A Balinese Cooking Class in Ubud at The Payuk Bali Cookery School

They say laughter is the best medicine and if this is true, then no one heals quite like Ketut, the endearing and supremely skilled chef and brains behind the Payuk Bali Cooking School in Ubud. Let me put aside, for one moment, the Western medicine that I have trained in – there is a lot to be said for having a smile on your face, warmth in your heart, an infectious sense of humour and a work ethic that puts most of us to shame and Ketut efficiently embodies all of these traits.kututUbud is cluttered with cookery classes and reminded me a lot of Hoi An, Vietnam in that respect. It was in Hoi An in 2013 in fact, where I took a cookery class abroad for the first time and after a wonderful experience out there, I had my heart set on doing one in Bali. Even in a city like London, so full of eclectic cuisine and swarming with restaurants and supper clubs, Balinese cuisine is relatively difficult to come by so I had no intention of passing up an opportunity to master it. Okay, “master” may be a little delusional…wpid-20141119_082918_1.jpgIf you are wondering whether you can be bothered to wake up early for your hotel breakfast that morning, my advice would be to drag your sleepy bottom to the buffet table. Lunch is substantial but is not eaten till around 1pm and the aromatic spices will leave you with insatiable, publicly audible and rather incriminating hunger pangs if you arrive on an empty stomach.wpid-20141119_084303_1.jpg The morning class commences crisply at 8am with a tour of a local market, where we were informed about some of the most common ingredients used in Balinese cookery.DSC_0967 Galangal, bay leaves, kaffir lime, lemongrass, aromatic ginger (white ginger) all of which are extortionately priced in England, are part of the daily grind in the homes of the Balinese.wpid-20141119_103116_1.jpg I was amazed to hear that the markets take their first breath around 2-3am. If you stroll in at 8am to buy your fish, you’ve already missed the freshest of the day’s catch and if you come at midday, you may as well turn around without stopping.

A short drive sees us pulling into a traditional family home compound, which is where our cooking class will be taking place.

But first, we are offered a refreshing and wholesome chilled ginger, lemongrass and honey tea and in keeping with Balinese traditions, we are taught how to prepare Balinese offerings with fresh flowers, pandan leaves and betel nut leaf in a small square shallow tray made of strips of banana leaves.Balinese flower offeringOur class had fifteen participants with Ketut leading the session, three chefs assisting and a whole handful of others helping to clean and wash, women and men whom I can only assume are part of the same family and compound community.DSC_0986 The cooking takes place in an airy and shaded garden area of the compound.

There is no sitting back and watching at this class. As my father has always told me, there is no free lunch and here at the Payuk Bali Cookery Class, it is hands on from the outset with an opportunity to do everything from chopping to frying, grinding to mixing. wpid-20141119_114500_1.jpg wpid-20141119_110339_1.jpg Who needs a fancy Kitchen Aid when you have the ultimate food processor like this one below to grind your spices? As you can see, its height almost exceeded mine but you really couldn’t argue with the results it was producing.wpid-20141119_104034_1.jpgDishes included Balinese fried chicken, satay chicken with the most crunchy, peanuty sauce I’ve ever eaten, a chicken salad, steamed tuna in banana leaf, a brothy soup and steamed rice.

I exhaled in relief. Finally, feeling very much the mediocre one at the cookery class here in Ubud, I had found a dish I already knew. Steamed rice after all is the one item you would imagine needs no teaching. How wrong I was! We were so surprised to learn that even simple steamed rice is given the ultimate makeover in Balinese cooking, being steamed twice over and soaked in aromatic lemongrass-infused stock.DSC_0970 There is such an emphasis to detail with every dish at Payuk Bali – no shortcuts and no shoddy efforts. They ooze passion for their enticing and spiritual country, its customs and cuisine and they share that with you by teaching their craft of preparing the freshest and finest food.DSC_1017There wasn’t one person in the room who wasn’t smiling and laughing, captivated by the vibrant energy of Ketut and his team, their unfailing enthusiasm lingering as long as the spices with which they were cooking.DSC_0973 Aside from being kitted out with aprons and cloths, we were given as much ice-cold mineral water as we needed throughout the class and they made sure they saw to our photo-taking needs whilst we got on with learning to cook.DSC_1008 As we left, they were full of hugs and warm wishes. The food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten in South East Asia (and no, that’s definitely NOT because I made it!) but it is the sincerity and charisma of the staff that sets this cookery class apart from many of its competitors in Ubud.

Practical Tips about the Payuk Bali Cookery Class

  • free transfers from Ubud hotels
  • cost of the class and exchange rate at the time of publishing this post was 350,000 Indonesian Rupiah, roughly equating to 27 USD
  • Vegetarian options are available
  • Duration of our course was approximately 5 – 5.5 hours
  • Both morning and afternoon classes are available
  • Details of the Payuk Bali menus can be found here

Have you ever taken a cookery class abroad?


Disclaimer: We received a discounted cookery class for review purposes but I am forever an opinionated little Madam and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own. Many thanks to the staff for what was to be a highlight of my trip to South East Asia.


37 thoughts on “A Balinese Cooking Class in Ubud at The Payuk Bali Cookery School

  1. I’ve only taken one cooking class before and it was so much more fun than I originally imagined. This one looks awesome! We may be making it to Bali later this summer and I would love to learn to make some dishes (I actually don’t really know a lot about Indonesia food at all)! Just the thought of those spices and exotic ingredients are making me drool. How did you choose a class, may I ask?

    And does Pumpkin happen to be in that picture? I thought maybe finally we can get a peek of what he looks like. πŸ˜›

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 7, 2015 — 9:15 pm

      Haha! No I think he was the one taking the group pic! But I think you may have read my foodie in Cuba post and there’s a pic of he and I in that one if you’re still curious :mrgreen: There were quite a few classes in Ubud to choose from but the main thing that appealed to me about Payuk Bali was partly the menu but mainly how so many reviews were commenting on how affectionate and funny Ketut was so it sounded like a really fun way to spend a day! I hope you do make it to Bali as I really liked it and the food is lovely!

  2. I LOVED Balinese food, and seeing those exotic spices growing in the fields. Wish I’d taken a cooking course now! This one looks like it is in a lovely setting πŸ™‚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 7, 2015 — 9:21 pm

      The setting was lovely with a beautiful view of a ravine. It also meant it was nice and cool despite so many of us cooking. Great to hear you liked the Balinese food too – I knew very little about it till I went so it was a pleasant surprise πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading Natasha!

  3. I”d love to sample some Balinese food – all those ingredients are my favourites. I took a class in Hoi An too – fabulous experience and it looks as though this was as well. Twice cooked rice infused with lemon grass water – wow even the simple dishes are tweaked for flavour! Fab post πŸ™‚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 7, 2015 — 9:27 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Suzanne πŸ™‚ Yes I love those ingredients too – lots of them are quite common across different areas of South East Asia it seems. So glad to hear you enjoyed your cooking class in Hoi An. I found it just wonderful and it was that that’s given me a real taste for trying more cookery classes abroad!

  4. How nice that you learnt to prepare Balinese offerings and to grind spices

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 7, 2015 — 9:30 pm

      Learning to make the offerings was a lovely added touch Suze πŸ™‚

  5. Ummmm yum! Looks amazing and like a heap of fun. Have you tried making any of the dishes since? I did an amazing cooking class in Thailand once but to be honest have never recreated any of the food at home. Takeaways are just too damn convenient!
    Claire xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 7, 2015 — 9:41 pm

      Haha you caught me red handed Claire – I haven’t actually made the dishes since coming home though I would like to think that that’s because quite a lot of the ingredients are either hard to find here or are so costly here but I really should give it a go but like you say, takeaways are just so easy! Thanks so much for reading ☺

  6. This post is making me hungry! What a lovely experience!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 7, 2015 — 9:47 pm

      Thank you Becky! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of these days, I may even be able to recreate these dishes at home!

  7. OMG LOVE Balinese food – how delicious! My mouth is watering just looking at this post… I’d love to learn it properly too!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:01 pm

      I loved it too Tim – such delicious flavours! I think I need to pluck up the courage to give it another go at home but not sure if I’ll be able to pull it off without the staff here to help me πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading!

  8. I don’t know anything about Balinese cooking, but I would love to attend one of these colourful cooking classes.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:03 pm

      I was the same Mette before I went to this class, I had never tried or heard anything about Balinese food specifically, despite being a big fan of South East Asian food so it was another reason I was so intrigued to try this out πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading!

  9. This looks like such a wonderful experience. I love how you guys were so hands on with everything. Balinese food looks delicious! I’m salivating πŸ™‚ I haven’t taken a cooking class but would love a class set up just like this.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:13 pm

      This was only the 2nd time I’d taken a class like this abroad Mary but they are really good fun, as long as they are reasonably hands on like this was! It might be something you and your family might enjoy doing together on your travels one day πŸ™‚ Balinese food, though it uses a lot of the same spices as found in other parts of South East Asia, tasted quite different and I really enjoyed it! Thanks so much for reading!

  10. I love South East Asian food. Are there any cooking classes for the veggie soul?

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 18, 2015 — 7:01 pm

      Yes most of them have a veggie option too – this one certainly did as we had some vegetarians joining us on this class too who were making some other dishes in place of the neat dishes we made. South East Asian food is just so delicious isn’t it?! ☺

  11. Love Ketut, it looks like he never stops smiling! Ah this took me back to my time at Bali, it was my first trip to SE Asia and I totally fell in love with it. One of my favourite dishes to make at home now is Nasi Goreng!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 18, 2015 — 7:18 pm

      Honestly Keri, I think he’s the smiliest person I’ve ever met! His happy bubbly nature was just SO infectious as well! I’m so glad you loved Bali too as it completely exceeded all my expectations! I’ve never made Nasi Goreng – is it reasonably straightforward to do?

      1. Oh it’s so easy – Im actually making it for tea tonight! The best, and easiest, way to do it is get a jar of Yeo’s Nasi Goreng paste and cook up some chicken, prawns and veg in said paste. Cook and add your rice, chuck in some more paste till you get the right strength and voila! We fry an egg for on top, sprinkle in spring onions and soy and we’re good to go. If you give it a try let me know what you think….

        1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 26, 2015 — 9:46 pm

          Thank you! Sounds delicious and so easy, I’ll definitely give it a go!

  12. I would love to do a cookery class while traveling!!
    It seems to me you worked a lot, but also had a lot of fun πŸ˜€
    The food looks great!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 21, 2015 — 9:19 pm

      Haha it probably looks like more work than it was and although everyone gets stuck in, because everyone works together as a team, it isn’t too hard and gave us a nice chance to get chatting to some new faces while we cooked which was fun ☺ This was only my 2nd cookery class abroad but I have really enjoyed them both Allane so highly recommend trying one out one day!

      1. That sounds like lots of fun… must be very cool to cook in a team, chat with different people. Such a great experience! I certainly want to do that someday!! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  13. nice post. it is a very interesting activity. I have never learned to cook to an expert. but I am very fond of culinary. unfortunately I was not good at cooking. I want to know, if you just learn the traditional cuisine alone? certainly very interesting, because sometimes traditional cuisine has value and unique taste. nice share. thanks.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 24, 2015 — 8:33 pm

      Thank you Gabrielle. Yes we learned some traditional Balinese dishes at the cooking class. It was good fun and I’m not great at cooking either so it was lovely to get some practice here!

  14. You’re getting pretty good at the grinding! πŸ™‚ First avocados now spices…

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) September 24, 2015 — 2:40 pm

      Haha, yep! I think this cookery class last year in Bali was the reason I came across as a pro at the avocados…..ha! I wish! :mrgreen:

  15. Great

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 11, 2017 — 10:26 pm

      It was such a fun class Virginia!

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