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Cooking 101

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The hotel had an on site cooking class where we could learn to make some traditional Balinese dishes. Some of these classes involve a tour of the local market to pick up products, but this one did not, we’ll have to find one of those next time.

I should mention that it’s rainy season in the region, so everyday during out visit it rained at some point. The way it tends to work is that you get nice sunny weather, and then in the course of about 30-45 mins dark clouds roll in and all hell breaks loose. This blows over and the sun returns.

True to form, we ventured out that morning and returned to the hotel for our 4PM cooking class which is conducted outdoors in a little traditional kitchen set up next to the hotel. You can imagine where this story is headed. It’s set up next to a scenic field, and is a simple concrete slab and four posts that support a flat bamboo rood. There is a traditional stone wood fired stove, with three burners on one side and then it is open to all the three other sides. No sooner had we donned our aprons then all hell broke loose from the heavens. Loud rain, thunder, and wind came together as our instructor told us about ginger, kaffir lime, curry leaves, and spicy chiles.

Did I mention how gracious the staff was? Concerned that the gringos may get wet (which we were a little bit) they dispatched two unlucky staff members to come out in the rain and install on the spot a roll down bamboo shade on one side of the kitchen to block the wind and rain for us.  This was not a come out and clip into place job, they had a heavy bamboo roll, and some wire, that had to be looped around the beam, then looped thru the bamboo and tied in place. In the crazy rain. I was mortified for them and the fuss they were making over us. We got a little damp, but there was a big fire in the stove, and it was not the end of the world. But they would have none of it.

The traditional Balinese stove, consists of three burners and a center opening where wood logs and coconut husks are added for fuel. Need more heat on the left burner, shift your logs to the left. Does not get much simpler than that.

We chopped, grated, and ground up ingredients with a mortar and pestle to make spice pastes and mixes. We learned how to steam rice, wrap a chicken in banana leaves, and fanned the charcoal of a satay grill.

And then we retreated to the private dining table, also outdoors, to eat the fruit of our bounty. Luckily  the rain had died to a drizzle and the cooling effect along with the setting sun made for a great setting to enjoy our meal into the evening.

Let’s be clear for a moment and say that the effort was 90% Chef, and 10% tourist, but none the less to see it in action, and to see it all cooked on this stove was a great experience.

Later, we retired to the hotel living room, where our guide show us how to make the offering baskets that are used throughout the day to make offerings to the temples. You will see people all over town come around and place offering baskets about the size of your hand in front of stores and at temples located near homes. These are woven from banana fronds and from the intricate patterns. They are then filled with flowers and sometimes a bit of rice and placed at the temple. I must say they are an art form, and folding just one, took us all quite some time to master. I cannot imagine doing 4-5 per day, every day. It was a real treat to learn a little about them and how they were made.

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