Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Fri July 24 2015

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  • A Cruising Couple | July 24, 2015 3:00 AM ET

    Experiencing The Flavors of Bali

    Experiencing The Flavors of Bali

    Bali is often referred to as “the Island of the gods,” and it’s a fitting name for this long-time favorite destination. Between the mesmerizing temples, verdant rice terraces and beautiful beaches, it’s easy to see how a short visit to Bali can transform into a long-term getaway. Our own four weeks in Bali were filled with magical moments, but one of the highlights was easily a personal cooking class in the home of a local family in Ubud.

    Our hosts were Made and Rinin, a lovely couple who had recently opened up a few quaint guesthouses just outside the city center of Ubud. Wanting to be close to the action of the city but far away from other tourists, a stay with Made and Rinin was just what we were looking for. Each morning we were greeted by the grandmother refreshing the flowers set out on offer to the gods; each evening a stunning sunset swept across the expansive rice terraces. It was the romantic and idyllic setting we had always imagined Bali would be.

    One evening our hosts asked if we would be interested in joining them in an impromptu cooking class. Of course, our answer was a resounding yes! We awoke with the sunrise and headed off to the central market to purchase the necessities for our cooking lesson. Bundles of fresh tuna, spiky jackfruit, and ruby red tomatoes were just a few of the recognizable purchases. We’ve been to our fair share of overwhelming markets, yet the noises and smells are always a bit of sensory overload. The Ubud market was certainly no different.

    Fruit market, Ubud

    Photo by lazyllama via Flickr

    With our ingredients finally ready, it was time to start preparing. We took our cross-legged seats upon bamboo mats on the ground, patiently waiting until further instructions were given. Our menu for the day would include three soups—chicken, jackfruit and cucumber. Fried tuna, tempeh, and sardines steamed in banana leaves would constitute the main meal. And a sticky rice dowsed in brown sugar and coconut would serve as desert. It was certainly quite the feast for only a few people, but one we could not wait to dive into.

    But before we could begin any of the cooking, it was necessary to prepare the one essential ingredient: base gede. This colorful and aromatic spice is the base of all of Made and Rinin’s recipes, and a special attribute to most Balinese food. Base gede is a beautiful assortment of ginger, garlic, shallots, coriander, red and green chilies, lemongrass, brown sugar, galangal and turmeric. The mosaic of ingredients are chopped and ground until a fine paste results, and then used to season everything.

    With the base gede ready, it was time to move on with the other preparations. The jackfruit was cracked open, the edible raw fruit removed. Cucumber, tomatoes and coconut were thrown into a pot. The chicken made its way into boiling water with lemongrass and, of course, the base gede. While the soups simmered, the tuna and tempeh were fried in homemade coconut oil until perfectly golden brown. The sardines were covered in our special spice, rolled in banana leaves from the garden, then set off to steam in bamboo baskets.

    Ingredients Ubud Bali Cooking

    The final key component to our meal was the rice, which had been simmering over a traditional wood fire. Our hosts insisted that rice cooked on the stove or in a rice cooker is not nearly of the same caliber as rice prepared in the traditional method.

    Finally, after the aromas had fully teased our stomachs and taste buds until we could barely wait any longer, the boiling, steaming, and frying were finished. It was dinnertime.

    Bamboo Wrapped Sardines finished

    In Balinese culture, it is typical to eat on your own so that you can thoroughly enjoy the textures and flavors without small talk bogging you down. However, after spending so much time preparing this meal, our instructors insisted that we share in the reward of our efforts together.

    As we were seated upon the ground, forgoing utensils to shovel the food into our mouths with our hands, we all eagerly agreed that the effort was worth the delightful and tasty meal in front of us. Though the base gede went into everything we cooked, each dish tasted surprisingly unique, a brilliant balance of spicy, salty and nutty.

    I’ve yet to try my own hand at recreating any of the Balinese dishes we made that day. I’m confident it just won’t be the same without our lovely hosts and the beautiful surroundings. However I am quite confident that should we return to Bali, a meal with Made and Rinin will be the first item on our to-do list. 

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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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