I enjoyed a private cooking class in Budapest and a small group cooking class in Thailand on previous trips, so when Eric found a few options in Bali, I knew I had to give it a try. For anyone considering a cooking class in a foreign country, do it! Especially if there is a market tour option. I have learned so much valuable information from having a guide walk me through the stalls and teach me what items are used for what dishes and desired flavors.
In Ubud I was picked up in the lobby. Not for the first time on this trip, the driver bee-lined for the Asian woman sitting one couch over asking, “Ms. Ganko?” There are quite a few Japanese tourists on Bali so many locals did not expect an American white girl when they saw my last name :) To his surprise, I got up and we were on our way.
Our car stopped to pick up two Australian women from a nearby resort, and after a quick stop at the ATM we continued on to meet up with our entire group at a local outdoor market. We had the max number of people for this class at ten, so it was a bit crowded at times but I quickly made my way to the front of the pack so I could hear the detailed descriptions. Many of the ingredients I was familiar with but I had no idea that the Balinese cook with three types of ginger: plain, galangal and aromatic. Add tumeric and you have the four spices that add flavor to many Bali dishes.
Our guide for this part, ‘Sunday,’ (above, on right) was very knowledgeable with perfect English, so he was very easy to follow and understand.
The market was several kilometers out of Ubud city so it felt very rural (at least for Bali) and although we arrived fairly late in the morning at 9am (most people shop as early as 5) there were still a few stalls open and sellers were very friendly and eager to pose for photos. We even saw an un-manned stall with cash just sitting on the counter so it definitely seemed like a close-knit community gathering place rather than a tourist trap.
Eager to get cooking, we all piled into the waiting cars (after a water and cool towel break) and headed for the family compound. The word ‘lobong’ means ‘below’ and you can certainly see where the name comes from as you descend several meters from the street level into the home. The class started with either tea or coffee and pisang goreng (fried banana drizzled with palm sugar syrup).
Like other cooking classes I have taken, there was a large focus on the culture, customs and techniques of the local people and place. However, with so many people it was not possible to complete one dish from start to finish. We all took turns stirring or smashing or chopping but I would have liked more hands-on cooking time. The instructor always encouraged us to ask questions when we wanted clarification (which I did) and he did a great job of explaining the steps and processes along the way.
At the end of the cooking time the matriarch of the family prepared a tray of offerings for the gods and we were invited to witness the prayer process. To be honest, it felt a little intrusive to be taking photos of this part but she seemed used to it and not bothered by the attention at all.
We sat down to a communal meal table and the staff had prepared plates with a little bit of everything for us. We were offered the choice of water, soda or beer and I choose a nice cool Bintang to accompany my meal.
my plate of yummy food that I helped prepare
Our going away bag included a printed recipe book and a 100ml bottle of their homemade coconut oil, a nice parting gift. We said our goodbyes and were whisked off back to our hotels. In all about seven hours from start to finish for about $36. I think this family does a great job of mixing education and entertainment and it was a delightful way to spend a day in Ubud.