Travel

Bali: Market research

Chef Heinz von Holzen's cooking school Bumbu Bali.
Chef Heinz von Holzen's cooking school Bumbu Bali. Zoe Walker

THERE'S a basketful of chickens squawking, a cat meowing, and I feel like I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Chef Heinz von Holzen is standing in front of our group of 10, "hypnotising" a chicken he's named Charlie, and I'm convinced he's going to kill it, here in front of us, in the middle of this busy Balinese market. (It doesn't help that I'm terrified of birds).

The horror must be showing all over my face: Von Holzen growls at me to stop looking so angry. It's the first of several scoldings of the day.

We are at the bustling Jimbaran vegetable market, the first stop on Von Holzen's day-long Bumbu Bali cooking class, where chickens, cats and scooters exist alongside tightly packed stalls offering everything from bras to bananas to readymade palm leaf baskets for the canang sari, daily offerings that are scattered everywhere in Bali.

Balinese markets like these are controlled, explains Von Holzen, by ladies, whether they're sellers or buyers. With no refrigeration for easy storage, "Mama Bali", as he calls her, visits markets like these early each morning for fresh produce, and to catch up on the latest gossip.

Like most things in Bali it's a mad sensory overload of the beautiful and confronting: colourful baskets full of tiny chillies and other spices, fruit and vegetables, bowls of prawns buzzing with flies, piles of raw meat, bags filled with dazzling exotic looking flowers, and an endless parade of scooters whizzing past.

After a tour of the market - and after Charlie the chicken is put back into the basket to live another day - we trundle into minivans and head to the traditional seaside fish market down the road.

If the earlier market was controlled by women, here, it seems to be the domain of the men.

Jukung, traditional fishing boats, line the beach, while inside the market the roof is disorientatingly low with sand-packed bags for a floor.

As he guides us around, Von Holzen talks of his devastation at the collapse of the fish population here, explaining that most of the fish we see in the market is frozen and shipped over from Java rather than caught fresh in Bali waters.

Much of the seafood here is frozen or defrosting, and he points at the cloudy eyes of most of the fish to prove his point.

We head back to Von Holzen's sprawling Pasar Malam compound, with its traditional guest rooms and open air pavilions and kitchens. Over a quick breakfast of Balinese fruit, black rice pudding and deliciously decadent sweet rice flour dumplings covered in palm sugar coconut sauce, Von Holzen tells us about his background.

The Swiss-born chef, who moved to Bali several years ago after being offered the job of executive chef at the Grand Hyatt, has made it his life's mission to champion the undervalued Balinese cuisine, with his own Bumbu Bali restaurants, books and cooking classes.

There are countless cooking schools in Bali but I suspect none have the personality and entertainment value of this one.

Von Holzen is a demanding host, passionately rattling off quotes and scientific facts from his favourite chef Heston Blumenthal and food writer Harold McGee, and barking questions at us that elicit awkward responses of what is generally the "wrong" answer (How many times to turn a steak? Why do we season water with salt? What came first, the chicken or the egg?).

These faux scoldings are offset by the comedy routine between Von Holzen and his long-time assistant Pak Bagus, a hilarious man with an expressive face. The pair banter back and forth, teasing each other and their guests. It's almost like dinner theatre (Although I discover later, after reading a few others' experiences online, that much of this is scripted - even Charlie the chicken is a recurring character in this production).

The cooking class itself is held in one of the large open air kitchens, where we are greeted by colourful bowls of pre-cut chillies, garlic, shallots, ginger and more (Von Holzen won't allow guests to chop anything). It is a long, but productive day: meeting at the market at 6am, followed by a relentless cooking schedule preparing around 20 authentic Balinese dishes, from the nasi kuning - yellow rice - rice is the most important element of a meal for Balinese - to urab jagung (sweet corn with grated coconut; one of the best things I have ever tasted), to the final dish, nasi goreng - which Von Holzen is at pains to remind us, is not actually a traditional Balinese dish.

Each guest is expected to contribute - my dish was the tum ayam, or minced chicken in banana leaf - and after about five hours of grinding, steaming, boiling, sauteing and simmering, we sit down to enjoy our feast - and it is delicious; fresh, fragrant and full of spice.

I may not quite be a master of Balinese cooking, but Von Holzen's passion and class have certainly boosted my appreciation for the island's unique cuisine - and shown me there's much more to Bali than shopping, sunset bars and yoga.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  bali travel travelling



Man charged with online grooming, procuring child for sex

A man was arrested in the Coffs Harbour area on Tuesday by Strike Force Trawler detectives.

Coffs Coast arrest after investigation by Sex Crimes Squad.

WATCH: Shock on-stage wedding proposal at theatre

SHOCK: According to Beyonce "If you like then you better put a ring on it." So Michael Campos surprised girlfriend Kacie Jones- McLean.

Operation Proposal goes off without a hitch

Local Partners

Monster garage sale needed to clear stock

THE newest op shop on the block in Coffs Harbour is bulging with goods and will host a monster garage sale for a good cause.


What to expect at Birds of Tokyo's Ipswich gig

The band will perform at the Racehorse Hotel on Friday.

BAND member Glen Sarangapany talks music, pub grub and doing shoeys

Petula Clark delighted to sing live for Australian fans

STILL TOURING: English singer Petula Clark is coming to Queensland.

English star Petula Clark still puts on a great show, even at 84.

Do you really know your road rules?

Cars travel around the roundabout at Villiers and Fitzroy Street. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

List of the top 10 most misunderstood road rules in NSW.

Top Gun 2 movie is happening, Tom Cruise confirms

TOM Cruise delights fans with announcement on Sunrise.

The first Baywatch movie reviews are in

From left, Jon Bass, Alex Daddario, Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, Kelly Rohrbach, and Ilfenesh Hadera in a scene from the movie Baywatch.

Critics were less than impressed.

Boyfriend loses it over sex lie

Stacey Louise’s sex lie destroys her relationship.

SEVEN Year Switch’s Stacey told a fib about her sex life.

Why Crowe’s thankful for those ‘bulls**t’ rumours

Russell Crowe and Terri Irwin in 2007.

Crowe and Terri Irwin have been dodging dating rumours for years now

MOVIE REVIEW: King Arthur - Legend of the Sword

Charlie Hunnam in a scene from the movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Why the critics have got Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur all wrong.

Concert death toll revised up to 22, tour suspended

There have been multiple confirmed deaths after 'explosions' heard at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester

"We saw blood on people when we got outside."

Casual Keanu says fame is ‘cool’

Keanu Reeves in a scene from the movie John Wick: Chapter 2.

NOBODY expected much of John Wick when it was released in 2014.

How Toowoomba house prices compare in Australia

For sale sign in front of home.

Here's what $700,000 will buy you in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sydney

UPDATE: Details revealed on rural land rezoning

REZONING: Large areas of Bonville have been rezoned for residential

Land rezoning will turn farmland into residential living

Bonville to become new housing hub

REZONING: Large areas of Bonville have been rezoned for residential

Land rezoning will turn farmland into housing

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!