Cooking class for one

Sunday 18 July, 2004 – Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

My patient instructors at the Bumbu Bali cooking school
My patient instructors at the Bumbu Bali cooking school

Unable to book into Janet DeNeefe’s Casa Luna cooking class, which featured in the Lonely Planet Guide and which I’d noticed taking quite large groups around the produce market, I booked with Bumbu Bali restaurant near my hotel instead.
I was their only student today, and felt very privileged. We began with a tour of the market, which was dirty but interesting. Chef Nyoman explained the various ingredients of Balinese cooking – mostly familiar to us in Australia, but sometimes used in unusual ways. For example, they make much use of the usually disregarded fruit of the kaffir lime in their dishes, reserving regular limes for juicing and marinades.

Back at the restaurant, ingredients had been lovingly prepared and we were joined by a second chef. First we made the Balinese spice paste, or bumbu, used in a number of dishes. These included a wonderful spicy vegetable dip, grilled tuna with a fresh sambal, crispy fried sweet tempe, chicken curry, Balinese sate lilit, and prawn in a creamy curry sauce.

Bali 2004 08Bali 2004 09

Bumbu Bali cooking class
Bumbu Bali cooking class

Bali 2004 11

The staff were gracious and unhurried and I had plenty of hands-on practice and by the end of the session I sat down to a banquet. For dessert I was given black rice pudding and a drink of local rice wine (arak), with grenadine and lemonade. It’s a pity more people don’t do this course, but the Casa Luna course is in the guide book, so everyone flocks to it. I was even allowed to keep the apron and there was an extensive recipe book provided.

The afternoon was devoted to more shopping – a wonderful ikat kimono, an ikat bedspread, and I had a load of laundry done. After such exertion, another quick swim and then a massage seemed the only option. I went for a full ‘Mandi lulor’ – a full body massage, then scrub with ‘secret’ herbs and spices (including fragrant yellow turmeric – I would have eaten me!), followed by a soak in a flower-filled bath. My masseur was a firm-fingered young chap who also scrubbed, rinsed and towelled me dry.

The place, called Bodyworks, was in a compound on Jalan Hanuman and as well as clients, it seemed to teem with family life – chickens wandered about, children played ping-pong and old men sat chatting. After my treatment I was given ginger tea and fresh fruit by a tranquil garden pond where I watched frogs cavorting (or frogging?).

Ubud has been wonderful. I feel very at home here and can understand why so many people come and stay – it’s very seductive.

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