When Dave and I lived in Mexico for three months last year, one of the last things we did there was go to a cooking class with our friend Kristin in Oaxaca City.
We were invited into a local’s home and we made tortillas from scratch and traditional chicken mole. Dave and I both walked away from the experience asking ourselves why we didn’t go to cooking classes more often.
Not only is it the perfect way to get an insight into the local customs, but you can also learn how to make the delicious food you feast on at all the local restaurants, allowing you to (try to) replicate it on your return home.
Dave and I did just that. We hosted a three course Mexican dinner party for our parents back in Perth, thanking them for being so supportive during our time away from home.
Don’t want to blow our own horns too much, but it was awesome. Our parents said it was unlike any other Mexican food they’d ever tasted – they thought it was authentic, and unlike the Tex-Mex you normally get.
We had such a good time bringing this slice of our travels to our families that we decided to do it again – this time with Balinese food.
Balinese food is delicious
When we told our friends back home that we were going to Bali, many of them gave us a long list of restaurants to eat at in Seminyak. Italian, French, Australian restaurants… but hang on a minute. We’re not going to Indonesia to eat foreign foods. We wanted to sample true Indonesian cuisine.
So what is Indonesian food like? In Bali, it’s tradition for families to live in what the Balinese term ‘compounds’. When a woman marries, she goes to live in her husband’s family compound. Here, she will join other branches of the family tree – her in-laws might live in the house next to her, and her husband’s brother’s family in the house on the other side.
All the relatives live in houses spread throughout the compound.
To feed all these people each day, the head female of each family, normally the wife, will cook a large pot of food in the morning. The family will eat from this pot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So essentially you have the same meal three times a day.
Typical Balinese food consists of lots of rice, chicken, fresh vegetables and fish. And lots of spices to add flavour to the dishes. Oh and you can’t forget the delicious satay sticks and babi guling (suckling pig).
Choosing Le Zat for our Balinese cooking class
We were relaxing at our hotel in East Bali – Nirwana Resort & Spa – when two women got dropped back at the resort, carrying dishes of food. The spicy smell wafted over to use, piercing our nostrils. Dave promptly asked, “Excuse me, where did you get that food?”
The two women raved about how they’d just spend five hours at a beach restaurant, learning how to cook some of the basic and most delicious Indonesian dishes. We were hooked. Two days later, we were off to Le Zat Restaurant to experience the cooking school for ourselves.
Balinese cooking class kicks off
The day before our class, our chef Made popped in to our hotel to introduce himself. At first I thought it was perhaps because we were writing about the experience that gave us this extra special touch but it turns out he greets all the guests before they come.
He sat down with us to see if there was anything we didn’t eat or anything we were allergic too.
This special touch was impressive and once again emphasised the brilliant customer service Balinese people bring to whatever they do – and always with a smile.
On the day of our class, a shuttle took us to the school, which is housed on the beach adjacent to the Le Zat restaurant. Set under an awning, your cooking space is an old boat that has been converted into a kitchen. Perfect for the beach setting!
Made took us through the garden surrounding Le Zat and showed us all the herbs and vegetables they grow there. Who knew there was more than one type of ginger? I do now! He picked various plants and food and let us smell and taste them.
Many of the herbs and vegetables we would be using in the class that day.
What’s on the menu
For the cooking school, we’d be making:
Fried spring rolls (Lumpia goreng)
Minced fish skewers (Sate lilit)
Steamed chicken wrapped in a banana leaf with spices (Tum be siap)
Gado gado (Tipat cantok)
Fried banana pineapple (Pisang goreng)
Check out the video!
Looking the part
Before we began, we were dressed in head wraps with our names written on them, and full length aprons. We got to keep this clothing at the end of the class – a wonderful souvenir.
Other classes I’ve done in Bali, such as silversmith making and batik painting, I was shown what to do but didn’t have much instruction. I often fumbled along, figuring it out as I went.
But with Made it was completely different. He guided us and explained what we were doing, how to cut the different ingredients, what strength to mix things – each step of the way we had full instruction for the cooking.
Cooking all the dishes
We started with the spring rolls, chopping the vegetables finely and mixing them with the spices before wrapping them in rice paper. We then deep friend them in coconut oil, until they rose to the surface, which meant they were ready.
We ate as we went, at the table alongside the ocean. This first course was delightful, biting into the fresh spring rolls with a crunch as the sun shone overhead and the blue ocean shimmered in front of us.
Next came the fish skewers, which we minced finely with our knives, added fresh spices and then wrapped them around bamboo skewers before grilling them on an open coal BBQ.
We ate the skewers with our chicken, which had been steaming in bamboo leaves over the fire while we’d worked on other dishes. After 20 minutes of steaming, the chicken was soft and tender, falling apart when we opened our leaf packages.
We also made gado gado, which is one of my favourite Indonesian dishes. It consists of bean sprouts and green vegetables (like spinach) mixed with garlic, shrimp paste, shallots, chili and sticky rice. Delish.
Finally, we finished up with deep fried pineapple (two of us didn’t like banana so we substituted it), with freshly made batter we mixed ourselves.
We cooked so much food we didn’t manage to eat it all, but like the two guests staying at our home, we left smiling and with bags of leftovers to eat that night for dinner. Although when dinner rolled around we were still so full from the day’s dining we could hardly fit any more food into our bellies!
It was a wonderful experience and we can highly recommend it for a fun day in East Bali. Skip the restaurants and make your own dishes!
Our parents are going to be impressed when we feed them at the end of this year…
Have you ever done a cooking class? What was it like?
Thank you to Le-Zat Beach Restaurant for hosting us. As always, our opinions are our own.
What you need to know:
Cost: It costs IDR650,000 (AUS$65) per person, plus 15% tax, to do the cooking class. If you want to join the market activities in the morning to buy ingredients you can. This trip stops at a restaurant in a rice field to have Balinese coffee and cake, and costs an extra IDR200 (20c) per person.
When to go: Simply email the restaurant and you can book in for your class. You are picked up from your hotel at 10am and dropped back at around 2pm.
How to get there: If you are staying in Candi Dasa, Le-Zat will give you a free transfer service to and from the restaurant.
It was a beautiful sunny day for our cooking class and our chef Made showed us around the garden at Lezat Beach Restaurant. Many of the herbs we saw we would be cooking with.
We got into chef mode by donning a headscarf, apron and flower for that added chef sparkle.
First on the menu was fried spring rolls, or lumpia goreng as they’re known in Bali.
We chopped the vegetables finely, added this delicious smelling ginger, mixed in a good pinch of salt and gave it a stir. Then we wrapped the rolls up with a dash of egg yolk, ready to be fried.
Next up was steamed chicken, which is cooked wrapped up in a banana leaf. We chopped the chicken and added sambal, which is a spicy Balinese paste, a dash of coconut milk and some spring onion.
Then Made showed us how to carefully wrap the chicken into the banana leaves so that they were ready to be steamed.
We placed them into the steamer and hey presto – 20 minutes later the delicious chicken was ready to eat.
We then got cracking on our minced fish skewers by chopping up the fish finely and adding chilli, palm sugar, shrimp paste and coconut milk before giving it a good stir and zapping it in the blender.
We wrapped them onto our skewers and placed them over the coal fire to cook.
Then we started cooking one of my favourite Balinese dishes – gado gado.
Grinding down garlic, shrimp paste, shallots and chilli in a mortar and pestle, we added some water. We diced some glutinous rice and added it to the paste with bean sprouts and green beans, before mixing it and added peanuts.
To top off the meal, we made our own batter for deep fried pineapple slices.
The juicy sweetness with the crunch of the batter was the perfect way to finish our five course cooking class!