Cooking class in Bali

Although I love winter, I often get strong sense of WANDERLUST around this time of year. There is a correlation, I'm sure, between the run-up to New Years Eve and a deep reflection of the passing year. Both made me realise that firstly, I wished I had a plan for New Years Eve, and secondly, I actually wanted to fly far away, preferably to a warm country. While I was assailed by these yearning thoughts, I kind of mentally beamed myself back to a Bali-based surf camp called the Balicamp and to the amazing food and the inspiring cooking classes I attended there. So I finally wrote down all those delicious Balinese recipes we cooked and ate at the camp, plus a glossary for all the spices and most frequently used ingredients in Balinese cuisine. The Balinese and Indonesians traditionally use a lot of different spices when preparing food. Here is a small glossary listing the most important spices and ingredients you will need.


Known as tingkih in Bali and kemiri in Indonesia, candlenuts are yellowish, brittle and waxy. They are used mainly as a binding agent but also impart a faint flavour to the dish.


The Balinese love chillies in their food and often use far more than some westerners would be able to handle. These are the main three types used in Balinese cooking: large chillies or tabia lombok to the Balinese. They are very mild, with nearly no bite, and are mostly used to give a dish flavour rather than spice. Small chillies, or tabia Bali, are about 2,5 cm long and give the food a great kick. They are usually chopped and bruised. Bird’s eye chillies, or tobia kerinyi are the smallest and also the most potent in terms of fiery hotness. They are usually served raw and as a condiment.

Coriander Seeds

Balinese cooks use dried coriander seeds, or ketumbah, in many dishes. The seeds are thoroughly crushed before use. The seeds used in Bali are no different from the ones found in the West.

Dried Prawn or Dried Shrimp Paste

Trasi or terasi to the Balinese, this brown, pungent paste is made by pounding sun-dried prawns to a pulp. Dried prawn paste must be grilled or roasted in a dry pan before use. This neutralises the strong, fishy flavour. Once roasted, the paste can be stored for several month in an airtight container, preferably a glass jar. Although pungent, pleasantly so even before it is cooked, dried prawn paste adds amazing flavour to the dish.


Also known as “blue ginger”, galangal is known to the Balinese as isen, and to the Indonesians as laos. The rhizome is sold fresh, fried or ground. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to get fresh galangal in western countries.


Known to the Balinese as jahe, ginger is native to the jungles of Southeast Asia. The underground rhizome of an attractive flowering plant, ginger is widely used in Balinese cooking. Always peel it before you use it.

Kaffir Limes

..or juuk purut to the Balinese, they are small and have very knobbly skin. Balinese use small amounts of it to spice up certain dishes. If you can’t get kaffir limes, normal ones are an acceptable substitute. Balinese tend to use kaffir limes whole, in soups or sauces, and finely chopped for fish, chicken and duck dishes.

Lemon Basil

There are many different types of basil, varying greatly in flavour and aroma. In Bali, lemon basil is known as don kemangi. It adds great flavour to dishes and is most commonly used in soups, salads and fish dishes, especially those featuring banana leaf wrappers.


... is known to Indonesians as sere and is used in many Balinese dishes. Lemongrass stalks must be peeled and bruised before use to release their fragrance. Or you should finely slice them, as their stalks are extremely fibrous.


... or jebug garum, is the hard kernel of the evergreen tree fruit.This aromatic and sweet spice is usually used with strongly flavoured meats such as pork, duck and lamb.

Salam leaves are used in much the same way bay leaves are used. Their flavour, while mild, is inimitable.


Also known as “yellow ginger”, turmeric is an attractive perennial plant with large, lily-like leaves and yellow flowers. The skin must be peeled before use to expose the bright yellow-orange flesh.
The cooking ratio should be 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric to every 100g of fresh turmeric a recipe calls for. In Bali, fresh turmeric is pounded in a stone mortar until it is very fine, and then mixed with water. It is then left to steep for 5 minutes before being strained through a fine sieve.

Tamarind Pulp

The Balinese know this as celagi or lunak. It is derived from large, dark brown pods that grow from the tamarind tree. It is sour-tasting. To use tamarind pulp, mix it with some water and let it steep for 14 minutes.

Base be Siap

Spice Paste for Chicken


50g Bird’s eye chilies, finely sliced

225g shallots, peeled and sliced

125g  garlic, peeled and sliced

50g kencur root (lesser galangal), peeled and sliced

60g laos (galangal), peeled and sliced

125g turmeric, peeled and sliced

100g candlenuts

50g palm sugar, ground

150ml coconut oil

2 Stalks lemongrass, bruised

3  Salam leaves

250 ml Water

¾ TBSP salt


Put the shallots, garlic, kencur, laos, candlenuts, turmeric, and palm sugar into a food processor and grind coarsely. Heat the oil and fry all the ingredients, stirring frequently, until the marinade

changes to a golden colour. Let it cool before use.

Base Be Pasih

Spice Paste for Seafood


450g large, red chillies, halved, seeded and sliced

50g garlic, peeled and sliced

225g shallots, peeled and sliced

175g fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced

100g ginger, peeled and sliced

125g candlenuts

200g medium-sized tomatoes, halved and seeded

2 TBSP coriander seeds, crushed

2 TBSP dried shrimp paste (terasi), roasted

150ml coconut oil

2½ TBSP tamarind pulp, soaked in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes and strained

250 ml Water

¾ TBSP salt

3 salam leaves

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised


Combine all the ingredients except the oil, tamarind pulp, salam leaves, lemongrass, salt and water in stone mortar or food processor and grind coarsely. Place the resulting mixture into a heavy saucepan, add the remaining ingredients and simmer over a medium heat for around 60 minutes or until all the water has evaporated and the marinade changes to a golden colour. Cool down before using.

Be Celeng Base Manis

Pork in sweet soya sauce


2 TBSP coconut oil

5 shallots, peeled and sliced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

600g boneless pork shoulder or neck, cut into 2.5 cm (3/4 in) cubes, braised for 5 hours

8cm piece of ginger, peeled, sliced and bruised

4 TBSP sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis)

2 TBSP salty soy sauce (Kecap Asin)

1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed

2 cups chicken stock

6-10 bird’s eye chillies

2-3  large red chilli peppers, left whole


1.) Heat the coconut oil in a wok, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes over a medium heat or until lightly coloured. 2.) Add the pork and ginger; continue to sauté for 2 more minutes over a medium heat. Add the sweet and salty soy sauce and crushed black pepper; continue to sauté for 1 more minute. 3.) Pour in the chicken stock, add the chillies and simmer. Skim off any visible scum. 4.) Pressure-cook at a gauge pressure for about 25 minutes. Start timing when full pressure is reached. Let the cooker cool down for 20 minutes. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and transfer to a  frying pan. Strain the liquid into a pot, bring to a simmer and skim off as much fat as possible. 5.) Transfer about a cup (250ml) of the cooking liquid to the pan with the pork  and simmer over a medium heat, gently turning and basting the meat until it is glazed, around 12-15 minutes. Reduce the remaining liquid by ½ and add to the meat. Mix well and simmer for two more minutes over a low heat. Remove from the heat and let the mixture infuse for 7-10 minutes. Season to taste with crushed black pepper. You can use chicken if pork is not your favorite choice of meat. The best bit is a skinless leg bone, cut into even cubes, or wings and legs with the bone in.

My favourite breakfast dish was a salad called 'Balinese Jukut Mekantok’‘, which is a mixed vegetable salad with beans, spinach, sprouts and grated coconut, with sweet and sour peanut dressing. It’s absolutely mouth-watering and to me, it features one oft the most amazing flavour combinations.


100g long (snake) beans, cut into 4cm pieces

100g bean sprouts

100g spinach

100g cabbage

2 TBSP crisp-fried shallots

2 TBSP shelled peanuts (groundnuts)

some sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) to taste

salt and pepper

Peanut Sauce

250g peanuts (groundnuts), skin on and deep-fried until lightly brown; 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced; 1-3 bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced; 25g lesser galangal (kencur), finely sliced; 2 TBSP sweet soy sauce; 20g palm sugar; 250ml water; pinch of salt


1.)  Blanche all the vegetables and plunge into ice water to cool. Drain well. 2.)  Prepare the peanut sauce. Mix all the ingredients in a stone mortar and grind until very fine. Alternatively, blitz them in a blender. 3.)  Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and stir in the peanut sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 4.)  Serve garnished with crisp-fried shallots, crushed peanuts and sweet soy sauce. 5.)  If you like, serve the salad with crispy, deep-fried fermented soy bean cakes (tempe) on the side. This dish tastes best when served at room temperature or slightly warm.


Coconut pandon pancake



100g rice flour, 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk,  1/4 tsp salt, 2 TBSP sugar, 1/2 cup fresh pandan juice, 3 eggs


1/2 cup (125 ml) palm sugar syrup, 1 cup (100g) freshly grated coconut, 1 pandan leaf


1.) To make the pancakes, combine the rice flour, sugar, salt, eggs, coconut milk and pandan juice in a deep mixing bowl. Stir well with a whisk until all the lumps dissolve. 2.) Strain through a sieve. The batter should be very runny. 3.) Heat a non-stick pan over a low heat. For each pancake, cook 4 tablespoons of the batter for about 2 minutes, until the top is just set. Turn the pancake over and cook for a further minute. Repeat until the batter is used up. Cool the pancakes down to room temperature before serving.

4.) To make the filling, combine the sugar syrup and grated coconut and mix well. Add the pandan leaf and fry over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Let cool and use at room temperature. 5.) Place 1 tablespoon of coconut filling in the centre of each pancake, fold in the edges and roll tightly into a tube shape.