Review: Bali Asli Fishing and Cooking Class experience

This is the second cooking class experience that I have done through Bali Asli, which is based up in the hills of East Bali overlooking Mt Agung.

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The Jungkung, traditional Balinese fishing boat, that took us out for our fishing experience.

This time we chose the Fishing Experience package that combines a morning boat trip departing at 8am from White Sand Beach, near Jasri village and out into the surrounding bay. We were picked up from Turtle Bay Hideaway and driven right down to White Sand beach where a local fisherman was waiting for us with his Jungkung(traditional Balinese outrigger fishing boat). We were pushed out into the water by a number of other fisherman and soon were speeding along to our first fishing spot as the sun climbed higher into the sky over the glistening waters.

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Great views out to island outcrops and back to the shore in the waters off Jasri, East Bali

We were given substantial hand reels and bait to use in our endeavours to catch fish, but despite trying a number of spots we only managed to catch one small fish which we threw back. The currents were really strong, swirling the waters in the bay, which our local expert told us was “no good” for fishing. The local fishermen go out at 5am – early bird …and all that!

The boat trip itself was really enjoyable as we got great views back to the shore and close up to some of the island outcrops. Lovely way to start the day.

Afterwards we were driven up through some of the towns of East Bali, like Amlapura, with beautiful gardens and spotless streets winding up the hills to the stunning location of Bali Asli, which is owned and run by Australian expat Penelope Williams.

There we were greeted with a cooling drink and morning tea goodies including Sumping (steamed coconut custard cakes with ripe jackfruit) and Nangke Goreng (battered, fried jackfruit fritters) – both delicious. This was to get our energy up for the pounding of the Bumbu Bali (spice paste), mouldings of chicken satays, wrapping of fish and tofu in banana leaves, mixing of salad and stir frying of Nasi Goreng which was to come!

Dewa, one of the senior chefs at Bali Asli restaurant, first sat us down and explained the various herbs and spices we would be using, before taking us on a short tour of the garden where much of the restaurants herbs and vegetables are grown.

We were then allocated our own work area and guided through the making of each dish with very helpful tips and a few tricks e.g how to make little banana boats and “money bags” for grilling of the fish and steaming of the tofu.

The cooking class itself goes for about 2 hours but the time flies and we were very pleased with ourselves when we sat down to eat all the delicious dishes we had cooked around 1pm.

Whilst I had done the same menu when I last visited Bali Asli, I still learnt a lot this time again, and as there were only 2 of us in the class this time we received much more personal attention.

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Pesah Be Pasih – spiced fish fillet in banana leaf parcel

The cooking experiences at Bali Asli are just that – total experiences, combining a great insight into Balinese tradition and culture with excellent advice, guidance through the step by step process for each dish, and the opportunity for personal hands-on practice, rather than just watching an instructor making everything.

On both occasions that I have participated I have thoroughly enjoyed the “immersion” experience (See review of Balinese Village Cooking Class Experience)and the beautiful drive up and back from Bali Asli with its stunning views across the green valleys and ricefields to Mt Agung.

For more information, visit: http://www.baliasli.com.au

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Stunning views from Bali Asli, Karangasem, East Bali to Mt Agung

Spice Temple Cooking Class – Sydney Seafood School

On a cold and drizzly Monday night in Sydney I ventured down to the Sydney Fish Markets for a cooking class at their Seafood Cooking School. They offer a big variety of courses often featuring well known Chefs and I’d booked in to the class by Head Chef Andy Evans from the Neil Perry restaurant, Spice Temple. Both Andy Evans and Neil Perry have travelled extensively in regional China, and Spice Temple features their especially created recipes featuring regional Chinese cooking with a  spicy kick!

The amphitheatre at the Seafood School was full of enthusiastic foodies and the class started with Andy outlining the order of proceedings and the menu. We were each given a booklet with the 3 recipes we would be making: Tuna with Blackened Chilli Dressing, Prawn and Peanut Relish and Spanner Crab Omelette with Oyster Sauce.

The high tech set-up in the amphitheatre which has video screens displaying what is happening on the kitchen bench and stove makes it easy to watch the cooking demonstrations. It’s almost like watching a cooking show on TV live, with the knowledge in the back of your mind that it will be your turn soon.

Chef Andy Evans demonstrating recipes T Sydney Seafood School
Chef Andy Evans demonstrating recipes at Sydney Seafood School

During the demonstration, Andy gave us handy tips and hints which were helpful. For example he told us you should always use a wet knife when slicing raw fish like the tuna for the sashimi, how to properly clean coriander root and the circular motion to use when pounding the peanuts to crush them without making them too oily….

Another great technique he showed us was how to “crack” coconut cream split the oil from the “cream” and use that to fry the onion and spices for the Prawn and Peanut relish recipe.

The omelette that he made is a real show stopper and is absolutely delicious whilst being quick and easy to make. It does require frying in a large amount of hot oil and then discarding the oil before rolling the omelette and ingredients into a log shape. The resulting makes for a stunning buffet addition or shared main course dish. With only a few ingredients like egg, crabmeat, garlic chives, bean sprouts, oyster sauce and vegetable oil needed it is also relatively affordable dinner party menu item, whilst being REALLY impressive.

At the end of the demonstration Andy laid out the finished dishes for us students to file past and understand the benchmark for our attempts!

Tuna Sashimi with blackened chilli dressing
Tuna Sashimi with blackened chilli dressing
Prawn and peanut relish seved with cos lettuce "cups"
Prawn and peanut relish seved with cos lettuce “cups”
Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce
Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce

We split up into groups of five or six and moved into the cooking school’s first class kitchen set up. Each group had our own kitchen bench, gas stove, fridge fully stocked with all the ingredients we needed. My group was exemplary at team work and we quickly split up the responsibilities amongst us, helping each other as needed to keep a cracking pace as we went. You can actually reserve a bench you have a group of five or six when you book in to the class if you are going with a bunch of friends.

I was allocated the omelette to make and I can tell you I was nervous about what the outcome of the omelette rolling would be! Would mine end up as a mess of broken egg and crab instead of the beautiful log created by Andy. But with some the help of some timely tips while I was making the recipe from Cooking School assistant chefs I managed to turn out a result that was pretty damn close to the original! As you can see below, I do need to brush up on my oyster sauce pouring technique though – not quite as symmetrical as Andy’s!  (I have made the omelette one already at home but didn’t have oyster sauce so replaced it with kecap manis which was just as delicious)

My attempt at the Spanner crab omelette.
My attempt at the Spanner crab omelette.

After our cooking antics, we all moved to the dining area where we got to enjoy the results of our efforts and swop foodie stories with a bottle of complimentary wine.

The entire experience was fun and educational. The course was very professionally run and Andy Evans was an excellent instructor. He also stayed throughout the class visiting each bench in the kitchen and giving more hands on tips and assistance. I was given the course as a birthday present and would highly recommend it as a great gift for your foodie friends and an excellent way to learn about Australian seafood cooking in the great atmosphere of the Sydney Fish Markets if you are visiting Sydney.

Cooking fun at Sydney Seafood School
Cooking fun at Sydney Seafood School

Balinese Village Cooking adventure

Penny Williams at Bali Asli
Penny Williams at Bali Asli

Balinese coconut farmer
Balinese coconut farmer

One of of the best cooking class experiences I’ve ever done was at at Bali Asli in East Bali. Class led by Australian owner Penny Williams. We began with a 2 hour trek into the village of Pangi with stunning views over the rice fields, the ocean and volcanoes. Stopped for Balinese coffee with Pak Made and family bYefore seeing coconuts being harvested and learning about the essential herbs and spices that make Balinese food so fragrant and unique.

We then embarked on a 2 hour cooking class making our own bumbu Bali spice paste, sate lembat be siap (chicken lemongrass skewers), Pesan be pasih (spiced fish in banana leaf), fern tip salad and Nasi goreng. As you can I imagine we were salivatinG by the time lunch was ready and the food was well worth the effort and wait.

Penny is a great guide and teacher providing a truly immersive experience. Highly recommend a visit next time you’re in Bali Bali Asli is about a 2 hour drive from Ubud which takes you through beautiful coastal and mountain villages. More information can be found at http://www.baliasli.com.au