chilling and chopping

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August 17th 2017
Published: August 21st 2017
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I woke up this morning with a little bit of a fuzzy head, and so there was only one way to cure it.... A long walk on the beach and a good old snorkel! The beach was a short walk from our hotel, and at 9am, not only was the sun beaming down, lighting up the entire landscape in glorious technicolor, but it was DESERTED. I walked away from the main stretch where two or three dive boats were loading on equipment and a couple of passengers, and walked as far as I could along to the left. Despite passing a couple of low-key beach "resorts", I was the only person out on the beach that morning. As I wandered through the dark sand, which curved in a gentle horsehoe around incredibly clear water, the sun picked out the silica in it, making it sparkle. Palm trees hugged the edge of the beach to my left, and mountains nudged their peaks from behind the low-rise buildings behind the palms. When it was time to head back, the beach was still empty. It was fabulous!

I found the safe entry point for the reef that lies about 20m off-shore, dumped my towel and shoes, grabbed my mask and headed into the clear shallows. I had read that visibility could be very poor off this stretch of beach and that the best snorkelling was to be had in the morning, so here I was, the only soul in the sea. The visibility was certainly not poor, and the marine life was prolific. Sadly, as in all areas of Asia, coral bleaching has taken place as the sea temperatures have risen dramatically in the last couple of years, and there was a significant amount of pale and/or dead coral as I floated over it. However, in this area, there has been an innovative project to regenerate the coral using electrical current to stimulate rapid growth, and it appears to be working, as several of the coral areas I explored were beginning to grow back.

The fish-life here was excellent: moorish idols and banner fish chased each other in and out of the coral, butterfly fish raced past, an ethereal seahorse danced towards me and triggerfish came just a little too close for comfort! Fish of every size and colour could be seen. I kept my eyes peeled for a turtle, as the turtle sanctuary on the beach has a conservation and release programme (later on, I watched two girls send a baby on its long journey down the sand and into the ocean) but today wasn't my day for turtles!

I then headed back to the hotel, where we spent an incredibly lazy day by the pool. The sun was blazing down and the water provided a welcome relief when our scorched bodies needed to cool off! Stacey and I went for another walk along the beach later on, and then we got ready for our optional activity of the day - an Indonesian cooking class!

We were joined by two of the other girls from the tour in learning how to create a five course Indonesian feast. Our starter was spring rolls. I thought this would be a relatively easy process - chop veggies, wrap in rice paper, job done. However, in Indonesian cooking, rice paper is not de-rigeur. Here, they make their own pancakes using flour, water and tapioca which is blended and then fried and flipped into shape. The filling has to be chopped into matchstick sized slices, before being cooked, spooned onto the pancake, rolled, folded and fried! So much for simple! But of so tasty!

Our other courses were equally delicious - some surprisingly so. The next course was a satay, but rather than the pork or chicken we had expected, we were creating fish satay! A vast array of spices were blended together with a pestle and mortar, before chopped tuna steaks were added, and grated fresh coconut was the finishing touch. Once it was a thick paste, we moulded it around thick bamboo sticks and grilled. We were given one to try, even though they were for our dinner later, and they were divine! Definitely one for the culinary armoury. After a brief interlude where the whole complex suffered a power cut, and we were cooking by the lights of our phones, We learned how to make Indonesian chicken curry and then learned how to make spicy Tempe - a fermented bean curd which is sautéed with chillies and vegetables and is one of my favourite Indonesian dishes. However, while we were frying the vegetables, and adding the various sauces, the lid from the soy sauce bottle came off (while under the charge of the head chef, I hasten to add!) and flooded the carefully prepared dish with sweet soy sauce. It was, according to the chef, un-rescueable and the kitchen had to prepare us a new one, while we learned how to make the dessert. Indonesians love their sugar, I may have mentioned this before, and the dessert perfectly summed up their sweet tooth. It was a sweet, green pancake batter (similar ingredients to the spring roll wrappers) but with extra jasmine leaf and palm sugar. It was then stuffed with a mixture of grated coconut and palm sugar and served with chocolate sauce. It was type 2 diabetes on a plate.

We enjoyed our banquet while the rest of our group ordered from the a la carte! Of course, we let them sample our culinary delights, and the general consensus was that we had done pretty well! Bellies full and following the previous night's antics, we decided that an early night was in order, and so, to bed!


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