It seems that when I said I had a ’minor case of writer’s block’, I lied. I apparently had a MAJOR case of writers block, hence the near 2 months it’s taken me to pull this together. After arriving home from 5 beautiful, long weeks in Southeast Asia I was in shock. The realization that my warm and sunny vacation was over hit me like a cold slap in the face. That, in fact, was just the cold winter air, but you get what I’m saying. So there I was, back to cold air, back to grey skies, and back to rain.
And so it is, after 7 weeks, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that my days of soaking up the sun and gorging on noodles are over. And now I can reminisce, so here it is…
I knew before leaving that I wanted to take two cooking courses while away: one in Bali and one in Thailand. I also knew that I wanted a chance to see their local markets to get a glimpse of the vegetables, roots, and spices they commonly cook with. These were my ‘food objectives’, along with eating copious amounts of noodles – which of course I did:
Objective 1 // Balinese Cooking Course
Objective 2 // Thai Cooking Couse
Objective 3 // Local Market – Go!
Not having travelled in SE Asia before, these seemed like lofty goals – I was wrong. Cooking classes, apparently, are a dime a dozen; they’re everywhere. I suppose the real trick is finding the good ones, the ones that teach you about the local ingredients and essential flavour combinations. The ones where you learn about their cultural relationship with food and the meaning behind their traditions. The ones that teach you local techniques and help you see food through their eyes. These, I think, are what makes a good cooking class. Plus it doesn’t hurt if they send you away with a handful of recipes in a neatly bound recipe book for you to attempt to recreate at home.
I, thankfully, was lucky. I had two very different experiences, but two very memorable and informative ones.
Course 1 // Balinese & Indonesian @ Bumi Bali Restaurant (Ubud, Bali)
I didn’t know what to expect of Balinese food prior to arriving, but once I was there I fell in love. Mie Goreng (fried noodles made with sweet soy sauce, spicy sambal, cabbage, and your choice of meat, served with prawn chips and occasionally topped with a fried egg) became a fast favourite, and while this cooking class didn’t include this dish, it did incorporate:
- Basa Gede (Basic Spice Paste)
- Sayur Urab (Mixed Vegetables)
- Opor Ayam (Chicken Curry)
- Bali Sate Lilit (Balinese Minced Meat Kebab)
- Godoh (Fried Banana)
While wandering around one afternoon we stumbled upon Pum’s. Pum Thai Restaurant is a small chain with a few locations throughout Thailand and a number of different cooking course offerings. Knowing that we wanted to learn a few new tricks in addition to the ins-and-outs of more traditional Thai dishes, this caught our eye:
Pum’s Little Shoes You choose 3 of our favourite Thai dishes to learn in this class, lasting 3 hours. Learn about essential herbs, vegetables and sauces used in Thai cooking, and walk away with a full stomach, Pum’s first recipe book and a newfound knowledge of Thai cuisine.
We were already sold, but when we heard there were over 40 recipes to choose from it was a sealed deal. We spent the remainder of that afternoon scouring their menu and Pum’s recipe books determining which 6 dishes (yes, we each got to choose 3 each) we’d be making later that week. We were likely overly strategic, not wanting to pick recipes that were in the recipe book we’d be receiving at the end of the class. But in the end we went for:
- Gai Satay (Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Dressing)
- Haw Muk Pla (Fish Cakes in Chinese Kale Cups)
- Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot & Sour Prawn Soup)
- Phad Name Prik Pow (Fried Meat in Sweet Chilli Sauce)
- Gaeng Kheo Wan Gai (Green Curry with Chicken)
- Red Curry with Chicken (translation forgotten)
In the end, I got my two courses, one in each region, and I got to see a local Indonesian market. Despite having met my goals I’m a little saddened to have not experienced a true Thai market, but I’ll get over it. All in all, an amazing adventure abroad!
Not satisfied yet? There’s more to come on our most Memorable Meals, and both the Balinese Cooking Class and Thai Cooking Class, including recipes!