Cooking at Bumi Bali

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May 29th 2010
Published: May 29th 2010
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Pasar UbudPasar UbudPasar Ubud

The wet market: meat, vegatables and a whole lot of other stuff are on the lowest level.
Several of the restaurants in Ubud offer cooking classes. The weather had been kind of crummy, so I figured what the heck. At least you get to eat everything you cook.

There were eleven of us from five different countries who met with Chef Nyoman at the Bumi Bali Restaurant. A genial man, he managed to take us through some of the intricacies of Indonesian cooking without anyone drawing blood.

Our first stop was Ubud Pasar, the local market. Ubud Pasar is not for the claustrophobic or easily intimidated. This is a three story building that takes up about half a city block. It is absolutely crammed with tiny stalls selling fruit, meat, fish, laundry detergent, cloth, flowers, spices, oil, jewelry, vegetables, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff. And each of these vendors is intently focused on getting you to buy something.

Chef Nyoman showed us the typical spices and vegetables used in Indonesian cooking. He also showed us the various fish, poultry and pork vendors, any one of whom would have a US Health department inspector running screaming in the other direction. Refrigeration is unheard of (except to keep the beer cold) and the flies and mosquitoes think this is Disney Land. The stray dogs look pretty happy, too.

Once back in the restaurant, we taste the different flavorings we saw at the market: ginger, lesser galangal, turmeric, kefir lime. And in a scene straight out of “Top Chef” we were given a plate of different spices to identify by sight and smell. We are also given an Indonesian cookbook - in English - that we can keep.

Now it is time to start cooking. We begin with basa gede, a basic spice flavoring that is used in many dishes. We move on to vegetables with shredded coconut (good!) tuna sambal, a fried tempeh dish (tempeh, tofu, still pretty tasteless to me) chicken curry, and sate lilit, a pork satay dish made with ground meat and spices. The class finished with a shrimp sambal, and our reward was a bowl of black rice pudding, which tastes much better than it sounds.

This was very much a hands-on class. We all took turns chopping, mixing and cooking. It was fun, and the food ended up being pretty good, too.

But one thought hit me as I walked back to my hotel: Every chef in town was buying his meat and produce from Pasar Ubud - lack of refrigeration and flies in all.

Possibly useful information:
• Bumi Bali Restaurant, Monkey Forest Road, Ubud
• Class starts at 9:00 am, and finishes when you finish eating - about 2:00 pm
• Cost is Rph 250,000, or about US$ 28 at current exchange rates.

Bali, May 2010

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