lend an exquisite taste and aroma.

This article is published on September issue of NOW! Bali Magazine

Bali Online Editor – Bali Editor – Bali Writer