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Bali cooking class with an Indonesian chef! Jimbaran fishing boats, market tour.

bali fashion style, beach outfit

Wherever I go, I try to take part in activities that let me get immersed in the local life. Several of my friends insisted that I take a Balinese cooking class — and they were right, it ended up being one of my favorite memories from this trip.

bali vegetarian cooking lessons

At The Ritz-Carlton BaliI learned how to cook Indonesian cuisine with two of their chefs! Read on for my Bali cooking class adventure — including a visit to a seafood market, and a new favorite drink called “bajigur.”

But first, a quick announcement… German readers,  watch me on TV on August 13! I’m the Hong Kong guide of a new Pro7 travel show, “Offline,” starring Palina Rojinski. I hope you’ll tune in to Pro Sieben for this episode (and for everyone else, I’ll post photos and clips soon).

best bali untouched beach

If you recall from my first post, Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua was the perfect home base for travellers like me. I got to experience these picture-perfect beaches, which you wouldn’t find in tourist districts like Kuta and Seminyak.

banyan tree buddhist mural

The hotel is wonderful at suggesting activities, based on the guests’ interests. I wanted to experience Balinese daily life, and the island’s distinctive cooking — so they arranged for a private food tour and cooking class at their Bejana restaurant.

bali boutique hotel architecture

My friends Cohica Travel took these photos of me in the lobby, while we waited for Executive Sous Chef Wayan Wacaya.

I wore a grey romper from Chaser, and a floral kimono by Japanese Goth designer h.NAOTO.

bali motorcycles, scooters

The hotel arranged a van and driver, which took us to the morning market. I enjoyed looking out the window, and seeing families balanced on motorcycles.

Your eyes are not deceiving you… above, that is indeed a dog riding on a scooter!

jimbaran market, food vendors

Chef Wicaya led us around the bustling Jimbaran market. We saw all sorts of fresh ingredients for sale, as well as homewares and other goods.

bali daily ritual offerings

Chef Wicaya introduced us to two women preparing “banten,” or ritual offerings for the gods. Three times a day, Hindus honor deities by placing a “banten” at entrances, statues or temples.

balinese banten, food flower offering

This lady is wrapping up the offerings into bamboo packets. Inside, you might find flowers, fruit, rice and leaves. If they’re too busy to make their own, locals purchase these “pre-wrapped” offerings for the thrice-daily ritual.

hindu flowers puja, banten

You’ll see these colorful, fragrant offerings everywhere in Bali. They’re an important part of daily life. 

row of motorcycles, bali

It’s best to see the Jimbaran market early in the morning. Even at 6-9am, the marketplace will be lined with rows of motorcycles.

bali wet market

I don’t know how these women balance full buckets on their heads.

jimbaran beach, indonesian toddler

The catch comes in every morning, on the shores of Jimbaran. This child looks eager to meet his fisherman father.

jimbaran bay bali, fishing boats

What a lively place — the beach was photography heaven! These colorful boats are “jukung” or traditional Indonesian fishing boats.  

bali market food tours

Families waited on the beach, chatting and playing while the boats pulled in. Balinese fishermen can be out in these small wooden boats for two weeks at a time, without ever coming to shore.

jimbaran bali colorful fish boats

Colors everywhere, and no foreigners in sight (other than ourselves).

indonesia bright fisherman boats, jukung

Now that’s a clever way to rig up lighting for a boat.

smiling bali people

It’s true that the Balinese are warm and welcoming. I saw smiles everywhere I turned my camera. (I shoot with a  Sony alpha 7 mirrorless.)

fishermen indonesia, fish basket

Fresh off the boat! It takes a team to bring in the catch. Love how even the baskets are brightly colored.

Balinese Fisherman

I learned that the government makes efforts to encourage sustainable fishing. These boats are prohibited from catching rare shark species, turtles and dolphins.

indonesia boats, jimbaran village

It’s hard work, being out in the ocean. For some, these water jugs are the only source of fresh water for a fortnight.

indonesian women selling fish

These women in triangle-hats were selling fish right on the sand.

indian ocean fish markets

Big fish, small fish. Surprisingly fun to photograph.

herring fish indonesia

Chef Wicaya led us inside to the covered area, or “pasar ikan” (fish market). 

southeast asia fish seafood

Locals squeezed through this small space, and bought fish to prepare at home.

fish with mouth open, bulging eyes

I saw Southeast Asian species that I didn’t recognize. This looks like a zombie fish. “The Swimming Dead,” perhaps?

women selling seafood, fish asia

My friends Cohica Travel, who write about sustainable tourism and local experiences, also blogged about our Jimbaran market visit. Here’s how they describe the scene:

“We watched Chef Wicaya walk the narrow corridors with confidence, waving hello to friends and neighbors who are picking up fish for their families (without refrigeration, many local woman visit the market each morning to pick up everything needed for the day’s meals). The sense of community and daily ritual is evident, and amidst the chaos, we’re grateful to be silent observers.”

yellowfin tuna, yellow fins

Outside, I learned that yellowfin tuna… is called “yellow finned” for a reason! 

jimbaran temple worshippers

I was happy I got to see Jimbaran market, and take part in this slice of local life. It made me better appreciate the food that we were about to make…

giant door, biggest door

But first, we had to open this gargantuan door! Bejana, the Ritz-Carlton’s Indonesian restaurant, has an entrance worthy of Game of Thrones.

traditional balinese sculptures, wood carved figures

Located on the hotel’s upper cliff, Bejana’s interiors pay tribute to Indonesian art and performance.

best indonesian restaurant, nusa dua

Everything is grand here, especially the dramatic patio views of the resort and Indian Ocean.

chef teaching bali cooking classes

Bejana is also home to the Culinary Cave, a fully equipped cooking station that lets you learn Indonesian cooking through hands-on instruction. We suited up in aprons and hats, and shook hands with our cheerful teacher, Chef Made Siriana. 

(A fun aside: In Bali, all firstborn sons are named Wayan, while the secondborns are called Made. There is a succession of four names, and you start again at Wayan for the fifth boy. This Wikipedia article desribes Balinese naming traditions in more depth.)

bali vegetarian cooking school

Chef Made could have been the star of a cooking TV show. He was marvelous at explaining ingredients and preparations, while weaving in stories of childhood, and even a joke or two!

My fellow students Cohica Travel describe the scene: “Pre-prepped ingredients sit perfectly chopped and julienned in small bowls. We recognize some of the Asian flavors we’ve grown accustomed to: ginger, lemongrass, coconut, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and red chilies. As we get started, we also learn about new herbs and spices: pandan, a green plant that is a key ingredient in many local dishes, salam leaves, similar to a large bay leaf, and kaffir lime leaves.”

bali restaurant cooking class

The chefs were happy to modify the ingredients for us — no nuts, please, or we’ll die! (Here’s the best peanut allergy poster ever made, by my pirate Naomi.)

First, we learned how to make bumbu, a curry-like spice paste that forms the base of many Indonesian dishes. We stir-fried aromatic ingredients together, then blended them into a hot and mouthwatering base. We all took turns stirring and chopping behind the stove.

learn indonesian recipes

From two versions of the bumbu paste, Chef Made showed us how to prepare a variety of homestyle dishes, including curries and tofu wrapped in banana leaves. Above, I’m learning how to pinch together a mahi-mahi fish satay (grilled on lemongrass sticks).

pandan coconut pancake recipe

Next, we moved over to the dessert station and learned how to make dadar gulung: bite-size pancakes turned green by pandan leaves, and filled with coconut and palm sugar. So, so good.

The staff gave us all copies of the recipes, so that we could re-create these meals back at home.

bejana restaurant, authentic indonesian cuisine

The photo above says it all… What a meal, and one that we cooked together! After this trip, I gained a new appreciation for Indonesian food, which is flavorful, spicy and more complex than you might imagine.

bajigur recipe, indonesia chai

My friends and I also have a new favorite drink, called bajigur. It’s a traditional Javanese hot beverage, rich with the healing flavors of ginger, coconut milk, lemongrass and pandan leaf. We’re convinced that if someone made this available in North America, it would become more popular than the Starbucks chai latte.

bajigur, javanese hot drink

I was so obsessed with this drink that the Ritz-Carlton arranged a special bajigur lesson for me! 

This is what I love about travel: no matter how much you read up about a place, you’ll never know what will inspire you until you’re actually there.

glistening fish tails, fins

Food is such a fantastic window into local culture, do you agree?

dog riding on scooter, crazy asia driving

Terima Kasih (thank you) to The Ritz-Carlton Bali for this unforgettable day! I enjoyed their Balinese cooking school so much that I’m going to do more experiences like this, wherever I go.

I leave you with another photo of the dog riding the scooter. Bali, you’re the best.

29 Comments

  1. Posted August 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant photos and diary girl.

  2. Posted August 12, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Cooking classes are also what I like to do when I travel to new countries b

    • Posted August 16, 2015 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      I want to do more

  3. Posted August 12, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    That’s so cool you’re on German TV again! I will be watching.

    • Posted August 16, 2015 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for watching

  4. Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I will let you on off-line a I will let you on off-line. Mark

  5. Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing like a cooking class right? It looks like the chefs were fun.

    • Posted August 16, 2015 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      Will be doing another one on my next trip :)

  6. Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I suppose they were becoming enslaved minions. Seriously though. Looks fun.

  7. Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Some really top notch photos of the market.

  8. Posted August 13, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Those chef hats are on fleek

  9. Posted August 13, 2015 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Impressive! I hope you’re enjoying

  10. Posted August 13, 2015 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I dig these photos, I want that camera.

    • Posted August 16, 2015 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      Highly recommend a7

  11. Posted August 14, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Great photography.

  12. Posted August 14, 2015 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Cool!!!!! I love cooking classes

  13. Posted August 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Cute photos of the kids.

  14. Posted August 15, 2015 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Looking good. I saw your interview in Yahoo about your favorite books.

  15. Posted August 15, 2015 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Stellar.
    Check my travel blog? Joe.

  16. Posted August 15, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    You are my spirit animal. That drink looks yummy.

  17. Posted August 16, 2015 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday !!

  18. Posted August 18, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    happy birthday la carmina

  19. Posted August 20, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    feliz compleano

  20. Posted August 20, 2015 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Wow, thats awesome! Good for you!

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