Balinese cooking is deeply weaved into local traditions and customs. Food plays a major role in Balinese ceremonies and offerings too so it should be no surprise the amount of care and attention that goes into preparing a meal. Spices are carefully selected to add flavour to even the most ordinary of ingredients and traditional cookware (such as volcanic mortar and pestle for grinding) are still preferred over modern appliances.
Women and men both learn how to cook at an early age and while women tend to prepare most of the meals for their families, at special ceremonies it is the men that take on this role to feed the community. During our market visit, we gained more insight into this when our guide explained the difference between female and male knives with the latter being more ornamental and sturdy for other non-cooking purposes too (such as chopping fruits from trees and working in the fields).
We got to experience authentic Balinese cooking for ourselves at Casa Luna following our morning market tour. The setting for the class was actually the Second Honeymoon Guesthouse (also run by owner Janet DeNeefe of Casa Luna and her team) within a lush garden surrounded with ornate statues and traditional architecture.
Upon walking into the open-air dining area (that felt more like a temple than any dining area we’d been to), we were welcomed with a sampling of Balinese breakfast foods, which included delicious green pancakes with palm sugar syrup and a refreshing hibiscus cold tea made from the petals of – you guessed it – red hibiscus flower with a bit of sugar.
After warming up our bellies, everyone pulled on their aprons. Class was in session and on the menu were the following dishes:
- Chicken Curry
- Wok-Fried Eggplant
- Tofu Fritters
- Coconut and Anchovy Sambal
- Bean and Coconut Salad
- Sago Pudding (for dessert)
A typical Balinese meal actually contains a base of rice with far fewer sides, but the proportions were adjusted so that we could try a variety of dishes during the meal. No complaints here! We enjoyed every bit of it and everyone went back for seconds.. and even thirds.
As with every cooking class we take during our travels, we learned a lot about the culture and developed a deeper appreciation for its unique flavours. Our instructor/chef was Uday, a bubbly Balinese woman, who kept us entertained as she shared funny anecdotes and stories of daily life on the island.
We’re looking forward to trying out some of the recipes for our friends and family (if we can find the right ingredients in Lebanon).
We took the Thursday Market Tour:
- Duration: 8am – 1pm
- Cost: Rp 400,000 per Person (approximately $30 each)