Day 8: Cooking Class

So when you come to Bali the #1 thing on the agenda is to take a cooking class.  The difficult decision is where to take it – there are so many to choose from.  We settled on the Paon Bali Cooking Class it was quite cheap at only 350k per person.

Conscious of the amount of food we were due to ingest today we decided to have a reasonably light breakfast – well as light is as possible here at the Indah, the staff seem genuinely sad when you don’t order at least 3 courses, and I didn’t want to make them sad.

Paon Bali will pick you up from your hotel if you are staying within the Ubud area – as the class is conducted in 3 different sessions, in 3 different locations.  Our driver was prompt (As to be expected in Bali) and drove us into town to rendezvous with the rest of the group and our first guide for the morning.  First up was a trip through the hectic organised chaos that is the Ubud Market first thing in the morning.  It was amazing seeing the place transformed from a tourist / souvenir selling hot-spot to a fruit / vegetable and meat selling market.

What amazing colours abound in the Ubud Markets. These are the various flowers that the locals purchase to put with their daily offering baskets.

Our guide – and I am totally kicking myself because I cannot for the life of me remember her name, sorry – took us through the markets explaining all the different produce and their usage.  Of particular note was when we went upstairs and had a try of the wide range of fruits.  Our hotel had kindly left us a bowl of fruit on check-in but of course not recognising anything we were a little wary of tucking in – well now I can tell you that it was Snake Fruit & Mangosteen two products that look a little odd but taste amazing.  I can’t accurately describe the tastes but the Snake Fruit had a slight dried apple crossed with a grape quality about it, and the Mangosteen had a real – I don’t know but it was tasty – quality about it.

This is the main market floor – it is crazy, steamy, busy – but it works and it has an amazing energy about the place. Highly recommend coming into the markets early in the morning to experience this action. You won’t get hassled because these are generally locals shopping for their own produce.

The market tour was of incredible value, to have someone actually point out the different products and how they prepare and eat/cook with them was a really great treat – and whilst many of the products are not available back home we did spot a few Mangosteens at the Asian Supermarket when we got home.  I found it just gave a great foundation for what we would build on throughout the day.

Our lovely guide – explaining all the various products for sale, most common some others not as common. Really interesting.

Now before we go much further – I am no champion cook! I can slap a steak on the BBQ or pan, and I can generally almost cook it perfectly.  I dabble in trying things but my wife rules our kitchen – she is like a helicopter whenever I am in charge of cooking.  She loves to cook so I let her.  But I can stir a pot quite nicely – you should really see me stirring a pot of stuff.  Oh and I can peel and cut carrots quite nicely.  This is just to preface the cooking class to say if I can do it anyone can.

This could be the solution to men who grow tired of carrying all the shopping that their wives do! Buy your wife a giant basket and presto….better stop there – she is actually reading these blogs.

So once we had gone through the markets we all headed out to the waiting cars and headed a short way up the road to meet Wayan in the rice fields.  The cooking class is run by Wayan and his wife Puspa – they are an amazing couple, extremely funny – although I am pretty sure some of their jokes probably translate better in Balinese than English but you can’t help smiling.  They are very passionate about their cooking class and that comes out in the way they conduct themselves.

The amazing Wayan, such a lovely man – and I won’t spoil the magic of his jokes for you – take the class and experience them for yourself.

Wayan gave us a great explanation of the process of farming rice, the staple food for most Balinese families, spoke to us about the process from planting through to harvest and then finally to consumption.  It really helped me to further appreciate rice – rice, it is so cheap and easy – just go to Coles buy a bag for like $3 and take it home, slap into the rice cooker add water and its done! I have a greater appreciation for the work that went into making rice and the value that it holds to the families.

Ok so after many of Wayans’ funny jokes we were off again to head to their family compound to start the cooking class.  Puspa was waiting for us with welcome drinks, that I think if memory serves me were home-made Lemonades.

Puspa then took us into the kitchen area and explained all the ingredients we would be using for the day – she also has a lovely vegetable/herb garden in their compound and they do try to source most of their produce themselves and grow as organically as they can.

Just a selection of the amazing ingredients that we would be using in our class. 8 courses plus dessert – wow! will I need to eat again?

“Aunty Puspa” in her Officer – explaining the first couple of meals – she made sure that you were never alone to cook, everything was well explained and you were well looked after.

The plan for the day was to prepare eight (8) different meals + Dessert – I knew I had a light breakfast for a reason.  Also important is that everyone receives a copy of the recipes to take home so you don’t need to try to take notes to remember what you are making.  So here was the menu:

  1. Kuah Wong – Sup Jamur (Clear Mushroom & Vegetable Soup)
  2. Base Gede – Bumbu Kuning (Basic Yellow Sauce)
  3. Be Siap Mesanten – Kare Ayam (Chicken in Coconut Curry)
  4. Sate Siap – Sate Lilit Ayam (Minced Chicken Grilled on Bamboo Sticks)
  5. Kacang Me Santok – Gado Gado (Vegetables in Peanut Sauce)
  6. Jukut Urab (Coconut and Snake Bean Salad)
  7. Pepesan Be Pasih – Pepes Ikan (Steamed Fish in Banana Leaves)
  8. Tempe Me Goreng – Tempe Kering (Deep Fried Tempe in Sweet Soy Sauce)
  9. Kolak Biu – Kolak Pisang (Boiled Banana in Palm Sugar Syrup)

So as you can see we had our work cut out for us.  The group today was quite large (almost 20-25 people) Puspa explained that as the next day was the Kuningan day she couldn’t run a course tomorrow so didn’t want people to miss out, and combined us into one big group.  Realistically it wasn’t a problem, Puspa spread herself out well between all the groups and Wayan helped as well – they also have a legion of family who help as well.  And there is that old saying about Many Hands and Light Work.

Everyone was encouraged to get involved – all the food we ate was prepared by us (and helped a long a little bit by Wayan and Puspa). No such thing as standing back and watching – if you weren’t directly cooking you were helping!

We cooked a few of the basic things first – like the Yellow Sauce and the Peanut Sauce for the Satay, then we knocked out the Mushroom Soup.  We stopped at this point to eat the soup – sort of our Entree if you will.  Now for the blokes reading this – Puspa has thought about your comfort, there is a big fridge stuffed with Bintang which you can purchase for a very economical 15k each (a bargain not missed on some of our Aussie counterparts in the class!) – plus you are constantly supplied water throughout the day.

Unless your Nigella Lawson – most people look bad in a cooks apron – just accept it and move on. And you now also see why I stay behind the lens!

I love this shot of Wayan cooking our Satay – such a lovely smile. And I loved how he “helped” our satay sticks to be all nice and neat (A dramatic improvement on what they looked like before!!!!)

Everyone got a chance to cook, and yes even I successfully stirred some things in a pan and made some lovely little dishes.  Once you cook everything they lay the food out Banquet style on the tables and you can go at it.  Wow! I can’t believe how much food there is – I went with the “little bit of everything” theory – which held me quite well.

I tried to get a shot of it all – but seriously that food started to disappear almost instantly – was quite scary – we had worked up a hunger!!!

My favourites were the Satay Lilit, the Chicken Curry, the Tempe and the Boiled Banana in Palm Sugar.  But honestly to call a favourite is to do a disservice to the other plates – they were all good.

Ok that picture doesn’t do it justice, it was all good – this is a selection of every dish we made!

Now to put the day into perspective – we were picked up from our Hotel at 8am this morning, we finished lunch around 3pm; so we were totally entertained – and extremely well fed for 7 hours including 9 different meals and it was only 350k per person ($35AUD) amazing value.  And I honestly can’t recommend this enough.  If you are able to get up and do this class you won’t regret it.

Sorry one last picture – this is the Kolak Biu the Boiled Banana in Palm Sugar Syrup – seriously wow! I could have eaten another 2 plates of this!

Once we had finished the class, we were taken back by car to our Hotel – we got our driver to drop us into Ubud town rather than us having to walk our full belly back later anyway.  So to work off some of that food we went for a bit of a shop/explore around Ubud again – just wandering down streets and exploring.  This is really a huge place – next time we come I think we may need to hire a bike of some kind.  I would feel a little safer riding around this area, the traffic and chaos isn’t as bad as down in Kuta/Legian.  Even a pushbike would be a big help.

So by this point we had worked up a thirst so we headed off to the XL Shisha Lounge which fronts the Football field in the middle of town, and indulged in a few drinks.  Now as any man will tell you – you can’t have a beer without something to snack on.  Amazingly after all we had eaten today we still managed to knock over a mixed tapas plate of snacks – don’t judge us, they were tasty.

Dinner however was going to be totally out of the question – so we headed back to the Hotel and just chilled in our room, admiring the amazing view.  We had to be up early tomorrow for our Final day with Fredy.

Thanks again for checking out the blog – stay tuned for tomorrow – our last Fredy Day Tour (which also sadly signals the impending sadness that the holiday is coming to a close) 8 days down and only 3 full ones to go before we have to leave.