Sunday, 24 February 2013

Day 7 – Cooking up a storm!

Weather: 32 degrees | scattered rain/thunderstorms | 74% humidity
Exchange: 9,900 (avg.) Rupiah = $1AUD (street)
Today is the first day we set the alarm for, which really is not allowed on Bali time.  However, we needed to be up, showered and checked out before 8:25am and if time permitted a quick bite for brekkie too.  As usual, my super organisation skills had us packed last night and of course we had enough time for me to grab a slice of toast and glass of juice and hubby to have a coffee.  We were finalising our check out just as Wayan himself – Paon Cooking School owner – drove up and jumped out the car to greet us with a big welcoming hug.  He knew I had come last year – this was a first for hubby – and was so pleased I had chosen them once again.  He loads our suitcase in the back and guarantees he will take good care of it for us.
A short drive to Ubud Place, where we meet up with our new found friends for the day and the gorgeous Made (our tour guide and assistant from last year) leads us to the morning Market, but not before she gets a big hug from me.  The Market is exactly what I remembered from last year and Made doesn’t leave out a single explanation.  This time I make sure I purchase a Balinese style volcanic rock Mortar and Pestle (Rp. 75,000), a small deep frying implement (Rp. 25,000) and four blocks of peanut sauce (Rp. 25,000 each) – I know I can get some different versions cheaper from Carrefour, but I have cooked with these in the past and they seem more compact/decent quality.

We finish our Market tour and the group splits into two cars to make our way to Laplapan Village for Wayan’s explanation of his village’s rice fields.  There are some children playing in the rice fields with long sticks in the close distance and Wayan tells us they are trying to catch dragonflies with the sticky substance (from fruit) on the end of the stick to use like glue.  I wander away from the group and approach the children; I ask to take their photo and offer them a sweet each.  They eagerly come to me with their hands out and thank me many times.  As I rejoin the group, Wayan asks where his sweet is.

Soon we jump back in the cars and take another quick drive to Wayan and Puspa’s village, where we will play in their kitchen for the day.  As we enter their compound, Puspa is right there to greet us giving me a kiss on each cheek.  A lemon welcome drink given to each guest, we relax on their “meeting room” platform and find out more about Wayan and Puspa’s life story before being taken into their kitchen, their home, their family.
I was pleased to see that the profits made from their business obviously went straight back into the family compound and improving the area used for the cooking class.  Since last year they had built a new toilet facility and put a brand new roof over the kitchen area.  They were very proud to share this with me.
Straight to it, Aprons on, knife in hand we chop; pestle in hand, we grind – mixing and creating so many flavours and aromas that will result in our amazing menu for the day.  Together, all participants take on a role in the kitchen to contribute in some way to each and every dish we will later share for lunch.  The menu includes: Clear Mushroom and Vegetable Soup (Sup Jamur), Base Gede – Basic Yellow Sauce (Bumbu Kuning), Be Siap Mesanten – Chicken in Coconut Curry (Kare Ayam), Sate Siap – Minced Chicken Grilled on Bamboo Sticks ( Sate Lilit Ayam),  Kacang Me Santok – Vegetable in Peanut Sauce (Gado Gado), Coconut and Snake Bean Salad (Jukut Urab), Pepesan Be Pasih – Steamed Fish in Banana Leaves (Pepes Ikan), Tempe Me Goreng – Deep Fried Tempe in Sweet Soy Sauce (Tempe Kering), Kolak Bui – Boiled Banana in Palm Sugar Syrup (Kolak Pisang).

This was the exact same menu I tried last year, but just as good and what made it even better, is that Puspa helped me make some minor variations to my dishes so that I could try something different.  Of course she checked for any allergies prior and one of the participants was allergic to banana, so the dessert dish had Balinese Sweet Potato substituted for the banana, which I also tried for something different – YUM!
The group separates (in no particular order) to two tables and we enjoy our first course – the soup.  Some idle chit chat and getting to know one another, we learn in our group there are three people from Astonia, one from Finland, two from West Germany, two from Singapore and us two Aussies... and that was just our table.  There were another five people on the other table.
Every single person’s soup bowl bone dry, Puspa ushers us back into the kitchen to continue our cooking.  What seems like only a few moments later, we are told to take our seats and a feast is quickly delivered to our table.  There is SO...MUCH...FOOD!  We pass the platters around and fill our plates with a little bit of everything.  Hardly any room left for seconds, but feeling bad that we have left so much food, the platters do the rounds again for just a little more.  We share stories with each other about our own countries and experiences and before you know it, the time has ticked away into the late afternoon.

Puspa knows we are bursting at the seams, but who could resist that delicious and simple dessert – it literally takes minutes to whip up.  A drink of coffee or tea to go with it, our day together winds down and the group prepares to go their separate ways.  Puspa tells us their driver will take us back to our hotel in Kuta, but “no worry, no hurry”.  Nyoman drives us all the way back to Kuta, with our suitcase safely still in the back of Wayan’s car.

Although this was my second visit, it was just as special if not more as the first.  Wayan and Puspa were so happy for me to be there and mentioned this many times throughout the day, that they made me feel like I was, in fact, their special guest.  They both treated me and hubby like family, and I can confidently say that if you show genuine care and respect for their family and business, you will be well looked after.
Hubby had his reservations (pardon the pun) about this day and really only agreed to come along to keep me happy.  However, he did more work in the kitchen than me – I used the excuse that I’ve done it before and needed to take the photos – and he got to meet and chat with many really friendly people.  Wayan took an instant liking to hubby, which immediately put him at ease.  He tells me he would definitely do it again.  I would definitely do it again... maybe mum will join me next time?
We return to Kuta Central Park, and decide to relax at the hotel for the rest of the evening.  We have had a couple of jam packed days and still full from our delicious home cooked lunch, are not wanting to head out for tea.  I spend an hour on Skype with Miss 7, Nanny and Grandpa; hubby takes a dip in the pool and later we order a light snack via room service.  As hubby answers the door, he slips on a puddle of water and we realise our air conditioner is leaking.  Soon after around 10pm, the hotel has a blackout and we sit on our balcony watching the hotel staff runs around with torches to sort out the problem.  About 15 minutes later, lights back on and we call for Maintenance to fix our air conditioner.  I sit here compiling my blog, while the Maintenance guy tinkers with the leaking air con unit and I cringe at the thought of what could happen – is the power still actually connected?  But, hey presto, another 15 minutes and problem fixed.
While I sit here sipping a few glasses of  Hatten Aga Red, looking back on this amazing day I come to realise that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, with a common interest and  goal in mind you can work together to achieve anything.  It wasn’t until we had almost finished eating our lunch that I commented to those sitting at our table that we didn’t even know each other’s names, which we then went around the group and shared.  It really is true that: “Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love” – Giada De Laurentilis (American Chef).

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