I've decided now that in my efforts to learn as much as possible about different foods around the world, wherever I travel, whenever I have the chance, I will take a cooking class. So when I was in a small "town" called Tuk-tuk, on an island called Samosir (the size of Singapore), in Lake Toba (which fills an enormous ancient volcanic crater), in Sumatra, Indonesia, and found cooking classes being offered, how could I not?
I went to the Juwita Cafe, where the class was offered, but didn't mention it at first. It's important to see if the food at this place is any good before I committed myself to a half day of cooking it! The problem was, at the time, it was my first trip to Indonesia, and I had only been there a couple of days. I had absolutely NO IDEA what I wanted to eat!
Luckily, I had stumbled upon some of the friendliest locals anywhere! They showed me through to the back of the restaurant, through a small garden and up some stairs to a table right at the top, overlooking the lake. Sam, one of the owners of the restaurant, came to take my order and when he saw my confusion, sat down to chat and patiently explain what some of the dishes were. I finally decided on Special Gado-gado, a veggie dish with bits of chicken, covered in a peanutty sauce. (It's usually just a veggie dish; the chicken makes it "Special")
|Special Gado-gado and my view of the lake.|
I took one bite, and was sold on the cooking class. Gado-gado is delicious! As I was leaving I made plans to go back for a class, but just as I was about to walk out the door, the rain started coming down, and I ended up hanging out there with Heddy and Sam for a while.
|Heddy cutting banana leaves for cooking.|
A couple of days later, I went back for my class. Heddy began by sitting me down and showing me some ingredients. Most were rather familiar to me by now, but a few were new.
|The cooking class menu. I chose Veggie Gado-gado, Chicken Rendang, and Fish Pepesh.|
|A few spices and ingredients.|
Heddy also grates her own coconut. Or, at least, the people who do her cooking class do! She didn't waste any time putting me to work scraping out the insides of that little thing. It's quite a workout!
Thankfully, when I got tired, Sam was willing to take over for a while. He was much better at it than I was!
Then it was on to the fish. I had chosen Fish Pepesh, or fish steamed with spices in a banana leaf. I ground up all the spices with a mortar and pestle, then I got a break while Heddy chucked it all into the blender to mash it up well. We then spread some of it on a banana leaf, put the fish on, and I spread the rest of the mixture on top. Once we'd wrapped it up like a present and secured the ends with toothpicks, we put it in the steamer for a while.
|Heddy spreading the spice mixture on the banana leaves.|
Next I had to make the gado-gado sauce mixture. This meant using a large flat stone and a smaller round stone to grind things together, bit by bit. Again, it was hard work!
|Me and Heddy making Gado-gado.|
After that it was time to cook everything.
|Mixing my Rendang while the fish steams.|
The final products! (Ok, so they don't look so appetizing in the pictures, but trust me, it was GOOD!)
If you ever find yourself in Tuk-tuk in North Sumatra, stop in and say hello to Heddy and Sam at Juwita cafe. I highly recommend the cooking class, but even if you don't want to do that, the food is delicious!