Balinese Food

I took a Balinese cooking class to try to learn a bit more about the food here.

All the food is based upon one key sauce called basa gede or “basic spice paste”. From this paste, you can make a myriad of dishes.

Here’s an overview of what’s in the sauce:

  • 25 shallots or 2 peeled onions; peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic; peeled and chopped
  • 7 large red chillies; seeded and chopped
  • 5 cm galangal (laos); peeled and chopped
  • 5 cm lesser galangal (kenkur root); peeled and chopped
  • 10 cm fresh tumeric (kunyit); peeled and chopped. If using powdered, 2 tblsp
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 candlenuts (kemiri). Can substitute 3 tblsp almonds. Add more nuts if you want the sauce to be thicker
  • 2 tspns dry shrimp paste. Can substitute 4 tspns fish or oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tspn each of black and white peppercorns
  • 1 pinch nutmeg; freshly grated or powder
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 tablespoons oil. Any oil except olive or sesame
  • 1 pinch cumin or 1/4 tspn powder
  • 1/4 tspn sesame seed
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • salt to flavour

Here’s how you make the sauce:

  • Mash everything except the oil in a mortar and pestle. If you want to use a blender, make sure to add a bit of water to the spices
  • Heat the oil at high
  • Add the pounded spice mix and cook for five minutes or until golden
  • Let cool before using

You can keep it in the freezer for months or use once cool.

It’s a versatile paste and the Balinese use the following rules for cooking:

  • Use x amount of any meat
  • Use 1/4 the mass/volume of this meat in paste. Count the paste in tablespoons
  • Use 1/2 the number of tablespoons in coconut milk

For example, if you were using a kilo of chicken, you’d use 1/4 kilo of paste and then the equivalent of 1/8 of a kilo in coconut milk.

What can you make with this paste? Here’s a sample of some dishes we made.

Sate Lilit. Just mix the paste with some minced meat (you’re looking at pork) and grill on a stick (or lemongrass for more flavour):
Sate Lilit

Chicken curry:

Chicken Curry

Here are a couple of other dishes that use similar ingredients but not the paste. You can hack around in the kitchen and probably make ’em just by looking at what’s in the picture:

Sayur Urab (mixed vegetables):
Sayur Urab

Tuna Sambal Matah. Just grilled tuna with some lime-soaked vegetables:

Tuna Sambal Matah

Tempe Manis. Sweetened tempe:

Tempe Manis

I took the class at Bumi Bali. Before the lesson, you go to the market where they show you all the different foods for sale.

Jackfruit at Ubud Market

Chilis at Ubud Market

It’s a fun experience, but the market’s not quite up to code. Fortunately, everything is washed before it’s used for cooking.

Dog at Ubud Market