I think you can tell a lot about a person by their smile and judging from Ketut’s, I knew we were in for a good time. His cooking class, like his spirit, was generously infused with laughter and warmth, and of course, lots of delicious food. Payuk Bali Cooking Class currently ranks #15 on Trip Advisor’s list of things to do, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a must if you’re in Ubud.
Since we opted to sleep in, we didn’t get a chance to visit the local market, but we did get a delicious nutritious three hours of extra sleep. Our cooking class took place at Ketut’s Balinese family compound (i.e. his home), set in the lush jungle, a short distance from Ubud. As is customary before meals, we began by preparing an offering of fresh flowers, betel leaves and panda to the Hindu gods.
Whether this is applicable to all Indonesian food or just an example of a efficiently utilized menu, I have no idea, but the most important thing I learned was that Indonesian cooking is rooted in the preparation of three sauces: peanut sauce, samba olek and gede (basic) sauce. After smelling our raw ingredients (which included three kinds of garlic!), we began the laborious process of chopping, grinding and sauteeing each into a paste that would later be used as a base for our proteins. Let’s just say I’m happy that modern-day food processors have replaced the mortar and pestle :)
The large, open-air kitchen served as a peaceful backdrop for the preparation of our 6-course meal, which under my direction, would have been chaos. But with the help of Ketut and his family, we swiftly moved through the menu, frying chicken for one dish and grilling tuna for the next, and always adding in a dash of our basic, samba or peanut sauces. While the cooking techniques are simple (grill, fry, stir fry, steam), the meal took a fair bit of time to prepare, since we were making everything from scratch. The chefs made sure we snacked at regular intervals, so between the fried bananas, tempeh, satay and soup, we kept our hunger at bay. All of our dishes were cooked in freshly pressed coconut oil, which Ketut’s family produces as part of their village farm collective.
Our hosts were constantly smiling, laughing and joking and before we knew it, it was time to sit down and enjoy the spoils of our labor: tuna satay, gado gado, steamed pepe, fried chicken and yellow rice. It was a feast large enough for a family of eight (not that I know anything about feeding a family) although we were just five people. We had a great time and I’d definitely come back to do it all over again.