Cooking Classes in Bali for traditional flavours

Do you love learning about the exotic dishes and aromatic spices?  Consider taking a cooking class in Bali and learn to cook the traditional way.

Attend a cooking class while visiting Bali to learn about the exotic traditional foods of this country.  Learn how to prepare these delicious dishes at home. 

Each class involved preparing simple traditional dishes using a range of fragrant herbs, spices and other natural ingredients.  A window into the Balinese culture!

Cooking Schools in Bali

Bali Cooking Class

Anika’s Cooking School in Kuta was the first cooking class we attended.  We were visiting Bali with a group of friends at the time so 9 of us decided to share a Balinese cooking experience.  What a fun day, and a delicious experience!

Some time later, we attended The Taste of Bali Cooking School, which was a totally difference experience with just 3 of us attending on the day.  Equally delicious!

The classes were quite different but both were great fun.

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Learn about the ingredients

Learning about the traditional herbs, spices and root ingredients is important to understand the flavours of Balinese cooking.

Using traditional techniques with a mortar and pestle to grind traditional herbs and spices into pastes is the key to understanding the differing flavours.   It was an opportunity for us to experience the aromas of the fragrant seeds, nuts, aromas and learn how each herb or spice influenced flavours and textures.

Fragrant Seeds and Nuts used in Balinese Cooking

Balinese flavours

  • Candlenut – A creamy coloured nut related to the Macadamia and similar in appearance.  Used as a thickening agent to hold spices together, it is soft, oily and easy to work into a paste.  Candlenut has a pleasant mild flavour.
  • Clove – Used infrequently in Balinese cooking, Cloves have an intense camphor like fragrance is more prized in Indonesian cigarettes.
  • Coriander Seeds – Related to parsley, coriander seeds have a refreshing orange flavour.  One of the main ingredients in curries, coriander seeds are often used as a substitute for pepper.  Coriander leaves are not used in Balinese cooking.
  • Nutmeg – A native spice of Indonesia, nutmeg has a powerful bitter-sweet flavour.  Fresh nutmeg is available at the market.  It’s mainly used in beef and pork curries.
  • Pepper – Pepper was one of the first spices ever used in cooking, becoming an important trade item in early times.  Black is more aromatic, white is hotter.  Best freshly ground.
  • Long Pepper – Another type of pepper available in Bali.  It’s hotter and sweeter than black pepper and similar shape to a chilli.
  • Sesame Seeds – Sesame is native to Indonesia, India and tropical Africa and is one of the world’s oldest seeds.  When ground, it becomes a thickening agent providing a sweet sesame flavour.

Rhizomes and Roots used in Balinese Cooking

  • Galangal – A member of the ginger family, Galangal is native to Java. An aromatic rose coloured root with a sweet, woody fragrance.  Galangal is used to disguise fishy odours.
  • Ginger – Originating from China, ginger is one of the world’s most popular spices.  It has a clean, spicy lemon flavour adding a refreshing pungency to most Asian cuisines.  Also used in herbal remedies.
  • Turmeric – A bright yellow spice root from the rhizome of a lily.  Native to South East Asia, it’s a mild, warm, attractive spice that gives a characteristic colour to curries.
  • Lemongrass – Lemongrass is a tropical grass with a bulbous root and thin leaves.  It has a distinctive lemon flavour that blends well with all other spices and is particularly suited to soups, curries and sambals.

The sour flavours used in Balinese cooking

  • Kaffir lime – Dark and glossy, Kaffir lime leaves are added to soups and curries to give a distinctive flavour.  When used in sambal, salads and satay, the leaves are finely shredded to disperse their flavour.
  • Tamarind – Tamarind is the soft brown pulp taken from the pods of the tamarind tree.  The flavour is similar to that of a tangy apricot and usually soaked in water and strained, with only the juice being retained and used.

The sweet and salty flavours of Balinese cooking

  • Shrimp paste – A pungent seasoning used extensively in South Asian cooking.  A mix of fermented crustaceans, shrimp paste blends well with other spices and has a rich flavour more mellow than fish sauce.
  • Sea Salt – White, flaky and tastes like the ocean.  Sea salt is prized for its natural, almost sweet flavour and the minerals it provides.  Considered a flavour enhancer.
  • Soy Sauce, Kecap asin or Kecap manis – Introduced to Indonesia by China, soy sauce with differing flavours.  Kecap asin is a salt dark soy sauce. Kecap manis is a sweet dark soy sauce with a distinctive molasses-like flavour and pouring consistency.  Both are used in marinades, stir fried vegetable and sambals.
  • Palm Sugar – A caramel-flavoured natural sugar made by extracting the nectar from the flower bud of the aren palm tree.  Lower calories than white sugar and not as sweet.

The hottest flavours of Balinese cooking

  • Chilli – Chilli adds an overall liveliness and harmony and forms the basis of Asian food flavours.  Chilli additionally aids health and healing and is particularly good for natural pain relief, improving circulation and relieving stress.

The Coconut

  • Coconut – Coconuts are used widely across Asia.  Roasting chunks of fresh coconut in a charcoal fire until blackened on the sides adds a distinctive flavour to a number of Balinese dishes.
  • Coconut Milk – Fresh pressed coconut milk has a fragrant, sweet and mildly nutty flavour.   Grate the flesh of a fresh young coconut, mix with warm water, squeeze and then strained.
  • Coconut Oil – Coconut oil has a very high smoking point and is the favoured cooking oil in Bali.  It is an unrefined oil which adds a sweet coconut flavour and fragrance to Balinese cooking.  Coconut oil can be heated to very high temperatures without burning.

The basics of Balinese cooking

  • Garlic – Crushed garlic is added to other spices before being ground to a paste.
  • Red Shallot – Small and burnt red in colour, this Balinese onion is similar to a shallot, but stronger flavoured and smaller in size.  Peeled and finely sliced before pounding in the mortar and pestle with spices to combine flavours.
  • Fried Shallots – Sprinkled on top of dishes for flavour and crunchy texture.

Take a Cooking Class in Bali

A Balinese Feast

It is important to make the seasoning, the dipping sauce and the fried shallots before preparing the sates.  They are each simple to make but each component adds it’s own beautiful flavour to the dish.

Balinese Bumbu (Base Gede) 

Step 1:  Seasoning:  Grind to a paste in a stone mortar. (Store in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 weeks).

  • Chilli – 1 large, finely chopped
  • Small whole Shallot onions – 20 finely chopped
  • Garlic – 10 cloves finely chopped
  • Coriander seeds – 1 tsp, crushed
  • Kaffir lime leaves – 3 finely sliced
  • Galangal – 5 cm peeled, sliced
  • Turmeric – 5 cm peeled, sliced
  • Ginger – 3 cm peeled, sliced
  • Candlenuts (Macadamia) – 5 chopped
  • Black peppercorns – sprinkle, crushed
  • White peppercorns – sprinkle, crushed
  • Shrimp Paste, half tspn
  • Palm Sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Tamarind – 1 tspn
  • Lemongrass – 10 cm, slicked finely
  • Coconut Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Combine all ingredients except oil, in stone mortar or food processor and grind coarsely.
  2. Place ground ingredients into a heavy saucepan, add all ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (5 – 10 minutes) until marinade turns golden in colour.
  3. Cool before using.

Learning about spices

Crispy fried shallots

  • 1 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup shallots – sliced finely


  1. Place shallots and cold oil in a small pot.  Deep fry, stirring constantly with chopsticks until golden – about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain well and set aside.  Store in an airtight container.

Grilled BBQ Sate sauce

Step 2: Dipping Sauce:  (can be stored in refrigerator 3-4 weeks)

  • Shallot onions – 10 chopped finely
  • Garlic cloves – 5 chopped finely
  • Half a Birds eye (hot) chilli – 1 chopped finely
  • Tomatos – 2 chopped finely
  • Turmeric – 2 cm chopped finely
  • Candlenuts – 5 chopped finely
  • Coriander seeds – 2 tsp crushed
  • Sprinkle of white and black pepper
  • Coconut oil – 1/2 cup
  • Palm Sugar – 4 tbsp


  1. Blend all ingredients except oil, combine in a heavy pan and cook until thickened.
  2. Add coconut oil and stir for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Serve with Sate Lilit as a dipping sauce.

Sate Lilit (Chicken Sate) – makes 20 Sates

Balinese Sate Lilit


  • 500 grams chicken mince
  • 4 – 5 tablesp Base Gedu/Balinese Bumbu (above)
  • 5 lime leaves, shredded
  • Sate sticks or skewers (soaked in water)
  • 3 tablesp fried shallots
  • 1 tablesp palm sugar
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • Half cup grated coconut
  • Half cup coconut milk


  1. Combine all ingredients except shredded coconut and kaffir lime leaves into the pestle – mix well with pestle until a smooth paste.
  2. Add shredded coconut and lime leaves and mix thoroughly.
  3. The mixture should be fragrant, deep yellow in colour and slightly sticky.  If it is too dry, add a small about of water or coconut milk.
  4. Shape the chicken mixture firmly onto lemongrass stalks or skewers.  Cover about a third of the skewer in chicken mix.
  5. Grill on an open grill until golden brown, turning constantly for about 5 minutes until cooked.

Serve these sate’s with steamed jasmine rice, Mie Goreng (fried noodles) or Nasi Goreng (fried rice) sprinkled with crispy fried shallots.

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Take a Cooking Class in Bali - Learn the Traditional Way

Bali is one of our favourite travel destinations so it was an easy decision for us to take a cooking class in Bali and learn to cook the traditional way.  The delicate flavours of spices complimented the choice of dishes and the techniques were easy to learn.

Read more about our Bali experiences

Have you ever taken a cooking class when you’ve travelled overseas?  Have you some favourite experiences?

Enjoy!   Put these recipes on your menu and don’t forget to let me know how dinner went down in your house.


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