Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 2, 2010 Klungkung, Bali: To Market, To Market

The four of us, Katherine, Ben and Stephanie, and me, signed up to take a Balinese cooking class taught by chef Nyoman Santika at our hotel. The class itself was preceded by a trip to the large market in Klungkung, maybe a thirty-minute drive from the hotel.

The market was just splendid: an incredible mixture of fruits, vegetables (jicama pictured), cooking oil in reused water bottles, fish, live animals, beans, snacks, sundries, and cooking equipment. We didn’t get close to the slaughtering area—steered clear by our concierge and guide, Ardika, who must have been worried about our squeamish foreign stomachs.

I had taken along the list of ingredients I was trying to find in Berkeley that would enable me to cook Balinese food at home. I had been surprisingly successful at Ranch 99, an Asian mall and grocery store in Richmond, and at the Berkeley Bowl. But there were a few things on my list that I hadn’t been able to find and had no idea what they looked like. All questions were answered during the course of the market visit. It was great.

This market opens around 1:00am—yes, that’s right. 1:00am. Traditionally women, who are the primary cooks in the households, get up very early to do their shopping and come back home to cook the food before preparing the offerings for the day. (Men cook for ceremonies because the women are occupied with making more complicated offerings.) The food pretty much stays on simmer for the day. Whenever a family member is hungry, he or she will come into the kitchen, prepare a bowl of food, and retire to a quiet spot to consume it. The family doesn’t all sit down to eat at the same time except on ceremonial occasions (which are pretty numerous in this culture).

This custom of eating the same food whether it is early morning or late in the afternoon explains what I noticed on our hotel menus. Some of the dishes were offered on all three menus: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mie goreng (Stir Fried Noodles with Vegetables) and Nasi goreng (Fried Rice) in various forms were available at all three meals. Being a person who loves savory dishes for breakfast, I couldn’t have been happier. Many dishes are offered for both lunch and dinner with no difference in the size of the servings. Jererak ayam (Chicken in Coconut Sauce), for example, was available for lunch and dinner. It seems that porridges with a rice base are most often offered for breakfast, although porridges and soups show up on lunch menus as well.

In almost every village you pass through, you’ll see roosters in bamboo cages, like large loosely-woven baskets turned upside down over the roosters. The market at Klungkung was no exception. Turns out these roosters are used in ceremonial fights to the death on special temple occasions but are also used in village contests which involve gambling, illegal in Bali. The illegality doesn’t seem to stop the fights. In the market there was a circle of men holding their prized roosters. They let two loose to “practice.” As soon as the cocks got too close to each other, the owners scooped them up.

Back to the hotel for our cooking class.

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