Taking a cooking class in Ubud, Bali was one of my travel dreams. I knew that Ubud was famous for its amazing vegan food and vegetarian food, and I wanted to learn how to cook plant-based Balinese food by myself, so that I could recreate the amazing flavors of Indonesia when I returned home to Canada.
I did a lot of searching online before choosing an Ubud cooking class. I found some offered by local restaurants and hotels in Ubud, and others that were offered through Airbnb Experiences, but there was one that really caught my eye: Pemulan Farm’s Ubud Cooking Class, located in a village about thirty minutes outside central Ubud. Their program appealed to me because it would offer a change of scenery, I would get to explore an organic farm, and, most importantly, their menus (including standard, vegetarian and vegan options) were absolutely mouth-watering!
Note: I paid in full for my Ubud cooking class and did not disclose that I was a blogger. This is an independent, unbiased review.
Ubud Cooking Class Market Tour
Because I signed up for the morning cooking class, our day started with a tour of the local market near the cooking course’s village. The tour is exclusive to the morning class, as the market closes before noon and it’s about a thirty-minute drive from central Ubud.
Our guide led us through the market. He knew most of the vendors and arranged for us to sample lots of local fruits, including prickly “snake fruit” (salak), lychee-like longan, regional mandarin oranges and even fried banana and jackfruit fritters. Our guide paid for all of the samples, so we didn’t need to juggle our wallets and cameras at the same time!
There were no other tourists in the market, so we saw a very authentic side of Balinese life. There were men walking around with squawking geese suspended from their feet, wooden crates full of baby pigs and densely-packed chicken enclosures. A number of people who had signed up for the meat-based menu decided to choose the vegetarian option instead, after seeing the scenes in the local market!
Ubud Cooking Class Farm Tour
Pemulan Bali Farm Cooking School is located on an actual working organic farm, and a special part of taking a Bali cooking class here is that you get to tour the farm and harvest many of the ingredients that you will use while cooking. As a bonus, since it’s an organic farm, you’re encouraged to pick food directly from the earth and munch on it as you wander around!
We formed teams of two (I joined up with another solo traveler, and vegetarian, from Switzerland) and took one basket each out to the garden. Our guide led us around to the different fruits and vegetables, ranging from durian and rambutan to mustard greens and lemon basil, and told us exactly how much to pick of each item. Many of the treats could be sampled directly from the earth, and I even had the chance to dig up a fresh peanut, crack it open and eat it (spoiler: it tasted like a bean sprout!).
The farm tour takes about thirty minutes. When you finish, you pass your basket over to the cooking course staff and they wash and dry all of your vegetables for you. It’s easy for baskets to get mixed up at this point, so if you’re particular about the exact items that you and your partner picked, let the staff know.
Ubud Cooking Class – Cooking & Eating Balinese Food
And now for the good stuff! As I mentioned, I was a solo traveler at this Bali cooking course, so I sought out another solo vegetarian to partner up with. The instructors set up the cooking area (under a bamboo roof, shown in the top photo) with meat-eaters on one side and vegetarians/vegans at the other end, with each group having their own instructor. There were only five vegetarians on the day of my course, so we had lots of hand-on assistance from our instructor!
Our cooking station was equipped with two burners – one for a frying pan and one for a pot. We also had two cutting boards, two very sharp knives, a heavy mortar and pestle, and lots of little bowls and covers for the ingredients and mise en place as we progressed through the cooking experience.
We started by preparing the appetizers shown above: fried sweet-and-sour tempeh, and gado-gado salad with steamed vegetables and handmade peanut sauce. We had a blast grinding the whole peanuts into a smooth sauce by hand in the mortar and pestle, and deep-frying the tempeh was a fun little indulgence (though I’d never use that much oil when I was cooking at home!). After both dishes were finished we took them over to the dining table, snapped a few photos and enjoyed our appetizers before beginning to prepare our main dishes.
Actually, before we moved on to the main courses we gathered around for a demo of our dessert: Balinese black rice pudding. Our instructor actually cooked one large pot of rice pudding (with plantains and coconut milk) for everyone to share, getting us to help out a bit along the way. Dessert was the one dish that we didn’t prepare individually at our stations, since it’s better made as a large batch. Our dessert simmered away (smelling delicious, of course) while we moved on to the main dishes.
After we ate our appetizers and watched the dessert demonstration, it was time to move on to cooking our three main dishes. Clockwise from the top, we made a coconut curry with tempeh, cassava fritters and steamed corn dumplings in banana leaves. The staff at Pemulan Bali Farm Cooking School really have the whole thing down to an art – they know exactly how to time all three dishes so that they finish cooking within seconds of eachother, giving you three piping hot Indonesian foods to sample as your main course.
I loved the cassava fritters (which we made vegan, without egg as a binder, though the other vegetarians used eggs) and the corn dumplings were amazing (I had never personally seasoned corn with freshly-grated coconut and black pepper before… now I’ll never eat corn without those two flavors!). The curry was equally rich and creamy, and it was perfect scooped on top of the local white rice prepared by the farm staff.
After we devoured our main courses, staff served up the black rice pudding for dessert and we all sat around chatting about our time in Bali and our cooking experiences. It was a lovely morning and afternoon, and I’m sure it will be one of my favorite memories of my trip!
We were given a small cookbook featuring all of the recipes that we prepared (and a few extras!), and were also given a link to download a PDF of the recipes as well. Since my backpack is super-full (I’m on an eight-month trip!) I was glad to have an electronic version that I’ll be able to access when I’m home in Canada… in 2020…
Ubud Cooking Class Logistics
Pemulan’s Bali Farm Cooking School is quite popular, so you’ll want to book your Ubud cooking class as soon as you know your travel dates. Their website has a registration form that you can use to select your dates, transportation options (transfers to and from central Ubud are free!) and preferred menu – vegan, vegetarian or standard. You’ll pay a deposit equal to 25% of the cost at the time you book, and you can pay the rest in cash directly at the farm, after your cooking class.
At the time that I took the class, the cost was 400,000 IDR (or about $35 USD). The cost for the morning and afternoon class is the same, but the afternoon class does not include a market tour (since the market is only open in the morning). Transfers to and from the farm were easy in their well-marked vans, with a pick-up time of 7:30 am at my guesthouse (Dipa Home Stay) in central Ubud.
As a personal note, I recommend that you wear long pants and closed-toed shoes for this cooking class. There is a lot of hot oil and boiling water involved, and while there were zero safety concerns during my visit, there are inherent risks associated with being around these hot ingredients. You might also want to bring a sweater or scarf, as the farm can be cool in the morning.