While on spring break, our family of four took a mini vacation to Bali. It had been ten years since my husband and I were last there (for our honeymoon). It was a poignant return considering that much has happened since - two terrorist bombings in particular. The mood was a bit sombre and the locals - while their Balinese demeanor is to be pleasant and courteous - looked as if morale had been lowered a notch or two. We realized things had changed when we arrived at the hotel, confronted by iron gates to the compound, a metal detector and a bomb sniffing Labrador that resembled my son's favorite stuffed toy. The hotel logos that once plastered the sides of the SUV were now gone so that guests could be driven around incognito.
We stayed on the hotel grounds for the most part because we truly wanted to swim, sun and sleep. But the busy bee in me simply had to sign up for a cooking class which came with a visit to the nearby Denpasar fresh market. I want to share these pictures of the market with you because the images are of a disappearing world now that everything else is being sanitized and housed in Costco or Carrefour.
One main thing I learnt in cooking class was the different technique in the preparation of the spice rempah. Many cookbooks and cooks will tell you to grind or blend the fresh rempah ingredients (beginning with sinewy galangal, turmeric, ending with soft moist items such as shallots and belachan). The usual tip is to add water to moisten the paste if it is too fibrous and rough. Only after we obtain a fine rempah paste would we then fry it in glistening hot oil. Not too hot so as not to burn the rempah, then fry until fragrant.
In this Bali cooking class, we were asked to dice the ingredients, then fry them in oil first before transferring to the mortar to pound with the pestle. The explanation behind it was that the ingredients would be softened, more moist, hence avoiding the need to dilute the paste with water which in turn would dilute the full effect of the taste and spiciness of the rempah.
I have always loved Bali for its magical gamelan music, lulling sea breezes, gracious smiles, flowers and jasmine scents. Please support this paradise island and visit if you can.