Cooking Balinese

In an effort to continue our learning process abroad, and bring home a bit of Bali culture, Matt and I signed up for a cooking course with a Balinese woman named Desak. The cuisine here has  influences from regional Indonesian cuisine, Chinese, and Indian, but with a distinct and unique Balinese identity. The journey started with a private tour through the local food markets, found beneath the central tourist market. We had been staying in a hotel that was alongside this market for 3 days and had no idea that the underground local market existed. Talk about a different world! Here you can find your entire grocery list of items – from veggies, to flowers, to spices – or grab a small baggie of meat in peanut sauce to eat on the go. We learned that any raw meat not sold by the end of the day becomes garbage because they do not have a refrigeration system. I suppose it ensures the food is fresh, but it’s a shame to think how much must get wasted everyday. Another reality of visiting an under developed country and another reason we may want to consider avoiding meat.

After the market, we returned to Desak’s restaurant to get started. Our class consisted of 6 courses for a varying and delicious menu. Our dishes were:

Soup Balinese

Boiled Vegetable Salad

Minced Chicken Saute

Yellow Saffron Rice

Pepes (tuna and vegetables wrapped in banana leaf , steamed then grilled)

Dadar Galung (desert pancake)

We began by making a Balinese and Saffron sauce from scratch, which was done by chopping peppers, onions, candle nut, turmeric, ginger and other spices, then blending by hand with a mortar and pestle. The blending of the spice paste is called Basa Gede and is the basic ingredient in most dishes. These two sauces were then used in every dish (besides the desert pancakes). I won’t bore you all with the details of each dish, but rather perhaps Matt and I can cook our introductory Balinese meal for you some time and you can experience the flavor combinations yourself. For me, the most appealing aspect is the beautiful colors and presentation. Boiled Balinese vegetables are also delish.

[Click on any photo to enlarge and view frame by frame]

Categories: Indonesia

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