When I’m traveling I want to eat the local food and learn as much about it as I can. Food tells us so much about a country’s culture. In Ubud travelers can participate in a cooking class at a number of local restaurants or sit down to a Balinese buffet at a local restaurant. I did both while I was in Ubud.
Between Christmas and New Year’s I went to Ketut’s Place, which offers an all you can eat Balinese buffet. This was listed in the 11th edition of the Lonely Planet as one of their top picks. Ketut’s Place is also a small hotel. It was once the family compound and if you want you can stay in one of the lovely furnished Balinese style rooms beginning at $25.00 per night. Some of the rooms even overlook a stunning river gorge. They are all beautifully decorated with modern bathrooms.
After reading the description in the Lonely Planet I was really excited to eat here. Not only would we eat some authentic Balinese food, but we would also learn about the local culture. Perhaps things have changed since LP visited, but we learned nothing about the culture. The owner’s wife simply showed us the buffet, quickly gave the name of each dish and told us to enjoy. That was it. All of the food was lovely and fresh, and we did enjoy the meal. However, it would have been nice to have been given a brief written explanation of the dishes to remember what we had eaten.
The buffet was also an hour late being served. By the time we sat down to eat we were beyond hungry. If you go, expect to eat good Balinese food. Don’t expect to learn anything about the food or culture. Lastly, don’t be surprised if they are late starting.
Located at Jl Suweta 40……Telephone 975304. (Approximately 15 minute walk from the top of Monkey Forest Road). Driver should charge around 20,000 Rupiah. Our hotel drove us there at no charge and picked us up. The price of the buffet (December 2009) was 135,000Rupiah (13.50US).
Lastly, their website http://www.ketutsplace.com/ The website does say that Ketut gives a talk on Balinese food and customs. However, this did not happen on the evening we were there. Also, the price on the website is a little higher than what we paid. Perhaps prices have increased for 2010.
My second experience with Balinese food was more to my liking. I attended a morning cooking class at Bumi Bali Restaurant on Monkey Forest Road. This was my second time here. I had just great memories of my 2007 class that I decided to look no further. The cost of the class is 250,000 Rupiah (25.00US). You have the choice of attending a normal class (dishes include meat) or a vegetarian class.
Classes are held every day at 9am, and finish up around 1pm. When you sit down you will find your apron and a great little cookbook. This includes not only the recipes prepared in the class, but numerous others as well. Of the 30 or so in the book we learned to make 6.
We were a group of 6 from around the world; Canada (me), Australia, Brazil, and the US. After introductions we followed Yoman, the chef and our instructor) to the outdoor market. Here we learned all about the spices and other ingredients that are used in Balinese cooking.
The first order of business on returning to the kitchen was to make “Basa Gede”. This translates to “Basic Spice Paste”. Sometimes it is referred to as “Bumbu Bali”. Bumbu means big. We quickly discovered that Bumbu Bali is the base for most Balinese dishes and making a large supply greatly reduces cooking time. The paste can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks or the freezer for 1.5 months.
Here’s the recipe…….
25 shallots or onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
7 large red chilies, seeded and chopped
5cm (2 in) laos peeled and chopped (also called greater galangal, lengkuas or isen in Balinese) (The powdered form was also available in the market.)
5cm (2 in) kencur root, peeled and chopped (also called lesser galangal or cekuh in Balinese)
10 cm (4 in) fresh turmeric (kunyit), peeled and chopped or 2 tbls powdered turmeric
1 tbls coriander seeds
6 kemiri (candlenuts) or substitute 3 tbls ground almonds
2 tsp dried shrimp paste
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg (or powder)
3 cloves (or powder)
4 tbls oil
1 pinch cumin
1 tsp sesame seed
5 cm (2in) fresh ginger (or 1 tbls powder)
Pound in a mortar and pestle or use a blender, all of the above ingredients except the oil. Do yourself a favor and use the blender. You will need to add about ½ a cup of water and blend for approx. 5 minutes.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan or wok, add the blended spice mix (Bumbu) and cook over a high heat stirring frequently for 5 minutes until the mix turns golden. Cool before using. Lasts in the fridge for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 1.5 months.
This is the base for most Balinese dishes.
Bumi Bali is easy to find on Monkey Forest Road. Here is their website http://www.bumifood.com/
I highly recommend spending a morning at Bali Bumi cooking and eating delicious Balinese food. I will be posting more recipes and photos in the coming weeks.
Bumi Bali cooking class made my Top 10 list of things to do in Ubud, Bali.