Bali: Day 5: Wednesday 13 September 2012

17 09 2012

This was the last full day in Bali for my sister and me. It was another early start, but this time even earlier as I had to be ready for hotel pick-up at 6:00 am to visit the markets prior to the Bumbu Bali Cooking School.

The maximum number of students is 14 (two minivans of seven people each), though they fitted me and my sister in, with one of us having to miss the market visit as the vans were full.

First stop was McDonalds! Seriously!! But only to meet the other minivan and allocate people between the two vehicles 😉 So the real first stop was the Jimbaran markets. At the markets, Heinz von Holzen — the chef (classically French trained and ex-chef at various Hyatts throughout the world and author of several books on Bali cuisine) — talked quite a bit about breakfast foods and ‘Mama Bali’ and her disposable daily income and why she has to come to the markets every day (no refrigeration) to get food to prepare meals for her family.

We sampled several breakfast foods — despite them looking very sweet, they weren’t. Heinz then guided us through the markets, explaining various foods, herbs, and spices (their pork meat is quite red as it is freshly slaughtered and there are no preservatives or hormones etc. in it).

Surprisingly, there was no ‘off’ smell in the markets, despite everything being out in the open (uncovered) and the closeness of the produce and the stalls. Everything is fresh and is sold the same day it comes to market or the next day. The markets are open seven days a week, for many hours (I believe the Denpasar markets are open 24 hours). Thus there is no food left out long enough to rot.

After the Jimbaran markets we headed to Jimbaran Bay where the fish markets are. Again, there was no smell of rotting fish in the markets, which is REALLY surprising as there are no concrete floors that get washed out each day. Heinz spoke at length on the overfishing in Jimbaran Bay and we watched as various catches came in and the fish were pulled from the nets and put into baskets and taken into the fish market.

Back to Benoa Peninsula and the Bumbu Bali Cooking School (right opposite the Peninsula Beach Resort, which is where we were staying), where we met up with my sister and had the most amazing breakfast! What flavours and delights for our tastebuds! Palm sugar and coconut cream featured in some of the most delicious dishes — they weren’t sweet… just DELICIOUS!

Then it was a few steps over to the open-air kitchen where we were to learn how to create 15 to 20 Balinese dishes (including stocks, spice pastes, and sauces). But before that Heinz showed us the ‘happy piggies’ they raise themselves for their restaurants, and the 24-hour old Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings that they rescued from the beach at Jimbaran Bay (see the photos — link at the end).

We didn’t have our own cooking stations (with 15 people, that would’ve been really hard to manage), but we all had a really good view of everything and we each got to help prepare at least one dish. Everything was pre-cut and ready to go and the almost invisible team of helpers cleaned up after each dish, took away the empty containers and dirty utensils and brought out the next lot for the next dish. It was a very well-oiled and practised machine. We sampled many of the dishes in the preparation and completion stages, including raw Wagyu beef brisket cut up in small cubes for beef satay. I was hesitant, but figured that I’d eaten steak tartare before so the small piece of raw beef (imported from Australia!) should be OK. It was. I was amazed how nice it tasted.

It was an amazing day. Heinz and his offsider offered SO many tips, including busting several myths about cooking that we had (like NOT searing steak on a very hot pan/griddle and cooking with high heat versus low heat).

After cooking school was over (about 2 pm), we sat down to lunch on all the dishes we had collectively prepared over the past 4+ hours. The food was magnificent. Unbelievable flavours, textures, and tastes.

Heinz said our names would all be on the blackboards at their two Bumbu Bali restaurants that night as ‘guest chefs’ as we had helped make the spice pastes etc. that would be used that night in the restaurants. We were already booked into the Bumbu Bali restaurant that night, but unfortunately we had to cancel as our plans changed (more later).

My verdict on cooking school: BRILLIANT! Well worth doing. If you’re going to Bali and are interested in food, then book a place (try and book as far ahead as possible — I heard there’s a two to three month waitlist; we were just fortunate there was a cancellation). Cost: US$90 for cooking school plus market (start at 6:00 am); US$80 for cooking school only (start at 9:00 am). If you can get up early enough, do the market part to as Heinz imparts a lot of information at the market that he doesn’t cover while cooking.

When we rolled into the resort after cooking school 😉 we found that some friends of my sister’s had arrived a few hours earlier and had invited us to their apartment about 2 km down the road. They sent their driver to pick us up, and when we got to their place, their staff had prepared a veritable feast! So we cancelled the reservation at Bumbu Bali. Rob and Jules’ apartment overlooked the beach and had an infinity pool on the first floor. Amazing place! Two ladies from Broome (Colleen and Cori) who were staying in their other apartment next door also joined us. We had a lovely night with them. Their driver dropped us back at the resort about 8:30 and my sister and I packed as we had another early start tomorrow — we have to be at the airport at 7:30 am to catch the 9:30 flight back to Perth.

So, suddenly, the holiday was over. 😦

Will I be back? I think so 😉

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/collections/72157631547384389/


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