COOK­ING UP A STORM IN TABANAN

LOOK­ING TO ES­CAPE THE MADDING CROWDS AND EX­PE­RI­ENCE TRA­DI­TIONAL BALI BY RID­ING A BI­CY­CLE AND LEARN­ING HOW TO COOK THE IS­LAND’S HER­ITAGE RECIPES? THEN SIGN-UP FOR THE HU­JAN COOK­ING CLASS WHICH COV­ERS ALL THIS AND MORE IN ONE DAY...

Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Katie Tru­man

Join­ing Will Meyrick’s Hu­jan Cook­ing Class

Bali dishes-up heaps of cook­ery classes in main­stream tourist ar­eas, but the rel­a­tively new Hu­jan Cook­ing Class takes you fur­ther afield, lit­er­ally. A day out im­mersed in the ru­ral charms of Tabanan, a lesser fre­quented but beau­ti­ful re­gion along Bali’s west coast, the Hu­jan Cook­ing Class lets you ex­pe­ri­ence not only the re­gency’s tra­di­tional daily life – all while cy­cling around on a moun­tain bike – but also learn heaps about the lo­cal cul­ture and cui­sine. This is the brain­child of Hu­jan Lo­cale, an Ubud restau­rant renowned for re­fined In­done­sian gen­er­a­tion-old recipes and the Sarong Group (whose other ac­claimed restau­rants in­clude Sarong and Mama San), all of whom are com­mit­ted to a strong farm-to-ta­ble con­cept, us­ing the fresh­est, qual­ity lo­callysourced pro­duce and pre­serv­ing the ar­chi­pel­a­gos’ culi­nary tra­di­tions.

Our cook­ing class starts early at 6 a.m., con­gre­gat­ing at the des­ig­nated pick-up spot (Ubud or Seminyak), then we were whisked off to a vil­lage deep in Tabanan Re­gency – the jour­ney was even more re­mark­able as we watched sun­rise over rice fields and ar­rived around 7 a.m. at our meet­ing point. Here, over some freshly­brewed cof­fee, we met our fel­low cy­clists and guides, which in­cluded Sarong Group founder and celebrity

chef-res­tau­ra­teur Bri­tish-born Will Meyrick, who ap­par­ently lives in this very vil­lage and likes to lead the oc­ca­sional cook­ing class. We’re in ex­pert hands.

Af­ter a short brief­ing, our small group sets off en masse on moun­tain bikes, cy­cling in the fresh morn­ing air through quiet back roads and laneways that cut through lus­cious land­scape filled with quaint vil­lages, farm­ing plots and quin­tes­sen­tial jade-green rice ter­races backed by mys­ti­cal vol­ca­noes.

Af­ter a few wob­bly mo­ments – and for this rea­son, don’t stay out late drink­ing the night be­fore –, I dis­cover moun­tain bik­ing is a crack­ing way to ex­plore Tabanan’s off the beaten track coun­try­side, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­fresh­ingly still ev­i­dent tra­di­tional side of Bali, en­coun­ter­ing the lo­cals and get­ting up-close to na­ture. We stop off in­ter­mit­tently at sev­eral points of in­ter­est to learn more: at Pura Ta­man Beji (a tem­ple famed for its holy wa­ter) and never-end­ing rice fields to get some in­sights on rice pro­duc­tion and an­cient Subak ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems. We also dis­cover the mul­ti­ple culi­nary uses of pan­dan leaves, whose bushy trees line the roads. Who knew? Ap­par­ently, I didn’t.

LO­CAL MAR­KET

We take a lengthy sad­dle break at the morn­ing mar­ket in Mengwi Town­ship. Un­like other food mar­kets as­sim­i­lated into cook­ing schools, Mengwi of­fers a gen­uine lo­cal mar­ket ex­pe­ri­ence where you’ll find scant other tourists around. Led through nar­row gang­ways lined with stalls piled high with ev­ery man­ner of pro­duce and goods, our guides stop to ex­plain some key Ba­li­nese in­gre­di­ents – we even sam­ple some of the more un­usual lo­cal del­i­ca­cies and some weird look­ing fruits.

Amaz­ingly, all this is done be­fore 8.30 a.m. and all that

cy­cling (es­pe­cially the up­hill bits) has worked-up an ap­petite. We head across the road to a street side warung for a tasty, al­beit sim­ple, mar­ket-style break­fast – a se­lec­tion of nasi cam­pur dishes and freshly squeezed or­ange juice, which all cer­tainly gives us a taste of ru­ral west Bali’s daily life.

Fu­eled with sus­te­nance, we cy­cle along a nar­row dirt track run­ning along­side a river skew­er­ing the fields, try­ing not to crash down into the wa­ter be­low as I keep glanc­ing up­wards at dis­tant vol­ca­noes. We even­tu­ally stop at Pura Dalem Tungkub, a vil­lage tem­ple se­cluded amongst co­conut trees, where, ap­pro­pri­ately at­tired, we are guided through a brief Hindu tem­ple cer­e­mony and dis­cover just what goes into those canang sari of­fer­ings. The re­fresh­ing young co­conut, pro­cured min­utes ear­lier by a lo­cal shin­ning-up up a nearby palm tree, is most ap­pre­ci­ated in the heat.

We’re back at our start­ing point at around 11 a.m. and en­ter neigh­bor­ing Puri Ta­man Sari Re­sort, a bou­tique hide­away en­cir­cled by ter­raced rice fields, which re­veals a swim­ming pool, bun­ga­low ac­com­mo­da­tions, loung­ing area and ded­i­cated open-air cook­ing school and kitchen. Armed with an icy cold drink at the mock-up tra­di­tional kitchen, we’re first given a crash course in pre­par­ing one of Bali’s most beloved dishes, Ayam Be­tutu – and it was such a joy to ob­serve Chef Will lav­ishly mar­i­nate and stuff a whole chicken with aro­matic herbs and spices, be­fore slow cook­ing it Dutchoven style un­der mounds of rice husks and burn­ing co­conut shells.

MY KITCHEN RULES

Now the “hard work” and our class be­gins. We wear aprons and take our po­si­tion at im­pres­sively or­ga­nized, in­di­vid­ual cook­ing

sta­tions equipped with gas stove, ta­ble, di­verse kitchen im­ple­ments and large bas­ket brim­ming with ready-pre­pared fresh veg­gies, herbs, spices – even duck meat and prawns. Un­der the guid­ance of the ami­able chef, we work off id­iot-proof recipe cards (kept as sou­venirs af­ter­wards) for to­day’s Ba­li­nese dishes: Duck Sate Lil­lit (minced duck leg paste grilled on bam­boo skew­ers), Karangasem Sam­bal Udang (prawns sim­mered in co­conut milk, le­mon­grass and spices) and Lawar Kalasan (a tra­di­tional fern tip, beans and jackfruit salad, be­sides sev­eral bumbu and sam­bals – spice-based cook­ing pastes and condi­ments.)

I say “hard work” but ac­tu­ally, it’s not. At some cook­ing classes, I’ve ended up feel­ing un­der pres­sure, al­most com­pet­ing against other par­tic­i­pants. Here, the con­cept is a re­laxed cook­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, work­ing at your own pace and learn­ing about the recipes, in­gre­di­ents and culi­nary her­itage. Bet­ter still, there’s an ever-present team of (hand­some) young chefs on hand to as­sist with cut­ting, stir­ring, steam­ing, chop­ping and end­less pes­tle and mor­tar pound­ing of chilies, shal­lots, gar­lic, galan­gal and other spices. In fact, these young men are so help­ful that I even have time to en­joy a glass of wine as they take over nav­i­gat­ing the recipes. Now this is what I call a cook­ing class!

Af­ter a whir of ac­tiv­ity, we’re re­warded for all our hard work (well, not so much in my case) with our in­di­vid­u­ally pre­pared dishes as­sem­bled to­gether – along with a suc­cu­lent Ayam Be­tutu cooked for hours – in an open-air pavil­ion sur­vey­ing the rice fields. Here, bathed in sun­shine, we en­joy an idyl­lic lunch with, though I say so my­self, quite de­li­cious food, as this cook­ing class – and bril­liant Tabanan day out– con­cludes.

Hu­jan Cook­ing Class costs Rp. 1,500,000 nett/per­son. For book­ings and en­quiries, email info@hu­jan­cook­ing­class.com or call +62-857-3949-0333. Log on to www.hu­jan­cook­ing­class.com for more de­tails.

Cy­cling around the lush green­ery in Tabanan be­fore the cook­ing class be­gan.

Learn to cook Ba­li­nese cui­sine at Hu­jan Cook­ing Class.

A visit to a tra­di­tional mar­ket to pick the fresh­est in­gre­di­ents.

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