Warning: Chef Mudana’s cooking class will change Balinese food for you. Forever.
Not in a bad way, of course. More of a I-can’t-believe-Balinese-food-can-taste-so-good-what-have-I-been-eating-all-this-time sorta way.
On our previous trips to Bali, we’d eaten at restaurants that served excellent European and Australian fare, but attempts to search for authentic Balinese food always ended in disappointment. It then occurred to us that we could right this wrong by learning how to cook balinese food instead. Being typical Singaporeans, we were sold on Chef Mudana’s cooking class in Sanur once we saw the rave reviews on Tripadvisor in addition to his impressive experience as a chef in 5-star restaurants in Perth and Hokkaido. It also helped that he was super prompt and friendly in his email responses!
Friendly & professional staff
Chef Mudana greeted us warmly, and began the class by introducing us to members of his family and kitchen crew. He explained to us the community-centric focus that anchored the establishment of this warung, where dishes are cooked from ingredients bought from the neighbourhood market and prices kept affordable so that good food will always be accessible to the locals. His desire to spread his love for Indonesian food led him to spend several years as a chef in Perth and Hokkaido. However, it was also his love for home that compelled him to return to Bali and set up this cooking school.
Incredible diversity of dishes
The kitchen shed, with neatly compartmentalised areas for food preparation, cooking and dining, hosted our two hour experience with Chef Mudana. Prior to our lesson, all the ingredients needed for the different dishes had already been laid out in a stunning display. Chef began by introducing us to bumbu bali, a paste that requires the blending of 17 different ingredients, and a crucial ingredient in Balinese cuisine. Our jaws dropped when we found out we were going to be cooking 8 dishes, and all within the span of two-odd hours.
While this might sound like an impossible task, the thoughtful prep work done by Chef Mudana and his team made the cooking seem like a breeze. There was sufficient balance in the menu, with dishes highlighting the heavy use of spices and coconut through various culinary techniques. The sayer urab (mixed vegetables with grated coconut and chill) emphasised the harmony between vegetables and spices, while ayam bentutu (steamed whole chicken with balinese paste) exposed us to the age-old technique of wrapping your meats with banana leaves before steaming them. My personal favourite, however, has to be the dadar gulung – airy suji leaf crepes bursting with the sweetness of grated coconut and palm sugar.
Customisation based on your comfort level
Throughout the lesson, we were asked to taste the dishes and add more spices or flavour depending on our preferences. Skills-wise, Chef never made us feel out of depth, and was incredibly patient with our blunders and torrent of questions. Just like how the cooking class menu can be customised to accommodate your dietary restrictions, the level of involvement is also dependent on how willing you are to get your hands dirty. Apart from Chef, his friendly kitchen crew is always on hand to assist with the preparation of ingredients, which is perfect if you would prefer to watch and observe the entire proceedings. Alternatively, if you prefer a more hands-on experience, ample opportunities are available for you to show off your knife-wielding, pan-flipping abilities!
Most authentic Balinese food we’ve ever had
Suffice to say, this meal “ruined” the rest of the meals on our trip. Seriously. Nothing we ate in the next 3 days could match the flavours of this feast.
Maybe it’s because there’s a sweetness that comes with consuming food you’ve had a hand in creating. Never mind that the sate might look a little misshapen, or the dardar guling is not as tightly wrapped. It’s that additional flavour of pride, the fact that this food was a labour of love, that makes the meal all the more delicious.
Chef Mudana’s classes run everyday except Sunday. Classes are intimate with a maximum class size of 12 people, and you have the following options to choose from:
Detailed recipes will also be sent to your emails after the cooking class, so you don’t have to worry about taking down notes!
Now, who wants to come over to ETSY’s for an authentic Balinese meal? (:
ETSY Explores were guests of Chef Mudana’s Cooking Class. However, all opinions remain ours and are completely unbiased.
This article first appeared in ETSY Explores.