eat drink talk: cuisine of bali and indonesia
this is part two of two about classes at eat drink talk. this review is written by my friend julia...
recently i attended a cookery class on the cuisine of bali and indonesia at eat drink talk in clerkenwell, central london. i love south east asian cooking, but didn’t know much about the cuisine from this part of asia, and was keen to learn more.
the class was taught by wonderfully knowledgeable and enthusiastic canadian jennifer klinec, in her airy loft apartment, whose homey setting contributed to the informal, friendly tone of the evening. nine of us—five women and four men, in their twenties, thirties and forties—sat around a huge custom-made table facing jennifer as she talked through the recipes, ingredients and techniques. we kicked off with a glass of iced, spicy indonesian tea (bandrek), spiked with a good slug of rum. on the menu was:
gado gado with peanut sauce
balinese yellow curry with prawns and candlenuts
tropical fruit salad with ginger toffee sauce
peanuts and shrimp paste were part of almost every recipe, yet there was nothing samey about the flavours of the resulting dishes. rujak was a crisp, cool, slightly tart and refreshing salad made with, among other things, green mango, green papaya and yam bean (the first time i encountered this vegetable), dressed with a delicious sweet and sour and hot peanut dressing. it’d make a very tasty summer salad for a picnic or a barbecue - or i could just see myself eating it on its own.
gado gado was another vegetable dish served with a peanut sauce, but here the veg, including carrots, snake beans, water spinach and bean sprouts, was steamed first, and the peanut sauce was cooked with coconut milk. the final dish was topped with quartered hardboiled eggs—it’d make a lovely weekend lunch, and was mild enough also for young kids to enjoy.
the curry was delicious, fragrant and warm, thickened with ground candlenuts and topped with crispy shallots. after all this, there was hardly space for more, but we managed to squeeze in some nasi goreng—the indonesian version of fried rice—and then some sweet and juicy fruit salad with a wonderful toffee sauce, made with palm sugar, coconut milk and crystallized ginger.
due to the layout of the room, the format of the class was more about observation than participation. that said, we all sliced vegetables (using marvellous asian mandolins that looked as though they were made a different century—but which with a little practice produced surprisingly even and thin slices) and pounded curry paste ingredients. in fact, in fact it was a surprisingly involving experience, even though we didn’t all have our own ‘work stations’, as in some cookery schools.
i loved the way jennifer sent around little bowls with key ingredients like shrimp paste, fresh turmeric and kecap manis (sweet indonesian soy sauce) so we could all sniff and taste our way into familiarity with them. there was also plenty of time to ask questions, and for me a highlight of the evening was jennifer’s extensive knowledge of where to source all these ingredients. in reading indonesian cookery books, i have been wondering where to get the candlenuts required by so many curries from this part of the world, having had no success finding them in my usual favoured stores. (the answer, in case you too have been lying awake with this problem, is new loon moon supermarket on gerrard street in london’s china town).
the courses at eat drink talk are meant to be accessible for everyone, including real beginners. this meant that the course i took was inclusive and non-elitist, as very little background knowledge was assumed. if you do a reasonable amount of cooking, this may mean that some of the areas covered (such as what raw prawns look like, and how you peel and devein them) may feel a little basic, and i didn’t perhaps learn that many new techniques or processes. that said, i loved the whole experience and came away with a much better understanding of flavours and combinations, as well as a great deal of enthusiasm for experimenting with this new cuisine - i am off later today to source all the ingredients for an indonesian feast over the weekend.
if jennifer ever did an ‘advanced class’, i’d be keen to try it out. but either way, i plan to be back for another course offering - jennifer offers some really intriguing and unusual choices. most courses cost £75 - not cheap, but money well spent i think.