Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September 11, 2008 - Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

We've been enjoying the food in Indonesia so much that we were keen to take a cooking class. We wanted to learn how to work with some of the ingredients that we hadn't cooked with before - like fish paste, torch ginger, turmeric, black sticky rice and palm sugar. We signed up for the Cafe Wayan Cooking Class, which is held in a pavilion set in the gardens of the Laka Leke Restaurant. During our morning class we would prepare four dishes and a desert, which we would enjoy for lunch.
When we arrived, we were all kitted out with batik aprons and sharp knives. There were four chefs teaching the six students in the class. The class started with an introduction to the ingredients we would be using. I was surprised to learn that the local green chilies were hotter than the red chilies. As the teacher held up the various chilies, he asked us which level of spice we would like, all the while encouraging us towards the hotter end of the spectrum. Sten would have been happy with the green chilies, but luckily (for me), Suzy and two of the other students stated their preference for the least spicy chilies. Even so, several of the final dishes were very hot.
We all gathered around the stove and watched as Metri, the head chef, prepared a black rice pudding that would be served with lashings of coconut milk as our desert. Then the six of us were introduced to our knives. After watching me slice garlic for chicken salad, the teacher came over to demonstrate a different method of slicing. My feathers got a little ruffled, as I think of myself as having pretty good knife skills, but I reminded myself that I was here to learn, and gamely spread oil on the sides of my fingers holding down the garlic so that the knife could slide along them. In addition to the black sticky rice pudding and chicken salad, the six of us chopped the ingredients for fried rice (Suzy's favorite Indonesian dish), chicken curry and crispy prawns with sweet and sour sauce.
While we were chopping away, Sten wandered off to investigate what Metri was doing at the grill. While the other chefs were teaching us, she was preparing a little treat for her own lunch - a delectable limey, gingery, fish sate. Sten's enthusiasm for all things grilled convinced her to offer us a taste. It was so delicious. The flavors were perfectly balanced.

At the end of our class we sat down for lunch. The waiter brought us each an iced drink with a piece of lemongrass sticking out of it that was so good that we started trying to suss out its ingredients. In addition to lemongrass, we could see that it contained a cinnamon stick. We could taste lemon and honey, but we weren't certain what the fiberous white chunks at the bottom of the glass were. So Sten slurped his down and dumped the remaining ice and solids on a plate. By this time, we'd attracted the waiter's attention, who came over to confirm that the white stuff was ginger. We pumped him for the rest of the recipe. Here it is.
In a glass put:
  • 1 lemongrass stick - crush the end
  • 2-3 thumb sized pieces of ginger - crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Pour in a few ounces of hot water and steep.
Then add:
  • juice of one lemon
  • honey to taste
  • cold water
  • ice
This refreshing concoction can also be served hot. We think that it would be delicious with rum, whether served hot or cold. If served cold with rum, I'd substitute sparkling water for the still cold water, and I'd call it a Bali Bliss.

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