I’ve been getting up at 5:30 every morning to watch the sun rise over the water. As the gray sky brightens with orange, yellow, blue, pink, and gold small little fishing boats head out to the horizon. This morning I am going with them to try my hand at fishing.
It turns out that if you are planning a meal around the fact that you are going fishing, it would be helpful to actually catch some fish. The fish did not get that memo on the morning I went out so I returned empty handed and slightly sunburned and salt crusted. I loved being out on the water, especially when our narrow little boat was cruising through the waves and passing dolphins. I have to say that the fishing itself was pretty boring. We stuck some squid on a hook and tossed a hand line down into the water and waited. And waited. And moved to try again. And waited some more. The fisherman taking me around felt so bad and kept cursing the lazy fish but I tried to assure him that I really wasn’t bent out of shape about our fish-less morning.
Luckily, I was not the first hapless tourist to come to class without a morning catch. Chef Penny picked up some fresh mackerel from the market that morning, where apparently they were quite plentiful. I guess the other fishermen are more skilled than I.
We started by making our fish dish, sate kablet, or a grilled sate of fish cubes wrapped in minced fish. We marinated the cubes in shrimp paste and chilies and mixed bumbu spices in with the minced fish, making for a very flavorful combination for the dense, steak-like fish.
Next was be celeng base manis, a slow cooked braised pork dish seasoned with cinnamon and star anise. Apparently this dish is more Indonesian than Balinese and you can taste a different richness in the spiced flavor of the dark sauce than most of the lighter, yellow or red Balinese sauces.
We also made tumis jepang, or stir fried choko. I had never heard of choko before – it is a green knobby fruit that looks like a large guava and has a similar crunchy and dense texture but without the sweetness. We stir fried it with vegetables, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce, and tamarind, giving the dish a sweet, salty, and sour combination of flavors that went well with the crunchy texture of the choko.
Nasi goreng, or fried rice, is a Balinese and Indonesian classic and it can be made with whatever vegetables you have around the house and whatever type of rice suites your fancy. It is flavored with a combination of soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, sesame oil, and the bumbu spice mixture and topped off with slices of fried egg. Although it is not a “wow” dish like some of the others, it is a tasty and quick staple that is easy to make.
Dessert was sumping tabu, a steamed banana leaf parcel filled with shredded pumpkin and coconut. We thickened the combination with a little bit of rice flour to help it stick together before wrapping up our banana leaves. The first bite is a pleasant surprise of sweet and salty and it is actually a pretty healthy dessert, in addition to being delicious.
I really enjoyed the hands-on nature of the classes at Bali Asli and appreciated having a reason to head to the less developed eastern coast of the island. I would definitely recommend making a special trip to this unique cooking school.
Next stop: Malaysia. Very excited to explore another set of cuisines!