Paon Bali Cooking Class
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Learning to Cook, the Balinese Way
Anytime I visit a new place, I find my way to an open-air market in the morning. Ubud, Bali was no exception. I had only one day there (a decision I immensely regret), so I booked a cooking class that started out with a morning tour of the market with Wayan, my teacher's husband. I learned about Balinese men's and women's knives, and about their "blenders," which are actually huge mortar and pestles. But most importantly we got to taste the mangosteen: a fruit that looks like garlic on the inside, but is juicy and sweet, and like a mix of different fruit that I can't quite put my finger on. After I devoted an appropriate amount of time to revering the mangosteen, I let Wayan take us to the rice paddies, where how much rice the Balinese eat and how they grow it. He then took us to his house, where he and his wife, Puspa, taught us about Balinese homes and family life before we started cooking in a huge open space overlooking Ubud's natural grandeur. We made eight dishes, including chicken grilled on bamboo sticks; tune, tomato, and basil steamed in banana leaves; and the famous gado-gado. I ate until I started hoping for a nap and then I had a delicious banana dessert. Now, this comes from a woman who has never liked bananas, even when she was a baby. It felt like Balinese Thanksgiving.
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