FYI – for those non-Texans. Ubud reminded us a lot of our beloved Austin, TX – an artsy city with cafes and unique restaurants – one of the slogans for Austin is “Keep Austin Weird”.
I really enjoyed our time in Ubud. It’s the art city of Bali and has a cool, laid-back vibe (once you get over the taxi drivers and touts trying to sell you stuff every few minutes). I could definitely spend a month there, learning a craft or immersing myself in yoga – which though I’ve tried yoga a couple times and have enjoyed it, I could never seem to get into it – but Ubud would definitely be the place to do it. Well, maybe Chiang Mai first and Ubud second!
On our third day, we spent the morning taking a cooking class (Cooking with Desak) that we found from our homestay (Indraprastha). The class was much cheaper than the other more known cooking schools (200,000 Rupiah for one – we got the guy to discount it to 360,000 for 2 – though a couple people in our class paid 250,000 for one – always negotiate! The more known cooking schools were 350-400k) and included a market tour and either an Indonesian menu or a Balinese menu. Our teacher, Desak, was one of the chefs of Café Bali and was very friendly. However, there was a huge difference in the quality of the recipe book from our Thai class. For our recipes, we were given a single sheet of paper and the recipes were pretty incomplete in terms of the steps and even sometimes the ingredients, so we had to take a lot of extra notes! That was a little frustrating, especially since we did things pretty quickly, but we managed to get most of it down I think! Also in contrast to the Thai cooking class we did in Chiang Mai, while we did most of the preparation and some of the cooking, her staff kind of finished things up. Also, there were four of us in the class, all sharing one stove, so we kind of took turns instead of each person making their own. But, at the end of the day, I think we got a lot out of the market tour and learning some fantastic recipes!
We chose the Balinese menu (though we ended up learning both the Indonesian and Balinese menus in the class since someone else had chosen the Indonesian). The main thing we put into almost every dish was the Balinese sauce and the saffron sauce (named so because of the color, not because it actually had saffron in it!). One of the main components of both was Thai ginger, which I thought was pretty funny since she also called it that. For some reason, I didn’t try raw Thai ginger when we were in our Thai cooking class, but during our market tour, Desak told all of us to try the Thai ginger and then regular ginger – what a difference! The Thai ginger has a wonderful natural spice to it that adds so much of that special flavor to the sauce. We also learned how to make Balinese sambal which I fell in love with in Nusa Dua – it’s kind of a dipping sauce that’s spicy and tarty at the same time – yum. But basically, we had to hand grind all the ingredients for both the Balinese sauce and the saffron sauce and we pretty much flavored everything with one or both of them. Except the desserts of course. For dessert, we made black rice pudding and Balinese pancake. The pancake is more what Americans would call a crepe and was stuffed with shredded coconut mixed in with palm sugar. Mmm, palm sugar – another new love – it tastes like caramel! Delish!
After our cooking class, we took naps and then spent an hour or so trying to find a woodcarving class because we thought it would be fun and for some reason, I have it in my head that I want to make wood furniture one day (I can be very A.D.D. about my hobbies – but that’s a discussion for another time). We tracked down this guy that the interesting girl from Seattle had told us about – he sold his wood works in a little (like two meters by two meters little) shop on some side street and she mentioned that he may teach wood carving. So we found him, negotiated a price and set off to learn some wood carving. Three minutes into the lesson, however, it was evident that the guy, while meaning well, didn’t quite know how to teach and we just weren’t going to get much out of it, so we politely thanked him and went on our way. As luck would have it, on the same street, we found a batik painting class. So we signed up for a class the next day and went on our way (after getting stuck in a massive rainstorm!). Side note: The ARMA museum in Ubud offered proper wood carving classes as well as other classes for a couple hours but it was a bit pricey for us – I think $40 per person.