Cooking A Balinese Feast

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Tamar Genger MA, RD
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balinese meal

On my recent vacation in Bali, I relaxed, shopped, went to the spa, made jewelry and learned to cook.

The Caraway Cooking Class teaches all kinds of cooking classes and is located near Nusa Dua in Bali.  That is where I learned to make my own spring rolls, use a mortar and pestle, wrap food in a banana leaf and make spicy sambal.

After the vegetarian cooking class I had the chance to meet up with Chef Kardino Zulhaidi, the head chef at the Conrad in Bali.  He has traveled the world, but recently came back to his birthplace, Bali.  The chef explained that the cuisine throughout Indonesia varies by the region and Balinese food stands on its own.  While Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng, fried noodles and rice, are traditional Indonesian dishes, they are not really Balinese.  He said that Bali cuisines is more fresh, lighter food.

fresh coconut

Is it just me or is it really only a vacation when you get to drink out of a fresh coconut?  In Bali they don't really use coconut milk to cook with, but they do enjoy drinking and eating them fresh.

Through my research I discovered that almost every Balinese recipe calls for shrimp paste.  There is really no substitute so for my kosher versions I just left it out.  I also adapted some of the ingredients to things I could easily  find in the U.S., for example we don't have three kinds of ginger readily available anywhere by me and while I was able to get my hands on some Keffir lime leaves thanks to a friend, they are not easy to come by.  Taking into account these limitations, I tried all these recipes at home and still think they are flavorful and I highly recommend them.

chicken sate lilit

I asked the chef to share some of his favorite most quintessential Balinese recipes.  I passed on the suckling pig, I didn't think that was adaptable, but these kebabs grilled on lemon grass stalks sounded amazing.  He recommended them using ground chicken or even fish.  The lemon grass sure imparts flavor, but if you can't find them any skewers will do.  The real trick in all these recipes is making the spice paste.  Get my recipe for Sate Lilit.

Chicken-Betutu

The other recipe the chef shared was for Chicken Betutu.  He says this dish is often made for special occasions with duck, but chicken can be used too, which is what I made.  I happen to get lucky and find banana leaves at a local ethnic market to wrap the chicken in, but you can always use parchment paper.  The wrapping and baking gave the chicken an almost smoked like flavor, that along with the amazing spice blend was a chicken to remember.  You can probably make wrapped individual chicken pieces too.

The next set of recipes I learned in the vegetarian cooking class, I even got a cute little video to help me remember and you learn how to make your own spring roll wrappers. I didn't share all the recipes, because some are hard to replicate here.

After you watch, get the full recipe for Spring Rolls here.

karedock salad

This salad was actually made with shaved raw eggplant, cabbage, bean sprouts and a peanut paste for the dressing.  They call it Karedok, get the recipe.

I also learned to make a few sambal dips, spicy sauces, but the only one I have perfected is the spicy sambal ketchup.  I am working not he others and will share more as I have them.