Healthy Cooking

Here’s What It’s Like to Go to Cooking School in Bali

Photo: Lily Kunin
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While visiting Bali, health coach and Clean Food Dirty City founder Lily Kunin experienced cooking in a whole new way. By shopping and cooking with locals, she discovered new tastes, techniques, and more. Here, the Well+Good Council member remembers her day learning from Balinese cooks—and is reminded of how sometimes, learning new kitchen skills is the best souvenir of all

Part of the thrill of travel is immersing myself into the culture of the region. Whenever I travel somewhere new, I try to seek out activities that are truly authentic to the culture. This includes anything from an off-the-beaten-path hike with breathtaking views to a trip through the local markets to sample regional flavors. The more remote and under the radar, the better! My visit to Bali was no exception. While the entire trip was full of incredible experiences, my cooking excursion in Sideman village, just outside of Ubud, was one of my most memorable overall.

Green Kitchen Cooking School came recommended by a friend who has made multiple trips to Bali, and she assured me that this is as authentic as it gets in experiencing the Balinese culture and cuisine. True to her recommendation, the cooking class fully exceeded my expectations.

Here's what it's like to take a cooking class in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

A market in Bali
Photo: Lily Kunin

What to expect

The half-day experience is full-service, including an arranged pick-up from your lodging location plus transport to and from the cooking class in Sidemen Village. You can register in advance online, preview the menus, and select either a vegetarian or non-vegetarian meal option (we chose vegetarian).

A farmer in Bali
Photo: Lily Kunin

Off to the market

On the day of your class, you'll be trekking through some fields. So wear comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes, a longer dress, romper, or pair of shorts. Your guide will pick you up and escort you to your first stop: a visit to the market in Sidemen village! Here you really get to experience grocery shopping like a local (no waiting in long checkout lines at the Whole Foods register).

The Balinese men and women move from stall to stall stopping to purchase produce, flowers, spices, and more from local merchants. Your guide will lead you around, enabling you to sample exotic fruits and spices as you go. You may want to make some purchases to bring home with you, especially from the spice vendors.

A woman shops a market in Bali.
Photo: Lily Kunin

And then, the cooking begins

Once you leave the marketplace, you’re then chauffeured to your guide’s home. You will meet his chickens and cows and traverse through his family’s fields to forage for the remainder of the ingredients needed for your meal. In true Balinese fashion, you will look the part, equipped with rice hats to block the sun and baskets for your gatherings.

During the actual cooking portion, prepare to work. Every dish is as authentic and prepared by hand—you’ll using a mortar and pestle to grind sauces and shave coconut to make your own coconut milk! You will learn about the Balinese cuisine and culture as you cook, and thoroughly enjoy the fruits of your labor when the meal is ready. From the spicy soup starter, the savory curries and the sweet (but not too sweet) black rice pudding and freshly-harvested Rosella tea for dessert, you will leave very satisfied, and with all the recipes to recreate these favorites.

Plant-based cook and health coach Lily Kunin is the founder of Clean Food Dirty City and the author of the cookbook Good Clean Food. With her trademark less-is-more approach, Kunin is all about making irresistibly clean, wholesome food—using dairy-free and gluten-free ingredients.

What should Lily write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to

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