Eat Local To Understand A Culture
Before arriving in Bali I researched a number of cooking class opportunities and decided that the offering at the Bale Resort would really please those interested in my group.
The executive chef from the Bale picked us up at 8am and we started the day at a local market where supplies were purchased for our cooking class.
On our way we passed another much smaller market that opens daily at midnight and only sells items such as little handwoven baskets and food that is used as the Hindu offerings 3 times a day.
Trying to find parking at the main market was next to impossible so the chef pulled over on the sidewalk even though its not allowed. A steady stream of cars and motorbikes passed us so he basically walked into the traffic to stop the flow and we cautiously crossed the street.
This market is unlike anything we have at home – we were fascinated as we surrounded ourselves with local culture.
Many of the on-street vendors sold street food which cost less than a dollar. Thls food is prepared on the spot and is wrapped in banana leaves which makes it easily transportable. Although we were tempted we knew it was too risky to try this food.
While inside the market we tasted many fruits that we never knew existed. Some varieties are only available for a few weeks this special time of year. Like many areas of the World, cuts of meat, chicken etc are displayed on tables – not refrigerated. The smells were interesting….
The market was a buzz of activity. Nothing was priced so the chef handed vendors what he felt was a fair for everything we sampled and what he purchased for our class.
He pointed out two types of Indonesian “mortar and pestle” which they use in restaurants and home – the more expensive version is made using lava rock and will last for decades. The other looked like lava rock but was a lower quality imitation. With the help of the chef I purchased the lava rock version – it certainly will be a conversation piece in my home. The disadvantage is it weighs plenty and I need to transport it back to Canada.
We then continued to the local fish market. Along the way the chef paid a gentleman standing on the street less than a dollar. That money goes to the locals that clean the beach very early everyday. Tourists are charged double the local fee, when they enter this area.
The fisherman fill their unique looking boats with their nightly catch and then sail to the market. The fish are scooped from the boat into huge baskets by hand and then 4 gentleman struggle up the beach to get the heavy load on to scales. Some buyers haggle with the fisherman before the basket reaches the scales in order to get the best deals. Chef told us that its common to see the fisherman nabbing a few fish from the basket for themselves. We watched them hiding what they grabbed.
This indoor local fish market was huge – it was amazing walking amongst all the types of seafood that were available for sale. The prawns were massive in size and chef explained that the farm raised ones are not as tasty as the ocean catch. The lobsters were humongous.
As we strolled down the aisles our footwear got really wet and probably will always have a fish odor reminding us of where had been.
Chef purchased white snapper, clams and live crabs which soon cooked up.
Outside the fish market vendors will clean and then grill your fresh fish purchases over hardwood – the smell made us hungry.
I made my next purchase from the moveable store at the back of a motorcycle – 2 locally crafted kitchen knives which are housed in a hand-made leather pouch.
Its hard finding locals that want to work in the fish market so the government allows Muslim workers from Java to work here. Chef said a family of 10 will often arrive and return to Java for religious holidays. When they come back to Bali its no longer with just 10 – the number increases to possibly 15.
The market experience was an incredible one. It opened our eyes – unlike anything I have seen elsewhere in the World.
I think there needs to be a new, “cooking class” phrase because tourists often say – I don’t cook so why am going to attend a cooking class or I’ll never cook that type of food at home.
That shouldn’t matter as its the cultural experience that makes and event like this, one that we will not forget for years to come. The market stop alone was worth the price we paid.
We chef also made a quick stop for us tour tour a beautiful, upmarket pottery operation.
The stunning location restaurant that overlooks the pool at the Bale is undergoing renovations so we cooked in their secondary restaurant which is a beautiful, relaxing, modern space.
We were served fresh juices, choice of coffees, teas, melt-in-your-mouth plain croissants, chocolate croissants, muffins and preserves before we started cooking.
We cooked for 4 hours – great fun – I learned a number of new-to-me techniques from the 2 very friendly Master Chefs who looked after us.
We created a feast – we cooked enough food for many people. When we sat down to eat there were so many platters the servers struggled to find enough room on the large dining table to put them all.
The flavours were amazing so we were quite proud of ourselves.
Time flew by – this thrilling experience took 8 hours.
The sales manager at the Bale was kind to discount the cost of this experience especially for my passengers as she knew I will probably bring them more patrons in the future. To make the experience ever more special for us, she approved the chef to purchase some upmarket food items (live crab, clams) which they don’t offer in their regular class.
I would have loved to have lingered over our feast but I quickly ate as I needed to hit the road as a number of weeks ago I arranged for the sales manager to show me some of the villa complexes she represents. If I have the time I always investigate group hotel opportunities when I travel.
If you visit Bali – don’t miss the Bale Resort cooking class – its an exceptional event and the ultimate cultural experience!
I visited with many of my passengers when I returned to the Melia and everyone agreed we all enjoyed another fabulous day in Paradise!