BBC Good Food Magazine
Now connected to the UK by a nonstop flight, this tropical island offers a rainbow of Asian flavours, cookery courses, and access to Indonesia’s most inventive chefs
The film Eat Pray Love put Bali on the map as the place to seek spiritual awakening, but it missed a trick – the island should have starred as the ‘eat’ element. Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines underpin the food heritage of this tropical idyll, but it also has a unique Hindu culinary tradition that sets it apart from wider Indonesia. For a tiny island, Bali punches above its weight with its array of distinctive dishes. So, it’s no wonder, then, that there’s an ongoing influx of international chefs here, all keen to riff on traditional recipes and rejoice in the island’s produce, from tropical fruit and sashimigrade fish to a huge variety of native herbs and spices, including lemongrass, torch ginger, golden turmeric and lush pandan leaves. The dining experience in Bali runs the gamut, from rustic roadside warungs (small, familyoperated cafés), to restaurants offering refined, experimental tasting menus. The island has also become a regional hub for top-notch cookery courses, and a long-standing leader of the pack, Jala Cooking Academy at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay ( fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay), was a pioneer of Bali’s luxe hotel food scene. Fashioned like a traditional stone-built Balinese village, the hotel has been working with local farmers for decades on projects designed to help revitalise dying trades, such as small-yield rice production and beekeeping. Academy head chef Kris acts as a guide for local market tours, where you can choose the produce – perhaps a local ‘sexy’ lime (small but uniquely juicy), or a freshly caught red snapper – that you’ll use to make a multi-course menu, complete with sambals and bumbu sauces. Meanwhile, in the east of the island where few tourists venture, you can cook in the smouldering shadow of Mount Agung’s volcanic peak at Bali Asli restaurant (baliasli.com.au). Chef-founder Penelope Williams, an Australian expat with 25 years on the island, offers not so much cookery classes as complete immersions in Bali’s unique food culture. You could choose a walking tour through the rice paddies, a market excursion,
or a hands-on lesson in how to make a local satay, tipat cantok (peanut sauce with steamed veg and rice noodles) or jamu (citrus juice flavoured with ginger and turmeric). Cooking on the restaurant’s wraparound terrace while surrounded by lush rice paddies is a real treat. There’s even the chance to learn how to use an ulekan (a pestle and mortar made from volcanic stone), and simple, wood-fired grills.
These cookery courses, along with more must-do food experiences across the island, are available to book through UK operator Carrier (carrier.co.uk). You can choose from specialist market tours, rice paddy treks and chef’s table dinners as part of Carrier’s packages to Bali.
How to do it
Carrier offers 10 nights in Bali at Capella Ubud and Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay from £4,505 per person, including breakfast, cookery classes at Jala Cooking Academy and Bali Asli, return flights, fast-track airport assistance and private transfers. Visit carrier.co.uk for more details. Assistance for this feature was provided by Bali Asli, Capella Ubud, Carrier, and Four Seasons.