You probably know all about satay.
It’s little slices of meat (usually chicken, lamb or beef), marinated in something suitably exotic and spicy, before being threaded onto a skewer and then grilled. It’s served with a peanut sauce that has just the right amount of chilli added.
I remember clearly when I first came across satay sticks. It was year 9 and I was taking Asian Social Studies at Bombala High School- a little town just north of the Victorian border. With a population of around 2000 people, and it being 1980s Australia, words like satay and Indonesia were, well, foreign. The satays back then would have been made with watered down peanut butter. We certainly didn’t have access to the ingredients that we do today.
But our teacher was from the city and she had Travelled (or at least dreamed of Travelling- before she followed her husband to our little school)…and I was hooked. So much so that when we moved schools just 6 months later, rather than taking the option of changing subjects, I chose to continue Asian Studies by correspondence for the next 18 months. I continue to be fascinated by all things South East Asian.
The satay we prepared at Bumi Bali cooking school was very different to those I know from Malaysia or Singapore. These ones- Bali Sate Lilit- are minced spiced meat which looks like it has been squashed onto a lemongrass stalk.
Appearances are, however, very often deceiving. The ball of spiced (in this case) chicken is wound around the stalk…and trust me, it isn’t nearly as easy as it looks!
Most Balinese foods build from a flavour base called Bumbu Bali. This basic spice paste is a flavourful mix of shallots, garlic, chillis, galangal, turmeric, coriander seeds, candlenuts, dried shrimp paste, peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, sesame seed and coconut (or vegetable) oil. Phew.
This paste is used simply in meat dishes (25g paste to 100g meat), or less simply in curries, the above-mentioned sate, and salads.
We used it in everything we prepared at Bumi Bali:
Sayur Urab- a flavourful salad made from long green beans, cabbage, carrots, grated coconut (check out the photo of me grating), lime, chillis and more shallots.
Tuna Sambal Matah- grilled tuna with a raw sambal. Sambal means “hot sauce”, so you can use your imagination. Suffice to say, the sambal is as ubiquitous to Balinese food as Bintang beer is in an Aussie’s hand beside a Balinese pool.
Tempe Manis- a spicy vegetarian dish using deep fried tempeh, or fermented soy bean paste. Tempe is similar to tofu, in that it takes on the flavour of whatever it is cooked with. Same, same…but different.
Opor Ayam- a Balinese chicken and potato curry that was embarrassingly easy to prepare.
Sambal Udang- prawns cooked in Bumbu Bali and coconut milk.
To be honest, by the time we got to the chicken and prawns, we were all so full that we could scarcely manage a taste, but heroically, we did. And even found room for a black rice, coconut pudding. Desserts, it seems, go into a different part of the tummy.
Bumi Bali is not one of the most fashionable cooking schools in Bali. The class isn’t taught by any world famous chef in the surrounds of an awarded restaurant or a 5 star hotel. Instead, the class is taught by a Balinese local- and the experience is honest, educational, and above all, enjoyable.
In short, Bumi Bali is the best 25,000RPI I have spent in some time- and the yummiest 5 hours in I can’t remember when.
My Rating (for what it’s worth):
This is not a class where everyone will make an entire dish. With just one bench, the emphasis is on participation in the process rather than individual execution of the recipe. Each of us were called up to do, what our teacher called, “jobs”. That’s ok. All ingredients are pre-chopped- which suits those who aren’t comfortable with a knife. I like to get my hands a little dirtier, so for that reason would give it a 6.
The recipes are incredibly tasty, but I did have to make a lot of notes in the process as in some cases the ingredient list and method was incomplete. I tend to regard recipes much like the Balinese regard median lines- on an indication only basis- but for others, this could be frustrating. For this reason, I would rate the recipes a 6. Take the notes and you will have no problems replicating at home.
Value For Money:
This class is amazing value. 9
The premises are open and clean, and like an oasis from the Ubud humidity outside. Tranquility rating 7.
Our teacher spoke English well and provided great instruction on the ingredients used- many of which were unfamiliar to the Europeans around the table. We use most of these at home, but I suspect we may be the exception. The experience of touching and tasting these was invaluable and I was particularly interested in hearing about the traditional medicinal qualities of the spices. 8
From the market visit to the eating, this class represents great value and great fun. We had a great bunch of people around the table with us- and that also makes a big difference. I’d rate it a 7 overall.