#FrannyCooks Special : Balinese Cooking Demo at Mandarin Oriental Singapore

I'd say, Paul and I had a really productive Labor Day. Luckily, we laborers got a day off from work which allowed us to catch up on sleep, finish all domestic duties and to learn something new! Yes, you read that right. I love taking classes as it allows me to know a new skill or to sharpen something that I already know to be better. After all, learning should be a lifelong process.

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So, we spent two hours on Labor Day at Mandarin Oriental Singapore to learn how to cook Balinese food! Living away from home, I'd say our kitchen know-how has improved greatly from cooking sunny-side-up eggs to pasta and recently, we've become more bolder in experimenting on more complicated dishes. Nonetheless, we've stuck closely to Filipino and Chinese cuisines. These two that we both grew up eating at our respective homes. So, I was really intrigued as to what Balinese cuisine is all about.

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As soon as our class started, Chef Heinz von Holzen of Bumbu Bali Restaurant & Cooking School asked us what we know about Balinese food. I immediately said "Babi Guling"! That famous roasted pork that people has been raving about after their Bali trip. Apparently there are 5 common dishes that you can find in almost all restaurants and resorts in Bali. These are: Satay, Nasi Goreng,, Rojak and two others I can't remember at the moment. Anyhow, all these are not authentic Indonesian or Balinese cuisine. So, that was our objective that afternoon. To cook Balinese food the authentic way.

Similar to Singaporean and Malay dishes, Balinese food uses a lot (and I really mean a LOT) of herbs and spices. Chili, coriander, ginger, turmeric, garlic, candlenuts, onions and my personal favorite -- kaffir lime. When all these are mixed together, you get that amazing flavor and smell that will surely whet your appetite in no time. So, we started by learning how to make the basic -- Base de Pasih (Spice Paste for Seafood). This can act as a rub or as the sauce base for most seafood dishes. In fact, Chef Heinz suggests creating a huge amount and to freeze it by creating ice cubes out of the sauce. That way, when you want to use it, you can simply take some "cubes", defrost and include it into your dish. Smart, huh?

Let me show you the recipe below:

recipe 1

Moving on, we then made Sambel Udang which is a dish with Prawns in the Spiced Tomato Paste/Sauce. I had the privilege to be chosen to help Chef prepare this dish and as I was mixing the fresh prawns along with the rest of the ingredients, I can really smell the delicious aroma of the Spiced Paste! It was really hard to keep my mouth from watering while trying to be a very good student. :P

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I love this dish! This just got to be my favorite among the three dishes we made that day. The prawns was just so succulent with a good crisp bite while the sauce had that slight spicy kick which was still manageable. It was so delicious that I somehow wish we had rice to go with it. Luckily, this was also being served in the buffet line-up inside MELT ~ The World Cafe. Hooray!

This is one dish I'll surely recreate at home. Sharing this with all of you too:

recipe 2

Lastly, we learned how to make dessert! In Bali, bananas are coated in batter, deep-fried and eaten either on its own or dipped into a sauce. It's called Pisang Goreng (Fried Banana Fritters). Growing up, this was one of the things that I look forward to eating whenever we would spend our summer breaks here in the Lion City. It's so cheap yet so filling and delicious. We would try to have it with ice cream or drizzle sweet and creamy caramel sauce on top. I didn't know that this was actually a Balinese dessert as all the while I thought it was truly Singaporean.

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Cooking this is not easy. We learned that the oil has to be really hot (120-130 degrees Celsius) and the best way to keep the coating crispy and less greasy is to cook it slowly. For example, the bananas had to cook for 20-30 minutes. Definitely, shortcuts are a no-no here.

Attending this cooking demo has made us realize all the hard work that goes in each dish. After all, cooking is indeed a marriage of art and science. At the end of the demo, we were treated to a good Balinese meal at MELT. Of course, I had more of that Sambel Udang and tried a couple more dishes too. Oh, we're so excited for our trip to Bali in a couple of months. I'm definitely traveling with a mission now -- to search for more authentic Balinese dishes and to fill my tummy with all of it! :)

Check out the Balinese line-up at MELT ~ The World Cafe which will run only till 8th of May (Friday)! So, please hurry! I'll tell you more about the buffet spread in my next entry. :)

*photos by Paul Ang

MELT ~ The World Cafe is located at the 4th level of Mandarin Oriental Singapore, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, Singapore. Call them at 6885-3500.

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