Cooking Balinese Cuisine
Like it’s architecture, religion, and many others things, Bali’s dishes, cooking styles, and even the tools used for preparing the food have been influenced by different cultures. European colonies and early traders influenced Balinese cuisine. The Chinese introduced stir frying, the wok, soy sauce, tofu, and bean sprouts to Balinese cooking. The Dutch colonies brought the pineapple, peanuts, avocado, and cacao. The Middle East influenced the popular “sate” with the kebab.
Getting Our Chef Skills On
A trip to Bali was on top of L & P’s list of places to visit. Lots of planning months prior went into this trip and of course we also had to include a traditional Balinese cooking class into our jam packed itinerary. We took a beautiful drive to the small town of Ubud, and the endless green hills and rice paddies provided for a peaceful scenic ride.
We arrived at the Balinese Farm Cooking School, a family owned organic farm. In awe to cook outdoors surrounded by nature, we were greeted by our cooking instructor Made (Mah-day). Just like all the locals we had the pleasure of meeting Made was very welcoming, knowledgeable, and quite the comedian. He showed us to our cooking stations and explained the list of ingredients we would be using to prepare these traditional dishes. Once we knew the ingredients Made took us on a tour of the farm where we hand picked all our organic herbs and vegetables.
Time to Cook!
After hand picking our fresh produce we began with the first dish on the menu, Sweet and Spicy Tempeh. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans. Tempeh is fermented. During the process its retention of the whole bean gives it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins making it a great vegetarian option. The sweet and spicy flavor was a perfect balance of palm sugar and sliced red chilies.
The next dish was the Bali Sate Lilit (Chicken Satay). We mixed ground chicken with spices, fresh grated coconut, brown sugar, and kaffir lime juice. Then Made showed us how to properly shape the mixture onto the satay sticks to make a traditional Balinese skewer.
Yellow Curry with Chicken
Third dish was Opor Ayam/Balinese Chicken Curry with potatoes and carrots. This was my favorite dish to make because we learned how to make curry from scratch. While Diana diced the veggies and herbs for the curry, I seasoned the chicken with Salam leaf (Indonesian Bay Leaf), lemongrass, and brown sugar. Once curry ingredients were finely minced we transferred to a mortar which is a bowl made of stone that is used to mash spices into paste. It takes special technique to quickly turn curry into paste, and not to mention you get a killer workout! Once done, we added the curry paste into the pot with the chicken followed by water, veggies, and coconut milk. Balinese curry tends to be sweeter then Indian curry, so to balance out the sweetness we added more lemon juice and diced extra red chilies to give it a little more heat.
The Perfect Ending
Once we all finished cooking we could not wait to indulge in our colorful and delicious dishes we worked so meticulously on. Finally we all gathered around the table, cracked open a ice cold Bintang, and finally enjoyed the yummy food we were all so proud of making. We could not think of a more perfect way to end this amazing day of cooking in the Bali jungle. Off to our next Bali adventure!