Discovering a new country through its culinary tradition is a must for us, and what a better way to taste Bali traditional cuisine than learning how to cook it as well!
That’s how Bruno and I, together with Bruno’s parents who were visiting us in Bali, found ourselves taking a Balinese cooking class with Chef Mangde from The Amala, and boy, what an amazing experience we had! The tour offered on Viator.com offered a choice of three different menus, including a vegetarian one. Something for everyone!
The Jimbaran Fish Market
After a timely pickup from our hotel in Kuta, we started our morning with a visit to the Jimbaran market to buy fresh products including our fish. This fish market is one of the most popular around Denpasar and gets very busy during the afternoon. Chef Mandge introduced us to the different local vegetables, showing us how to choose the freshest products.
We learned about the various chili peppers – the smaller, the stronger! But not are potent, you just need to choose them right. Three varieties of ginger, spices, banana leaves, coconut oil, greens, and other local fruits later, our bags were full and ready! That, and the must-have shrimp paste of course! We moved on to the fish market section, where Chef Mangde shopped for the freshest catch. He shared his secret to making sure the fish is fresh – a trick we now use when shopping ourselves at the food stalls.
Chef Komang Gede Sumardika – aka Chef Mandge – comes from a line of local chefs, a tradition from his grandfather and then his father. He began his love for cooking at the early age of 6 where he helped his father in the kitchen. He further expanded his career working in the US, Europe, and the Caribbean. One of his preferred Balinese meal is the traditional Lawar salad. Thanks to his perfect English, culinary expertise, and teaching skills, Chef Mangde helped us all the steps of the way, making for a top-notch cooking class experience.
The Traditional Balinese Cuisine
We opted for the menu composed of:
- Base Gede: the key ingredient to Balinese cuisine aka the secret paste.
- Lawar Salad: the green bean, fresh coconut & chicken salad is the most traditional Balinese meal
- Tum Ikan: fish mixed with different spices, wrapped in banana leaf, and steamed
- Dadar Gulung: coconut pancake with palm sugar and grilled coconut split.
Base Gede is the base of most Balinese food. While we sipped on our welcoming refreshments, Chef Mandge showed us the different ingredients used to prepare the paste. These can vary from households, but in general include nuts, ginger, turmeric, garlic, chilies, palm sugar, coconut oil, kaffir lime leaves, and of course dried shrimp paste. We quickly started to grind, mince, shred, slice, and mix the spices together. Working with so many potent chilies can get harsh on the skin. Thanks to Chef Mandge, we learned how to avoid getting our fingers coated with the spicy coating.
The Lawar salad can take on so many versions depending on the ingredients used and the cooking style. In a typical Balinese fashion, this is a collective preparation where some of the best lawar might require five persons over three hours. Friends and family usually join to lend a hand, making it a very sharing moment. As a lover of everything veggie, I truly enjoyed this meal as greens are generally only a tiny portion served along the main rice or noodle staple.
Tum Ikan is a very popular Indonesian dish, and a must-try when in Bali. Coated with spices and wrapped in banana leaves before being steamed, the fish is flavored to the bones while staying juicy. We could dose the level of spices as we prepared the paste and got the perfect combination of hot and flavor. I have to confess that I was skeptical about steaming the fish, thinking it might reduce the taste. But the coating and banana wrapping enhanced the different aromas set deep into the fish for the maximum taste. We could dose the level of spices as we prepared the paste for the perfect combination of hot and flavor. The fact that we chose the fish from the market that very morning secured us in the knowledge of how fresh the fish was.
Dadar Gulung is a meal French people are usually familiar with. Crepe is a French word after all. But we still discovered new techniques during the cooking class. How to roast the coconut for the most enhanced flavor. How to mix it with brown sugar for increased sweetness. And the result? Finger-linking!
Voila! The results of our “hard” work!
The Balinese Cooking Class at The Amala Hotel
The kitchen area, together with our table, stood in a separate quiet area of The Amala Hotel complex. Set under a shaded open veranda stood an open-air kitchen and a cooking table. That latter displayed individual sections with cutting boards, menu of the day, and our aprons that we kept as souvenirs.
The Amala staff helped fasten some of the process, including the use of a food processor to mix different parts of the recipe. But we did most of the work ourselves under the guidance of Chef Mandge. He kept the flow of activities exciting. Not too fast that we got lost in the process, not too slow that we lost interest – just the right pace. My in-laws, though not fully grasping the English language, had a blast following the instructions. We had to pry my father-in-law away from the stove, a sign he was actually enjoying every second of the class. While cooking and preparing, Chef Mangde explained the different dishes in details, adding cultural Balinese and personal notes.
At the end of our cooking class, we were amazed by our results! We complemented with a nice bottle of wine (not included) and enjoyed the Michelin-worth lunch served by a front pool. A fabulous meal served in a stunning location just for ourselves!
Taking a cooking class while in Bali was part of such culinary exploration, and what a delectable experience we had! There is more to Indonesian food than Mie Goreng, and boy, be ready by mouth-watering flavors! For the complete experience, make sure to add the market visit to your cooking class. Not only you will learn about the products and how to pick them, but this is also nice to shop together with the local Balinese.
Upon completion of our Balinese cooking class, the hotel car brought us back to our hotel late afternoon, satiated and satisfied. The end of an enriching experience!
This Balinese Cooking Class was courtesy of The Amala through Viator.com. If you are looking for booking this tour or other Bali things to do, as the former Director of Content Marketing at Viator.com, I would recommend their Bali tours and activities. The above links are affiliate links, which means we receive a percentage if you make a purchase using it – at no additional cost to you. Our opinion is our own and is not impacted by this partnership and this affiliate link. The photos speak for themselves!