Our day began with a driver picking us up at our resort in Ubud and being driven for 25 minutes to the Payangan local markets. On arriving here, we were introduced to our host for the day Sang Made. Made (pronounced Ma-Day) was standing near a market stall that he explained was their equivalent of fast food store, laid out on a table was a whole pig, locals would take up a place at the table and be served a plate full of rice and pork, though the pig looked delicious, it appeared a little heavy for breakfast to me.
Fast food Bali style. Try roast pig with rice for breakfast
Made Sang holds up fresh eels, don't they look yummy?
We crossed the busy road into the Payangan market place, Made chatting with the locals while me made our way to the entrance. Once there we made our first stop, Made holding up a green leafy plant that grows wild alongside the rice paddies, explained this would be one of the ingredients for a delicious salad we would enjoy later in the day. Then reaching down into a bucket, he produced a string of eels, they were only about 15 inches long and had been threaded onto what looked like a piece of bamboo. Apparently the locals wade through the rice fields late at night to capture them; they use them in their cooking in a similar way we use anchovies.
Already we had an insight of just how interesting this day would be, Made explained the foods, where they came from, how they were used in cooking or for ceremonial purposes, we were all captured by his charisma and engrossed in the information being presented. There were some interesting aromas as we passed by and stopped at various stalls, hearing how rice cakes were made for ceremonial purposes, touching, tasting and smelling the different herbs and spices. Shallots, chillies, garlic and dried whitebait all mixed in together, different kinds of ginger, galangal and turmeric, exotic fruits and nuts. Every nook and cranny was utilised to store their wares. Like many markets, the same stuff appeared over and over again, then a stall quite unique would pop up and we would stop to hear about the particular wares on offer.
I am not a flower plucker, I'm a flower plucker's son!
Coming out the other side we were again outdoors and walking in boggy mud through to a paved area, where women sat plucking flower petals into huge baskets, these are used in offerings. Alongside the baskets of flowers were snake beans and various fruits, it was sunny while we were there, I could only imagine how miserable it may be when the rain comes down.
Our walk through these interesting markets came to an end, we were given a cold drink and a cool damp cloth to freshen up a bit before our driver took us back to the Sang family's, Lobong Villa complex. Pulling up on the side of the road all I could see were a couple of yellow flags and some Bali bunting, it was not until we were led to a staircase that went down into the complex that the family homes came into view.
Lobong Villa Complex, home of the Sang families in Ubud Bali
Like most staircases in Bali, they were big steps and with each one more of the garden were exposed. It was gorgeous, frangipani trees adorned with stag horns and orchids, green grass dividing by the paths that led from one pavilion to the next. In the centre, a beautiful pavilion looked splendid in its plum coloured tiles, had a timber coffee table surrounded by cushions, we were motioned to take a place around the table. We waited for our host to arrive with our Bali Kopi, which when brought to the table came with baskets of Pisang Goreng (banana fritter cakes), piping hot straight out of an oven, I had never had these before, but after taking my first bite I wanted more, it was delicious and I at first thought the banana to be custard, it was so smooth.
Mother Sang in the Black Kitchen
After morning tea we were guided toward the kitchens, the complex has two kitchens the first known as the black kitchen, was a bit like a lean-to and it was obvious why it was known as the black kitchen. As we approached, we could see Made's mother there preparing coconut oil, he was so proud to introduce her to us, his respect and love for her was obvious by the introduction, she had the biggest smile as we approached. Just beyond the black kitchen, we noticed some pigs and we were distracted by them for a few minutes, before coming back to see how the oil was extracted from the coconuts, we would be using this oil in our cooking lesson.
The family complex was awesome, and far exceeded what I had expected, it was virtually self contained, they had pigs, chickens, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the home grown spices various varieties of ginger, galangal, turmeric, chillies and peanuts, and from their rice fields rice, just about all of which would be used during the cooking session.
We met Chef Dewa Jana and his young son Nata in the "White Kitchen", it was obvious they had been busy preparing for our visit as they had the ingredients all measured and laid out in readiness. The pavilion which is the White Kitchen has been wonderfully set up after being renovated and made bigger to accommodate large groups. We were fitted out with aprons and cloths to work with, we were now ready to cook. Dewa explained the day's menu, I was impressed with eight items listed in all, I was getting very excited now, excited to cook and to eat, today was going to be very special!
Chef Dewa Jana explains the correct techniques
Chef Dewa took us through the various ingredients and gave us tips on the techniques we would be using, and spoke a little about managing time to ensure we brought our meal together all at once. Explaining the rice would take an hour and fifteen minutes to cook, so everything else would be prepared within this timeframe, he was very passionate about the way the rice was cooked, needless to say it was perfect when it was served.
Having prepped all the ingredients it was time to cook, first thing on the stove was the peanuts for the satays sauce, quickly followed by the base spice paste which was going to be for the Ayam Bakar Bumbu Bali, or BBQ marinated chicken in spicy coconut sauce. When Dewa explained this dish, he started off telling us it is best to kill and clean the chicken earlier in the morning, so the meat is at its best - I was really glad that had been done earlier.
Made had returned and was out the back firing up the BBQ by burning coconut husks. We took the marinaded chicken to him, alongside the BBQ was a herb garden, whilst here Made explained each of the plants and the fruit trees above them, it was very interesting.
The BBQ'd chicken was brought back to the kitchen and cooked a second time in a spicy coconut sauce. Before we knew it all the dishes had come together and seemed to appear on a long table all set for serving.
Admiring the food laid out in readiness for our meal, looks divine!
We were admiring our work, when Made's mother reappeared carrying the baskets we were to use to make an offering before sitting to eat. We were dressed in sarongs and given an explanation of the offering known as canang sari, each one includes a small portion of the food we had prepared, some flowers and decorations crafted from pandan leaves, plus three important components being, dried betel leaf, ground betel nut and limestone.
We were invited to follow her to the temple, she visited each shrine individually placing the offerings, lighting incense and purifying everything by dunking a frangipani flower in a bowl of water then flicking it from between two fingers. Once the offerings at the temple were complete, Made announced it was time to eat and we made our way back to the outdoors dining area, where for lunch we enjoyed so much food, including,
A simple soup but so packed full of flavour, has become a household favourite back at home.
JUKUT GEDANG MEKUAH, Green papaya, chicken soup with crispy shallot.
I love this soup, it is so simple, yet soooo tasty and made with the freshest of ingredients it truly was delicious, the spiciness of the paste we made was awesome.
The textural ingredients in this dish were amazing, the sishimi grade tuna so fresh, my mouth waters, again!
IKAN BAKAR SAMBAL MATAH, Pan seared yellow fin tuna, lemon grass, chilli, kaffir lime.
Again the vegetables and herbs were crispy fresh and the tuna was so good, the green chillies in the dish gave it a wonderful spicy finish, the salad was served on a crispy wafer a bit like a pappadum, the whole dish was so scrumptious, my mouth is watering right now thinking about it.
Best describe as Bali on a plate, so many flavours makes for exquisite food
AYAM BAKAR BUMBU BALI, BBQ marinated chicken in spicy coconut sauce.
SATE TUSUK AYAM, Marinated chicken breast with Balinese spices and peanut sauce.
SAYUR PAKIS, Fern tip salad, grated coconut, red bean with garlic chilli dressing.
NASI SELA, Sweet potato rice.
SAMBAL ULEK, Tomato and chilli sambal, served in homemade dishes crafted from Pandanus leaves.
Wow, if we did not know we were in Bali we knew it now, this was Bali on a plate, I tried so hard to eat this slowly so it would last longer, every mouthful was fantastic, the satays sauce was the best I have ever tasted and the tomato sambal was to die for, it really was one of those meals you just never want to end, it was the best.
Black rice porridge with coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, also served in dishes crafted from Pandanus leaves.
I was dead sure I was not going to like this dessert, it did not appeal to me at all looking at it, but I tried it and to my surprise I liked it, the flavour was very nice and the rice had a really nice bite to eat that made it enjoyable to eat.
When we had completed our meal, Made presented us with a parting gift consisting of a bottle coconut oil and a recipe book with step by step instructions to recreate the beautiful meal we had just shared. Thankfully the recipes listed alternative ingredients for the times when you cannot find some of those listed.
I could have stayed there for the rest of our holiday, it was so nice, as were the people we had met and spent our day with, but all good things come to an end. We were escorted back up them big steps and ushered into our ride home just as the rain started to come down. It did not dampen our spirits though, we had had a great day, one that I rate as the best experience I have had whilst travelling overseas, it really was that good, I cannot wait to go back to Bali, I will be booking to do this again without doubt.
If you are planning a trip to Bali, don't do so without putting this on your itinerary, it is the most fascinating day out and as a bonus you get to enjoy the most wonderful food, meet some beautiful people and then go home with the recipes and techniques to prepare this feast for family and friends, so much value, so much fun, most highly recommended.
Book through your travel agent or go direct to Lobong Cooking website