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Why You Should Take a Cooking Class in Bali

I love food. I mean, I really love it. Anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I’m at my happiest when tucking into a delicious plate of lobster ravioli, a bowl of steaming ramen or fish so fresh, it was caught the same day. So it goes without saying that on a recent trip to Bali, I was most excited about getting stuck into the local cuisine. I didn’t know much about Indonesian delicacies, but a quick bit of research as I was waiting for my flight revealed juicy satay skewers cooked over hot coals, fish dumplings with peanut sauce and lightly-spiced nasi goreng – stir-fried rice with eggs, prawns and succulent meats. With my mouth watering, I boarded the plane and decided there and then to sign up to a cookery class when I touched down in Bali. Here’s what I learnt from the experience…

The set-up is key

We spent a few days relaxing in Seminyak at the start of the trip, feasting on traditional dishes which whetted my appetite for what was to come – think freshly-grilled fish, lightly-spiced chicken satay and fried duck. Our cookery experience began at a local market on the way to Ubud, where we stopped to pick up the freshest ingredients. Bags fit to burst with vegetables and spices, we soon arrived at Plataran Canggu Bali Resort & Spa, where we were warmly greeted by the hotel’s team of chefs; our teachers for the day. As we made our way to the kitchens, I was asked if I was a good cook. “I’m a bit out of practise,” I hurriedly garbled, before making my excuses about being too busy in London. One of the chefs looked at me in surprise. “But cooking is one of life’s greatest pleasures.” Feeling slightly ashamed, I inwardly vowed to make more time for it back at home, before audibly gasping – we were standing in the best alfresco kitchen I’ve ever seen. Cooking stations had been set up in the resort’s incredible gardens, and we were surrounded by vibrant flowers and lush greenery. As I donned my chef’s hat and apron, I realised gentle music was playing. The setting could not have been more relaxing; the perfect environment for creating some culinary delights.

Cooking alfresco is amazing

As I took my place at the cooking station, our chef informed us of what was on the menu; steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves, a long bean salad, chicken and tofu satay, and the best bit if your sweet tooth is as strong as mine – coconut crepes. With my mouth watering once again, I set to work chopping the shallots and green beans for the salad, while my friend prepared the sauce for the satay, slicing a concoction of vegetables – garlic, ginger, turmeric root, and chillies – and sautéing everything on the gas hob outside. I’m unsure if it was the delicious mix of flavours or the fact that we could hear the birds singing as we cooked, but it was one of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted.

Indonesian cuisine is incredible

Given that I don’t eat red meat, I’d opted to cook with the pescetarians for the day – a decision which really paid off. Next up was steamed fish wrapped in a banana leaf; I was amazed to discover the ingredients were so simple. After stressing how important it is to taste your food throughout every process of your dish, the chefs expertly showed us how to arrange the fish parcel on the edge of the leaf, before rolling and securing the ends with a cocktail stick. I have to admit my presentation skills took a few attempts before resembling anything like the expert’s, but it tasted incredible – the combination of shallots, coconut milk, tomatoes, and herbs and spices mixed with the fish to create flavours I knew I’d have to recreate at home.

The best bit…

While I thoroughly enjoyed my alfresco cookery lesson, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t most looking forward to eating it all. But before we were let loose on the delicious spread, there was just enough time to whip up something for dessert. “My favourite course,” said our chef with a huge grin, and I had to agree as we mixed grated coconut with sugar and water, and simmered the mouth-watering mixture over the heat. Admittedly, I probably tasted this concoction more than strictly necessary while it was cooking – it was just too good to resist. Next, we prepared some crepes to wrap that delectable filling inside, and I desperately resisted the urge to eat one before my main course.

Now for the best bit – to taste all of our creations. We took a shaded seat at the hotel’s restaurant and loaded up our plates, before tucking into our very own feast. After polishing off every last succulent bite, we each received a certificate for our efforts, as well as recipes for all of the dishes. With Indonesian cuisine firmly established as my new favourite, I couldn’t wait to re-create everything at home – though I have to admit, I really miss that alfresco kitchen.

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Written by Tessa Watkins

Formerly a local news editor and reporter covering court cases and crime stories, I’m obsessed with all things travel. Often found exploring a new city and seeking out the world’s best beaches, there are a plethora of destinations I remain desperate to discover. Tweet me @tess1977