“Miss Julie, Miss Julie” I hear a voice whispering. I tiny tap on the door, and again “Miss Julie, I am sorry Miss Julie, there is a driver here for you” It is pitch black and I am in a strange room, I am totally disorientated! I am not in appropriate dress to answer the door even if I did remember where the front door was located!
Slowly it starts coming back to me, we are enjoying our third day in Bali and a change of residence to a quiet Ashram located just outside Ubud. We had booked a car to take us into Denpassar to the Anika cooking school. The class starts bright and early so we were being picked up at the ungodly time of 5.30am to make the trip from Ubud to Denpassar.
Mr GG & I both throw some clothes on, I grabbed my camera bag and notebook and ran out the door without so much as a sideways glance in the mirror. Although it was early we could already feel the day warming up. The ashram had been cloaked in a steamy mist which added to the peaceful mystic appeal of the setting.
Once in the courtesy car we had an hour and half to compose ourselves and mentally prepare for the day ahead. The roads were relatively clear of traffic so we sped along picking up other enthusiastic foodies along the way. As a new person joined the car we would again introduce ourselves and tell each other where we were from. It was a very multicultural car that pulled up at the Kuta Markets for our produce tour.
Our guide showed us through the markets and gave explanations for the more unique items of produces we came across. The stifling heat and the claustrophobic nature of the markets caused a Russian girl some grief, and she hastily excused herself to wait outside the market.
The braver (ie the menfolk) decided that it would be interesting to also view the abattoir section of the market. Meat is purchased fresh each day by the Balinese people, usually very early each morning so that all the cooking for the day can be done prior to setting off for work and school. I decided that if my stomach was to stay receptive to the food we were preparing I should avoid the abattoir. The stench of unrefrigerated meat, blood, guts, offal, fish and decaying produce was quite ripe in the confines of the market without also having the visual representation.
Mr GG witnessed the meat market but was unable to take pictures as he too found the sights and smells too horrendous to bare. Hubby held his breath as he quickly walked down each isle. He was relieved that we had not had time for breakfast that morning. He commented in the car that the smell had gotten into his nostrils and on his clothes and he felt he would be smelling it all day until he showered.
Arriving at the Anika Cooking School was a million miles from the experience of the Kuta markets. We entered a peaceful day spa environment, where the emphasis was on comfort and indulgence. I was firmly back in my comfort zone and ready to sample some more delicious Balinese cuisine.
We had some time to chat with the other guests and then we were given a recipe booklet which outlined the dishes we would be preparing.
Our menu included;
Shredded Spiced Beef
Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay)
Bumbu Kacang (Peanut Sauce)
Bregedel Jagung (Sweet Corn Patties)
Nasi Kuning (Yellow Fragrant Rice)
Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
Kolak (Fruit in Coconut Milk)
Godoh (Fried Banana)
In our booklet I also noted a few other interesting recipes for basic spice blends and pastes.
First up our teacher demonstrated the preparation of Hibiscus tea. This is a traditional, refreshing drink which can be drunk hot or cold. It is made using the red hibiscus flower, boiling water, sugar and lemon juice. We all enjoyed a glass of the mixture cold.
We were then introduced to the fruit platter on the table. I had seen “snakeskin fruit” before but had never tried it so I thought I would give it a go. The fruit itself is peeled like a Lychee, inside is a light colour fruit which has segments like a mandarin. The texture is very “unfruitlike” as it quite dry, the flavour is quite subtle but is a little like apple or pineapple.
Next we were shown a platter of traditional desserts. I do love a class which starts with dessert. On the platter was, black rice pudding, which is a favourite Balinese dessert of mine. The other two sweets were a mystery to me, I hadn’t seen them at all before. The first dessert I tried were the strange looking little green balls. Each ball had been rolled in coconut and had a nutty flavour but when you bit into the pastry there was a deliciously sweet, liquid palm sugar explosion which squirted out. There were quite a few gasps at the table as one by one we experience the surprise burst.
The other pastry was a triangular treat which was covered in palm sugar and coconut, once again it was delicious! I don’t think you can really go wrong with liquid palm sugar syrup and coconut.
There we fifteen people in our class, three of which were vegetarians so arrangements were made to also prepare tempe satay stick and a tofu curry.
One of the benefits in attending a cooking school it that a lot of the preparation is completed in advance. In Balinese cooking there is a lot of fine dicing of vegetables, herbs and spices.
We were spared the tedium of the mise en plus, and as each of the sauces and paste bases were ready to be pounded in the motor and pestle we were given a run through on the technique and then put to work.
We each pounded and scraped until we were told that our paste had the correct consistency and we were ready to progress to the next stage in our dish.
I was responsible for the corn fritters and I was secretly salivating at the thought of these spicy little morsels.
There were guests in charge of making the satay sticks, some helping with the tempe sticks and others working on the most delicious peanut sauce.
We all continued along with our jobs until about 11.00am when the corn fritters were ready to be fried off and the satay sticks ready for the make shift fireplace.
We watched as the finishing touches were completed to our entree’s. The aroma was heavenly and we were quick to fill our plates.
The corn fritters were my favourite, there was such a distinct flavour of lime, chilli and garlic. They were deliciously crunchy on the outside and soft and ginger flavoured on the inside.
They were definitely too nice to stop at one or two.
The satay sticks had been marinated in kecap manis, garlic and shredded lime leaves, then threaded onto bamboo skewers and cooked over coconut husks.
The coconut husks gave the meat a gorgeous smoky flavour.
With the entree and dessert complete it was time to move onto the main meal. Again everyone was set to work preparing a dish.
I was given the task of making the fish curry.
Whilst Mr GG was hard at work preparing the shredded beef with an Australian guy by the name of Mark and his wife Kate.
Mark is a Perth farmer who runs a livestock station. While he was cooking up a storm with husband he commented that he might have found a use for the livestock he named “number 32.” Seem’s he was enjoying the mix of Balinese spices and the shredded beef.
The aroma’s coming from all the different woks was just amazing. Despite all I had eaten I was very much anticipating the next course.
One by one the completed dishes made their way to the serving table.
We all helped ourselves and then started to compare favourite dishes. My favourite dish was the shredded beef, the flavour was just sublime! The peanut sauce was a big hit as was the Fern salad which is actually a vegetable dish with a mince chicken sauce.
The class was finished with a second round of desserts. We were welcome to assist in the preparation but by this stage everyone was content to stand back and watch as they were made for us.
The meal we had at Anika Cooking School was probably one of the nicest meals we had whilst in Bali. All the dishes were very achievable to make at home and the recipe booklet gave very clear instructions. I was very inspired to start cooking the dishes we had learnt as soon as we returned home.
Whilst the class was not as hands on as others, there was the opportunity to do as much or as little as you wanted. This was the perfect situation for Mr GG and I. The class was about 55% female and 45% male as most girls had brought along very willing partners to also participate. There was plenty of Bintang in the fridge at the class to fight off the thirst that develops whilst cooking, all in all it was a very full and enjoyable day.
The car returned us to our accommodation in Ubud whilst others stay on to enjoy a gentle massage in the Anika Day Spa.
Accommodation is also available in the modern Balinese style “Anika Guest House”
For more information about go to the Anika Website. Discounts apply for those who book directly online.