Thursday, March 04, 2010

Back to Bali: "Spicy"

To make "Spicy":

5 shallots
4 cloves of garlic
small piece of turmeric root
1 candlenut
shrimp paste
aromatic ginger

When you grind up all of the above with a mortar and pestle, you have a paste - called "Spicy" - that you can mix into most all of the Balinese food we made, including:

Young Peanut Soup with Papaya
Small Potato Pancakes
Steamed Chicken in Banana Leaf
Shredded Chicken with Coconut and
Sambal (like an Indonesian salsa)

What did not include the "spicy" was the Black Rice Pudding, which is my new favorite dessert.

We learned how to make all of these dishes in Munduk - a town set into the mountains - on Day Three of our Magical Mystery (Motorbike) Tour through Bali, in an outdoor kitchen overlooking terraced mountains. Our instructor was a sweet woman who spoke little English.

The Lonely Planet's description of Munduk does not do it any justice at all, but this lack of attention means it is not overrun by tourists - a true find. Sue and I asked to be shown five "homestays" before we made our choice, and we chose based on the best view from the outdoor restaurant. Our advice: if you want to stay in a lush, untouristy mountain town for a very cheap price, go to Munduk. We saw incredible places to stay for between $20-$50 per night. All of these places offer nature hikes, cooking classes and massages in their purist form.

By the way, the peanut soup - it was insanely good. I'm so spoiled by soups here in Vietnam, and that soup took first place. Well, maybe behind the shrimp and pork soup in my market...

Another highlight during this Munduk mountain morning - because our cooking class didn't begin until 10 am, we decided to follow a path that wound down around the side of our homestay. After walking in zig zags down for about 45 minutes, we heard music coming from a place up and over some steps. We crept up the steps a bit to see about 25 children doing their morning exercises to a tape recorded song. They must do it every morning, because they knew all the moves. One of the teachers saw us and motioned for us to join in, so we did. The kids, from grades one through six, kept looking back and giggling at our attempt to follow their lead.

After exercises, we got a tour through a few classrooms and met the 6th grade teacher and the English teacher (who was afraid to speak English with us). A chalk board and desks were all that filled them - complete simplicity. And the kids - they were so bright-eyed and respectful. I thought about staying there on a teaching contract...however, there was no offer of a teaching contract.

Verdict: go to Bali, rent motorbikes, stay in Munduk for a couple of days. Your soul will be very happy. And so will your stomach.


Angie said...

The peanut soup and black rice dessert sound so good! Do we get a taste of your new cooking skills when you get home?

Brian Bowker said...

I bet visiting a school like that really causes you to re-evaluate your perspective about what's really important. I imagine it would make me both happy and sad at the same time.