Saturday, August 1, 2015

Recommended Activity in Bali, Indonesia: Cooking Class at Paon Cooking School

 First posted in January 2012

Bali is truly my favorite destination in Southeast Asia. I fell in love with it during my first visit with one of my dearest friends, Badette (now Chef Bernardita at W Hotel in San Francisco), and I have been visiting every couple of years since. If you are ready (and willing), Bali will open up your life to magic and authenticity. 

One of the best things I ever did during one of my visits was to take up a cooking class at Paon Cooking School led by Puspa.

Although this class was popular to the tourists, it allowed me to escape the tourist route since the class was held at the home of Puspa and her husband Nyoman, in a quiet village just a few minutes outside of Ubud’s commercial area.

The tour appropriately began at the market where Puspa met us and introduced us to local produce and ingredients.

Ubud Market

Puspa holding up a pack of vanilla pods

Puspa showing us large cinnamon sticks
Nyoman met our group at a farm where he gave us an introduction to village life in Bali. In Bali, every villager is given a patch of land to farm, but farming, as an activity, was done communally. During my visit, it was harvest season and some of the rice stalks were freshly reaped. Ducks roamed freely, pecking at stray grains.

We were driven to Nyoman and Puspa's home where the former gave us a brief introduction into how they lived, peppering his talk with funny anecdotes about their family. He explained that Balinese families always stayed in a multi-level compound with several structures. The highest level was reserved for the family temple because it symbolized the place of the gods and their ancestors. The middle level was for the parents and grandparents. At this level, Nyoman and Puspa had an open-walled pavilion they called the meeting room where the family would gather to discuss important matters and to resolve issues. Finally, there’s the lowest tier, where the children’s room and the kitchen were located. If the family had animals, they were are also kept at the lowest tier.

After Nyoman's talk, he led us to the kitchen where Puspa was waiting with all the ingredients we will be using beautifully laid out on the table
Puspa thoroughly described every ingredient and the proper way to cook them

Soon enough, we started peeling, chopping, pounding. Then the wok and pots were heated and we began tossing and stirring, and all sorts of delicious aroma wafted from the kitchen. I had my first taste of tempeh, which had me wondering where I could find it in the Philippines.

Puspa's food is one of the best I have ever tasted in Bali. So I would enjoin everyone to enroll in her cooking class, if only so you could eat!

Here's a Tempe Me Goreng recipe you can try at home.

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