“Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”
I became such this man last January on our trip to Indonesia. I was spoiled rotten with fresh Balinese and Indonesian food day in day out. I worried how I’d fare when the trip ends, where reality meant eating my own cooked food.
Mind you, my own food isn’t all that bad, it just pales in comparison to what I was having everyday in Indonesia!
While staying at the Anantara Vacation Club in Seminyak, I found out that they offered Balinese cooking class for their guests.
Not just any cooking class but an actual 4- course menu!
But before that, a story is in order. A story of how (and why) I learned to cook.
I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I was a late bloomer in the household arena. I know it will sound ridiculous but I only learned how to properly cook at the age of 23. I had just finished university and moved to China to learn Mandarin. I had my own flat, and next door was a very friendly fellow overseas student who immediately made me feel welcome. Let’s call her “The Cook”.
She invited me to her flat and cooked a 3-course dinner, just us two. The food and company was great, and I felt glad to have found a new friend easily. The evening ended with me heading back to my flat, and her saying “Your kitchen next time!” I did have a fully new and functional kitchen except I didn’t know how to use it. In my head I planned on taking her out for dinner.
The following days and weeks, I befriended more overseas students. When they found out I was living next door to “The Cook”, they tut-tutted and warned me not to ever ask her for favours. When I told them that she invited me and fed me, they were aghast. “Noooo…..you shouldn’t have fallen for it!” And then they were serious, “You will HAVE to feed her as well and make the exact amount of effort that she put on your dinner”. Everyone had their own story to tell of how The Cook kept tab of who owed her what. And it’s not just about money, it’s every little act / thing.
I chortled and found this ridiculous. “Don’t worry, I’ve already got my plan, I’m taking her out”, and dismissed it. These guys have to be over-reacting right?
I didn’t give this much thought and life continued.
I asked The Cook out to dinner one day and she said , “Ok, your place right?” and I said “No you pick a restaurant. ANY restaurant”. And she said that she’d rather eat at my place. She said this very excitedly as if my cooking skills were so famously known.
I started feeling stressed. I knew NOTHING about cooking. All I had in my kitchen was an electric kettle, which I used to make instant noodles with, and also doubled as a kettle to make hard boiled eggs. I ate out often at the time. China is a place where it’s cheaper (though not healthier) to eat out rather than cook.
I later found out from my landlord that because my unit is brand new, they still have not activated the gas line in the kitchen. Aha!!! Perfect excuse 🙂
When I ran into The Cook a few days later, I feigned disappointment and pulled a most earnest crestfallen expression at the ‘tragic’ news of my gas line not being activated so why don’t we just go out and eat dinner-in-a-f****n-restaurant?? She didn’t say anything.
A week later, I was watching Charlie’s Angels (the movie) in my flat when I heard a knock.
It was The Cook. With a man. A man carrying a tool box.
“I called the gas line technician!”, The Cook said happily. She then led the technician to my kitchen, he tinkered with the range and left. “Now you can make dinner for us!”, she joyously said. And she actually clapped her hands.
I was fuming mad. It started to become a game of will. Every time we ran into each other, she would annoyingly chirp. “How’s the kitchen? Have you used it yet?” Fine, and no.
Weeks passed , and she dropped hints every now and then. My circle of friends then grimly advised that I just Have to learn how to cook, and get it over and done with. Otherwise it’s never going to end.
It does sound stupid, but I really loathed anything house-related back then. Imagine a teenage BOY, that’s how I used to be. My world was all about going out, rollerblading, bowling, badminton, getting in trouble, fast food, travel. No time for home stuff.
So I hastily grabbed a cook book from the English library, chose the easiest recipes (deep-fried anything, with this and that sauce). By then, our ‘score-settling’ had become quite the talk of the small world of overseas students that 4 other people joined us.
The meal was horrible. Things were either overly fried or under cooked. But nothing that cannot be downed with lots of water and Coke. I think we all went out to eat afterwards.
But the most crucial part here wasn’t the food. All debts are paid.
I’ve lost touch with The Cook, but if I get to see her again one day, I will thank her. I was very immature back then and only belatedly saw the good out of the annoying. She made me learn a life skill that I now cannot imagine living life not knowing how to cook!
Fast forward, 10 years later.
Check it out, y’all, check. it. out. Creating a full Balinese meal with a chef and a cook!
Anantara Vacation Club has a knack of giving unique and local experiences to its guests. Earlier in the morning, we had a temple tour organised by Anantara Vacation Club and in the afternoon, I was taught by Chef Dadi and Yandi how to make a 4-course traditional Balinese meal.
Guests have the option of having the cooking class in the privacy of their own villa (the crew will set up everything you need there), or by the pool side.
We had ours by the pool side and it was the perfect weather for it too!
As this was a 4-course dinner we started at 4:30 PM
The fresh ingredients all ready! I learned that in Bali, they have Galangal (sort of like a dry ginger) , and a Lesser Galangal (drier and harder than the ‘greater’ Galangal with a sharper taste).
VIDEO: COOKING A FULL-COURSE BALINESE DINNER
It was such a fun learning experience! Things that I learned from Chef Dadi:
– A good and wide mortar and pestle is a must in the kitchen
– You can replicate the dishes above with an in-door griller but the real charcoal grill is still the best
– De-Seeding tomatoes when cooking will give food a better texture (less watery)
– Do not use ripe bananas when making fritters (Pisang Goreng)
Among all the dinners and meals we’ve had in Indonesia, this was by far the most rewarding!
One thing that I noticed and miss are the smaller pieces of onion, garlic and other spices and also the smaller meat cuts in Asia. Bigger is not always better because the smaller cuts meant that nothing was put to waste. The entire 4-course meal was just exactly portioned for Zombie and I.
There are some things I prefer doing alone (like shopping or travelling) but cooking is much faster and more enjoyable with company, especially if that company is a chef, who is filled with great stories and advice!
When I asked Chef Dadi what is all-time favourite food in the whole wide world is, he said Thai dishes as they are tasty and healthy. I couldn’t agree with that more! What I do regret though is not asking him for a recipe for Pad See Ew, my favourite Thai dish!
As promised in the video, here are the full recipe and ingredients :
Sate Lilit Ayam
Balinese Chicken Satay
(yields 10 pieces of satay)
250 grams minced chicken
25 grams shallot, finely chopped
10 grams garlic, finely chopped
1 piece small red chilli, thinly sliced
5 grams ginger, finely chopped
5 grams galangal, finely chopped
3 grams lesser galangal, finely chopped
3 grams turmeric, finely chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 piece ground clover
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 grams ground coriander
2 grams, ground sesame seed
Salt and pepper to taste
20 ml oil
10 pieces lemon grass stalks (to be used as satay skewers)
1 piece Lime leaf. Thinly sliced
20 grams unsweetened grated coconut
1.) Heat up oil in frying pan on medium heat and saute all the paste except the lime leaf and coconut oil. Cook until aromatic.
2.) Remove from flame, cool down and blend to a thick paste
3.) Mix the spice paste with the minced chicken
4.) Add lime and grated coconut
5.) Season with Salt and pepper
6.) Take 20 grams of the mixture and work around satay skewers. Do this for each satay stick.
7.) Grill the satay , serve with peanut sauce if desired.
Be Siap Metunu
Grilled Chicken With Garlic and Tumeric
(Serving Size: 2)
350 grams Spring Chicken, boneless
20 grams crushed Garlic
20 grams Tumeric Peel, crushed
20 grams Lesser Galangal, crushed
1 pc Candle Nut, crushed
1 pc Red Long Chili, seeded and crushed
Salt and Pepper to taste
40 ml Coconut Oil
1.) Clean the chicken, trim the fat and skin, season with salt and pepper
2.) In a bowl, place all ingredients and marinate the chicken for about 5 minutes
3.) Heat the grill or pan in medium heat and grill the chicken
4.) Brush the Chicken with marinade (while on the grill) and flip the pieces until golden in colour
5.) Take out from the grill or pan and serve with sambal matah or rice.
Pepes Ikan Kakap
Balinese Spiced Grilled Snapper in Banana Leaf
(Serving Size: 1)
140 grams Snapper fillet
50 grams Bumbu Pepes Basic
25 grams Red tomato – sliced, without seeds
1 piece Kaffir Lime Leaf, finely sliced
3 pieces Sweet basil/ Kemangi
1 piece Salam Leaf
2 pieces banana leaves for wrapping
2 Bamboo Pins (or toothpicks)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 piece Bali Lime
1.) In a bowl, season the fish with salt, pepper, Bali Lime Juice and basic bumbu pepes paste
2.) On the tray, lay down banana leaf (which should be big enough to wrap one portion of the fish.) In the middle of the leaf, lay down salam leaf followed by the marinated fish. Place red tomatoes, lime leaf, sweet basil on top of it.
3.) Wrap the fish, fold both ends together and secure the end with bamboo pins.
To Serve: over a hot charcoal grill, cook the wrapped fish in leaves for approximately 5 minutes on each side. Place the pepes on the centre of the plate and garnish with sweet basil and lemon grass stick.
(Indonesian Banana Fritters)
2/3 Cup Rice Flour
1/3 Cup Flour
2/3 Cup Water
1 pinch Salt
8 firm Bananas (do not use fully ripe bananas or they will be mush)
Oil for frying
1.) Combine both types of flour, water and salt in deep mixing bowl. Whisk until batter is smooth and slightly thick
2.) Dust banana evenly with rice flour
3.) Dip halved bananas into batter and coat generously (halve the bananas if using the bigger variation)
4.) Heat a generous amount of oil in heavy saucepan to 120 celcius
5.) Add bananas at this low heat and fry very slowly at rising temperature until golden brown and crispy. This process will take approximately 20 minutes. Drain Well.
6.) Dust Bananas with a mix of cinnamon powder and icing sugar.
7.) Serve with coconut cream or palm sugar syrup
I was given a certificate for completing the course (not exactly an ordeal if you ask me!) but the biggest takeaway here is the experience and knowledge that’s been passed down to me.
I cherish unique experiences and this is certainly one of them.
This Balinese Cooking Course with Anantara Vacation Club Seminyak begins at USD 45.00 nett per person.
Anantara Vacation Club Seminyak hosted Zombie & myself on this course but all opinions are my own