The earthy smell of fresh turmeric, the tang of tamarind, the brightness of lemongrass and limes, and of course the bite of fiery chilli: just a few of the pungent beginnings of a “base gede”, the basic spice mix and building block for most Balinese recipes.
We love discovering new tastes when we travel and believe food and culture go hand in hand (or is that hand to mouth?), and a terrific way to learn about a culture (and eat a good meal) is participating in a local cooking class. Ubud has so many classes on offer it’s a bit like finding a base gede that has just the right balance to your liking.
Ubud’s cooking schools range from very professional and high-end aimed at true foodies to something that’s a little more homespun in a local kitchen. Many include market or farm visits and hotel transfers (within Ubud) in the rate. Whether you’re a crackerjack gourmet chef or completely inept in the kitchen, whichever class you choose, the experience is usually a fun half-day and you won’t go hungry. Please note, we haven't attended all of these classes personally.
Long-running and popular Casa Luna Cooking School is the creation of former Australian Janet DeNeefe who as well as running two restaurants and a hotel, is the director of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. She also penned two books, Bali: The Food of My Island Home and Fragrant Rice : My Continuing Love Affair with Bali which are both well sauced with her love of Balinese food. A busy woman!
Although she does pop in from time to time, class are conducted by well trained, knowledgeable staff. The setting is the charming Honeymoon Guesthouse where the style of class is more of a demonstration than hands-on, but you’ll still get to have a bit of a go. You’ll learn about traditional Balinese cuisine and the role of food in ceremonies and classes include a recipe booklet to take home.
Different menus are cooked each day, so if you’re in Ubud for a few days, pick one which appeals. Tuesdays and Thursday classes include a tour of Ubud Market (not the tatty touristy bit, but the “real” part where locals go to buy fresh ingredients) and Friday is especially for beginners. Sunday evening you’ll learn how to cook Bali’s celebratory dish, bebek betutu (smoked duck). There’s a more hands-on class on Saturdays focusing on the healing properties of vegan food.
Casa Luna also offers food based tours which include trips for coffee-lovers, learning about salt and sugar production in Bali, and a tour of the delights of Gianyar Night Market. This is possibly Ubud’s most popular class, so you’ll need to book well in advance. Half-day classes start at 400,000 rupiah and include a free-pickup in the Ubud area.
Puspa Wati and her husband Wayan Subawa run the well-polished comedy act Paon Bali Cooking Class in their traditional family home at Laplapan village on the outskirts of Ubud with a choice of morning or afternoon classes. The morning class begins with a tour of Ubud market, followed by a jaunt through the paddy fields with a lesson on rice production, you then hit the “paon”, Balinese for kitchen (afternoon classes skip the market).
Although in an authentic setting in a delightful open-air kitchen overlooking farmland, this a professionally run class and Puspa is a very funny host, however the style may be a bit slick and rehearsed for some. Classes tend to be large (about 25), but you’ll get to chop and grind and have a go, working in teams of two, then ingredients are added to a communal pot to feast on later. You’ll learn to cook about eight different dishes and gain a real insight into Balinese village family life and culture with a few jokes thrown in for good measure.
Classes start at 350,000 rupiah and include a take-home recipe booklet and free-pickup in the Ubud area. Morning classes begin at 08:00 and afternoon classes at 16:00.
Paon is one of Ubud’s longest running “village-style” class and attracts a lot of punters, alternative classes in family compounds that have favourable reviews include Lobong Culinary Experience http://lobongbalicooking.com and Ketut’s Balinese Cooking Class http://www.ketutsbalicookingclass.com/
Pemulan Bali Balinese Farm Cooking School as it says on the box, is an organic farm-based class in the rural village of Taro about forty minutes out of Ubud. Ingredients are guaranteed fresh: here you’ll dig in the dirt and harvest some veggies and herbs from the organic garden before you don your aprons (which you get to take home as a souvenir) and begin to cook. Class sizes are small with a maximum of fourteen, and one cooking station is shared between two participants in the well-set up open-air kitchen.
This class offers lots of hands-on experience and the lesson is paced so that you cook a few dishes, eat them, cook some more and eat again rather than sitting down to a big meal at the end of the day. Classes can cater to vegetarians if desired and are styled for beginners, but experienced cooks will still enjoy.
The day begins with a market tour at one of the smaller local markets near the farm and includes transport from Ubud. Pemulan Bali Balinese Farm Cooking School also offers a homestay programme that includes breakfast lunch and dinner, of which one of the meals will be the cooking class. Classes cost 400,000 rupiah (but you can use a ten percent discount voucher on their website). The take-home recipe booklet includes a handy list of alternative ingredients available in different countries.
Be Bali Day offers an alternative farm-style experience. http://bebaliday.com/the-offer/
Raw Food Bali don’t run cooking classes as such, as nothing is cooked, but they offer a range of raw food preparation courses with experienced professional chefs in a private kitchen about ten minutes from Ubud. Classes are suitable for absolute beginners through to experienced cooks who may have little knowledge of raw food. Along with the regular classes and workshops they can run private classes to suite.
The food is not Balinese as such, but uses local ingredients and some local flavours. For durian lovers you can learn to make all sorts of dishes from the stinky king of fruits at the aptly named class, “durian madness”. Classes are irregular but frequent, so check their website for the upcoming dates. Prices depend on class numbers, but start at US$70 for a three hour class.
Alternatively, Taksu http://www.taksuspa.com offer raw food classes most Thursdays for 1,180,000 rupiah.
Award winning Moziac Resturant offers one of the best fine dining experiences in Bali, and if you love fine food, you’ll get a lot out of one of their very professional cooking classes. You don’t have to be an expert chef as you will be the chefs assistant but you do get to activity participate.
Classes are usually small, with a minimum of two, conducted in a smart contemporary kitchen. You’ll lean some cooking tricks and how you can incorporate Asian flavours into your home cooking and create some true gourmet fare. Classes are conducted Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12:00 to 16:00 and cost 1,089,000 rupiah, they fill up fast, so book as soon as you know you’ll be in Ubud.
Once you’ve mastered Balinese cooking, you’ll need something to wash it down with, Bridges Restaurant offers a weekly wine tasting masterclass every Friday at 17:30 for 295,000++ rupiah.
Bridges Restaurant: http://bridgesbali.com/wine-masterclass/
Casa Luna: T: (0361) 973 282; http://www.casalunabali.com/cooking-school/
Paon Bali Cooking Class: T: (0813) 3793 9095; https://www.paon-bali.com
Pemulan Bali Balinese Farm Cooking School: T: (0812) 3953 4446; http://balinesecooking.net
Raw Food Bali: https://rawfoodbali.com
Moziac Resturant: (0361) 975 768; http://www.mozaic-bali.com/the-workshop/
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 16th February, 2017.
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