Disclaimer: Advertisement: This post was sponsored by Musement.
I consider myself a pretty decent cook and when I am traveling I frequently crave time in a supermarket and the kitchen. In fact, supermarkets are my happy place (looking at you, Woolies!). Mind you, despite my domestic skills I was never one for cooking classes abroad as I don’t feel I can replicate the recipes at home due to a lack of proper ingredients. And I simply cannot afford to buy lemongrass in Germany only to use the stalks as skewers.
As you may know and can read below, I love the food in Bali but will admit that most of my meal center around international dishes and surprising vegan delights I think you can only find in Asia (looking at you, deep-fried tofu!).
I think it was because I never quite got the appeal of Balinese food that I decided to sign up for a cooking class in Bali. I felt it was high time to change my underappreciation of the local cuisine while learning some new kitchen skills.
A cooking class in Bali with Bali Rural Commune
Cooking classes in Bali are one of the tourist attractions when you come to the Island of Gods and the choices are quite endless. Most classes take place somewhere around Ubud and if you get lucky in the rice paddies. Rice is life in Bali.
I booked a class with Bali Rural Commune which was organized by Musement and came with a transfer from my Airbnb in Uluwatu. It was quite a drive so if you are planning on taking a cooking class in Bali I recommend you organize it while you stay in Ubud.
Our morning started at the house of chef Rai, a typical Balinese house where we got an impromptu lesson in Canang making as well as coffee and some snacks. While Bali has a huge problem with plastic waste, in general, I was glad to see that these to-go snacks of sticky rice and banana came in an eco-friendly banana leaf wrap or a coconut parcel.
From Rai’s house, we made our way to a small local market. Here we bought some of the ingredients we needed for our Balinese cooking class and learned all about the local produce: jackfruit, snake beans, dragonfruit. In a way, the market was a bit like a 7/11 and you can find anything and everything you may need here in addition to fresh fruit and veggies – from washing powder to ready-made offerings. If you are keen to see the meat and fish vendors you gotta come quite early as they set up shop first thing in the morning. I am still not quite sure if I was sad or glad to have missed them.
From the market, we took our parcels and made our way to Rai’s cooking school in the middle of the most picturesque rice paddies. The views don’t get any more Bali than this!
We were a small group of four, the perfect size to actually learn something. Our menu consisted of Chicken Lilit Satay, steamed chicken parcels in banana leaf, seared tuna crackers, and pancakes filled with mango. If you are not into kitchen work organized cooking classes are usually a treat as there is no peeling and generally little shopping. Our class must have been the exception because Rai immediately put us to work for the Bumbu Bali, a spice mix that we used both for the tuna and the chicken dishes.
Chopping was first after a quick lesson in local ingredients: turmeric, galangal, aromatic ginger, shallots, chili, candlenut, and garlic. After we had done our best to get them as small as possible they were fried in coconut oil before the real work began: squishing the mixture even more with a stone mortar and pestle. Let’s just say that I was grateful when Rai decided to take over for me and I wouldn’t judge any Balinese housewife for using a blender at home.
Once we had the base for our Balinese dishes we started making the lilit skewers using lemongrass sticks instead of skewers and learning how to form banana leaf parcels for the steamed chicken. I won’t have a future in any origami championship but I managed alright and was once again excited for this simple yet ingenious and eco-friendly packaging, unlike aluminum foil which is often used where I come from.
Next was the pancakes mix which was colored with green pandan leaf. The actual pancake was more like thin crepe and we all got to fry our own and even flip them. The flipping got me quite nervous and excited, I am still not sure why. I guess because I never flipped a pancake in my life and now I was going to do it with an audience and under the watchful eyes of a Balinese chef. Apparently, I am a natural and while I didn’t get video proof I dare say my pancake was the prettiest of them all.
While the chicken was taken to the back kitchen to be steamed and friend we set to work with our tuna starter. If you are a looking for a Balinese canape and complete crowd-pleaser for your next party look no further. Crunchy chips, quickly seared tuna, and a delicious fresh salad with a nice hint of chili. I may or may not have convinced Rai to let me be the guinea pig for the group and taste them before we sat down to eat.
Our dishes got served with steamed rice and we unwrapped our steaming chicken parcels and munched on our tuna crackers. It was a meal to remember and I was quite sad when I got full way too fast – I couldn’t even fight over the last tuna cracker with my fellow chefs.
While I don’t think I will be cooking the recipes at home any time soon, I have definitely found a few a new appreciation for Balinese food – mind you, it needs to come with a rice paddy view and a chilled coconut.
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