Though the island of Bali is changing and evolving and an unprecedented rate, there are some ancient traditions that seem untouchable. In fact, some seem to be experiencing a renaissance. Balinese cooking is one such art form, with travellers eagerly seeking out the secrets of the island’s aromatic dishes and culinary traditions.
A luxurious set of villas found in the prestigious nook of Umalas has cottoned on to this growing trend and catered accordingly, offering personal cooking classes that explore Bali’s best recipes in a modern and opulent setting. The Santai’s 11 private villas – each with a private pool and 24-hour butler service – offer well-equipped kitchens in which to learn and indulge.
Despite having an area of less than 6000 km2, the island of Bali produces an abundance of herbs, spices, and fresh produce right throughout the year, making the cuisine rich in nutrients and bursting with colour. Two chefs take the reigns on our cooking class and fill the dining table with Bali’s best – what could easily be a week’s worth of shopping. A three-tiered tray of spices, a bounty of exotic vegetables, and a plate of fresh seafood await their hungry students.
Prawita and Made get straight down to business; slicing, dicing and grating with lightening fast precision. We’re introduced to everything that’s laid in front of us, the bulb of a ginger flower and obscure looking eggplants being the stars of the show. The fish paste induces communal squirms while a smashed clove takes us all to memories of Christmas.
Meanwhile, Prawita shares his own food mythologies. Skewering a small red onion and a red chilly onto a stick, he explains that these two ingredients can be used to fend off black magic, particularly that which causes a baby to stay up all night crying. If we thought it was just some cooking skills we’d be acquiring, we were pleasantly mistaken.
Before we know it our marinated fish is steaming away in banana leaf pockets – self-assembled, no less – and we’re busy prepping for the banana spring roll desserts. It’s all devoured in minutes through moans of enjoyment. Thankfully we have our own private pool to swim of the calories, or more honestly just flop about in quite languidly.
BASA GEDE – YELLOW SPICE PASTE RECIPE
Just in case you can’t get to Bali anytime soon, we’ll let you in on The Santai’s yellow spice paste recipe to whet your appetite. Use as a marinade for fish or to whip into a long bean salad and you’ll be teleported to Bali in no time.
- Birdseye chilli – 50 grams
- Shallot – 100 grams
- Galangal – 50 grams
- Turmeric – 100 grams
- Candlenut – 60 grams
- Palm sugar – 20 grams
- Vegetable oil – 100 mls
- Lemongrass – 2 stalks
- Salam leaf
- Coriander seeds
- Aromatic ginger
- Black peppercorn
- Combine all the ingredients except the lemongrass, salam leaf and water. Grind coarsely.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the mixture and the remaining ingredients for a few minutes to get all the flavours and the aroma out of the spices. Add water, and cook until evaporated and the mix has turned to a golden brown colour.
- Cool down before blending. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Find out more: thesantai.com