During a two-week stay in Bali, one of my most memorable experiences was taking a hands-on cooking class in Ubud. These three hours gave me the chance to better understand an important piece of the culture of the island, get to know some locals and, of course, eat some amazing food.
On my first full day in town, I woke up, enjoyed a bit of a lazy morning, and took the walk down to Central Ubud and was greeted by the friendly staff at Cafe Wayan. What looked similar to many of the Warung when I first walked up turned into an expansive restaurant with its own garden and cooking school at the back.
Note: Thank you to Cafe Wayan for hosting me as their guest for this cooking class in Bali. As always all opinions remain my own.
Get To Know The Ingredients
The first portion of the cooking class in Bali was taking a tour of the garden and getting to see the ingredients we’d be using. Every spice and produce we used were grown right on the property. While few of the ingredients were things I hadn’t come across I was surprised to see many spices I’ve only known as brown powders back where they began as green leaves on plants. Seeing the freshness of all these seasonings gave me an understanding of the food I’d been eating over the past week, part of what makes the flavor of Balinese food so bright and unique.
Understand What’s Going On In The Kitchen
When I first got to Bali I had a few times where I got to a meal expecting it to take a short time before having to go to my next thing, to then find out that it would take twice as long as I’d expected. I understood this had much more to do with my expectations than anything else and had started to adjust, but it wasn’t until I got my hands in the kitchen that I understood why.
Unlike, most American restaurants where some things are prepped ahead or even just the spices are coming out of jars, in Bali they are doing everything from scratch for each meal. They take the turmeric root and other spices and grind them for each and every dish.
They also stand in front of the grill stoking the flame as your food wrapped in a banana leaf cooks all the way through. There is a patience and integrity to how they cook the food that I came to better understand. Getting to see what was going on in the kitchen gave me an appreciation for all the meals I ate during the rest of my trip on the island.
Get You Hands A Little Dirty
I love to cook so getting my hands right into the process was a blast. While there were some things that I often did in my own cooking there were others, like grounding spices or threading the ground mixture onto the Satay skewers that made me laugh as I gave it a try.
While the chef helped me along in the process I really did make everything from start to finish. Unlike my sister, I can’t pick apart a recipe by tasting the food so getting to learn the actually spices and techniques that were going into the dishes increased my understanding of the cuisine. We made five different dishes during the cooking class in Bali and now I have those recipes to keep.
Trying Something New
I was able to pick which of the lesson’s I wanted to take at Cafe Wayan and specifically picked the one with the Chicken Satay since I quickly became obsessed with it. With that, there are other things I hadn’t tried before on the menu and got to learn more about.
Throughout the class, you got to try the dishes you were creating and at the very end you got a feast of all that you’d made. Being able to compare the different dishes, how they were made and how much you enjoyed the different pieces also helped me better explore the cuisine for the rest of the time on the island. It was a crash course in Balinese food, both learning how it was made but also helping me be a more experienced and adventurous eater.
Taking A Cooking Class in Bali at Cafe Wayan
Right in central Ubud you’ll find Cafe Wayan, the perfect spot to take a bite but even more importantly a cooking class. They offer two classes a day, one at 10:00 am and one a 4:00 pm. Classes run about two hours and cost about $25 per person. Since you won’t need to eat for hours afterward, the cost is a steal. They offer seven different lessons for your group to choose from so you can even take more than one course. I wish I had time to try around during my stay.
Take Back A Little Bit of Bali With You
My cooking class in Bali with Cafe Wayan was one of my most memorable experience on the island. I love to eat, but I also love to cook and learn more about cuisines. For me, the intense flavor of the Balinese dishes made it one of my favorites, and I now have enough knowledge, and a nice recipe book to at least attempt to recreate it.
While we were cooking Chef Wayan made notes in the book, including tips on where I could find ingredients or easy substitutes I could use.
The class at Cafe Wayan helped me solidify my love for Balinese food, get to better know the people through their cuisines and let me take a little bit of that back home with me.
Have you tried a cooking class while traveling? If so where was it? Leave a comment below.