Smile Politely

Bali Spring Break: Day 7

After tasting all the wonderful flavors of Indonesian food, we couldn’t possibly leave Bali without taking a cooking class. Several restaurants in Bali offer cooking classes, but we didn’t want to learn about Indonesian cuisine from a German or Aussie chef, so we chose Warung Enak (“delicious restaurant”) whose kitchen was run by Chef Rai Adnyani.

Warung Enak also had a great logo and a fun web site, so we thought that they would be a class act — and we were right. As it turned out, Chef Rai was not only Indonesian, she was an amazingly creative chef — and her sparkling stainless steel kitchen was an all-woman operation.

Our cooking day started at 7 a.m. when Chef Rai picked us up at out hotel. Our first stop was the market to pick up a few last minute ingredients. We got the insider’s market tour and discovered all kinds of fruits and vegetables we didn’t know about.


By 8 a.m., we were at her restaurant having coffee and a snack. During coffee, Chef Rai went over the seven recipes we would be making for the day and then invited us into her kitchen. For the next three hours, Chef Rai taught us all the secrets of Indonesian cooking. For each dish, we were presented with a tray of all the ingredients — chopped, sliced and diced and ready for cooking. Great care was taken in the explanation of the flavor principle of each ingredient as well as possible substitutions. So under Chef Rai’s supervision, we sauteed, poached, fried and baked a four-course gourmet meal.

We got to taste every dish as soon as it was done, and we were even allowed to adjust the seasoning to our own liking. One mistake I kept making was touching the food with my left hand. In Indonesia, one uses only the right hand (regardless of whether you are right-handed or not) because the left hand is used for toilet paper.

Once the cooking lesson was finished, we got to sit down in the dining room as the entire meal was served to us with all the professional touches that only a master chef can achieve. It may seem silly to pay $37 a head to cook your own meal, but it was well-worth it because now we can recreate these dishes whenever we want at home. So look for our adaptations of Chef Rai’s recipes in future columns.

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