Bali Asli is a restaurant and culinary/cultural experience centre in Gelumpang village, near the town of Amlapura, on the East side of Bali. Offering a restaurant and cooking school, surrounded by its unique and scenic location, Bali Asli is the product of Chef and Executive Director Penelope Williams’ many dreams. While there are many cooking classes available in Bali, we chose Bali Asli due to its scenic location, the reviews, and the itinerary, and we were not disapointed!
As we were staying in Nusa Dua, we new it would take about 2.5-3 hours to reach Bali Asli, so we only signed-up for the cooking class in order to get there by 10:00. In addition, you can also sign up for an experience that teaches you about traditional Balinese practices; farming, market, fishing, and more. We were thankful though that the other participant selected “A Day in the Life of the Balinese Lady”, as we were greeted with a selection of sweets from the market upon our arrival. I love the sweet taste and glutinous texture of these desserts made with coconut milk and palm sugar; they remind me a little of mochi.
The class begins with an introduction to the Balinese ritual of making offerings due to their religious beliefs, and a blessing. I really enjoyed this part of the class, as it taught me about the patience, love, significance, and gratitude that goes into each offering made. The blessing was also unique and special, even for the non-religious or those who practice another faith.
Next, we were introduced to all the ingredients we would be using, and their particularities through how they looked, felt, and smelled. This exercise was helpful for us to understand the ingredients, how they were part of the dishes we would be making, and how we could substitute them, if needed back home. It was really interesting to taste the flavour profiles of limes and lemon; Balinese lime is a lot sweeter than other types.
The cooking class was very hands-on, and Penelope took the time to assist with your technique and to teach you tricks. Of all the mortars and pestles, I have ever used, the Balinese one, made of porous volcanic rock was the easiest to use. We used it to make a number of spice pastes, the most commonly used is called “bumbu Bali”. We worked our way through a number of dishes: nasi goreng, fish steamed in banana leaf, tofu steamed in banana leaf, Balinese salad, sates, peanut sauce, and bumbu Bali.
About 3/4 of the way through the class, you can quench your thirst with a drink from their menu; there is a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages to choose from, which are added to your bill (water is complimentary during the class). While this was a nice touch, the selection was varied, and some of the drinks were unique, the prices were pretty high; similar to what you would pay at a fancier hotel. While we found the class to be decent value for the amount of time spent, the ingredients used, and the quality of the food during our lunch, we felt the price of the drinks could have been more reasonable and less of an up-sale strategy.
After the cooking class is done, the food is presented, beautifully, to a table so that you can enjoy the food you prepared, in the company of the fellow students, while surrounded by the stunning views. The Bali Asli cooking class is a unique experience that I will remember and cherish fondly.
As you are ready to leave, around 14:00, you settle up the bill; the only payment accepted is Indonesian Rupiah, even if the deposit is paid in US Dollars via banking transfer. Please note this in your invoice at the time of booking. As we only did the cooking class, we paid 660,000 Rupiah each. We left with our aprons, a certificate, and an apron.