We came back to the town of Ubud to do some extra things and because Ubud can be a fairly laid back town to relax in. We came back to take a Balinese cooking class, eat Babi Guling and do a bicycle tour of the countryside, all of which we heard from other people are very good. However, since the recent bombings in Jakarta, many tourists have left the island of Java and headed over to Bali, so the town is much more crowded with tourists than it was when we were here two weeks ago.
The thing that visually sets Bali apart from other areas of Indonesia are the ever present Hindu temples scattered about the landscape and the offerings that the Balinese put out in front of them every day, including little woven grass baskets, flowers and some food. The temples are intricate structures and are in every home compound, all over the countryside, and in the towns.
The bike tour started with a ride up to have breakfast while looking over the caldera of an old volcanic crater, with a view over the rim and the lake below. Then we rode (we really just coasted) downhill and stopped at some small villages to look at how the house componds are set up and to see the various farming techniques and crops. On the way up the volcano, we made an interesting stop at a plantation that grows coffee, vanilla, chocolate and tobacco. We saw the process of making coffee, from picking the red coffee berries, removing the sticky outer husk, and then the drying and roasting stages.
They also have a different process for removing that outer husk to make a more expensive type of coffee, called Luwak coffee. This coffee is made by feeding coffee berries to an Asian Palm Civet animal (it looks like a cross between a cat and a weasel), who then digests the berries, and poops out turds full of coffee beans. These beans are then cleaned and roasted, and sold for much more than normal coffee beans. The civet choses the best coffee berries, and its digestive tract has enzymes which break down the proteins in the coffee that give it a bitter flavor, so the end result is suppoed to be the best coffee beans that have a mild flavor. The beans are not digested, and come out whole. Since we are here, we tried it and it tastes like mild coffee. Besides, who else can says they have had pooh coffee?
In Ubud we had the Babi Guling from Ibu Oka, which is food stall famous for their whole roasted pig with crispy skin. We got there early and the meat was very juicy and tender. Unlike Muslim Indonesians, the Balinese eat pork, but as Hindus they don’t eat beef, which they export to the Muslim parts of Indonesia.
The cooking class (Bumi Bali) started with a tour of the vegetable market, then we returned to the restaurant to learn how to prepare the main Balinese cooking sauce base gede that is a mix of many root spices (shallots, garlic, galangal, kencur and turmeric) and all the spices that make up garam marsala. Then we made (and ate) a variety of Balinese dishes, most of which use this sauce as a base. We also learned to make a vegeatable dish called Sayur Urab (Urap-Urap in Lombok) that includes the sauted root spices mixed with grated coconut and steamed vegetables, which is very tasty. We also made the twisted meat satay sticks, which are common and very tasted as well.
There are a variety of cooking classes to chose from here, and we opted for a cheaper ($25 US per person) and less formal class at Bumi Bali compared to those offered by some of the very upscale restaurants here (Casa Luna and Laka Leke). The shedule and menus for the day we wanted to take the class also worked out better for us. If you want to take a class here, it is best to compare the different menus and schedules, unless you really want to take the class from one of the high-end gourmet resturants. The market tour was nice, and they have these long, skinny green beans that are in most of the dishes we eat.
***click to enlarge photos***