COOK YOUR CATCH IN BALI
The fruits of someone else's labor...
Our skilled guide, however, managed to reel in two small white snapper that would later be swimming in our curry...
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” Perhaps they were right, but on the day of our seafood cooking class at the Alila Manggis, the proverb should have been: “Catch a man a fish, show him how to cook it and he will eat well for a night.”
Rising with the sun, we made our way down to the beach to meet our guide. My dreams of hunting and gathering on the high seas were quickly shattered when I saw that our vessel was a back to basics Balinese jukung – a traditional outrigger fishing boat – and that the tool with which I was supposed to wrestle in our dinner was no more than a nylon hand line.
Whether the fish could sense my novice status, or whether the local fisherman accompanying us had some secret local tricks stashed up his sarong, I am not sure, but an hour passed without my bait receiving so much as a nibble. Our skilled guide, however, managed to reel in two small white snapper that would later be swimming in our curry.
Back on dry land that night, we gathered on the lawn overlooking the ocean where our dinner had been foraged and prepared for a traditional Balinese cooking class. Spread out before us was a kaleidoscope of exotic ingredients. Our teacher explained their uses and origins, and we learnt that many had come from the surrounding lands. Over an open flame we prepared exotic specialties such as Bumbu Bali, a spice paste made from a mixture of chilli, ginger, local herbs and spices; Lawar, a Balinese coleslaw; fish satay; fish and prawn curry; fish wrapped in banana leaf; and coconut pancakes for dessert.
Finally we sat down to taste the fruits of our labor and were pleasantly surprised with our efforts. We may not have caught the fish with our own bare hands, but we did prepare a banquet of Balinese delights – at least some of it fresh from the sea – and learnt a thing or two about the piquant and fresh cuisine of this island.