We genuinely believe you can only really start to understand a country’s cuisine if you take a cooking class and see how the ingredients and spices are used together. So we get cooking! And of course, eating as we go dining Gili Air too.
Gili Air Cooking Class
Our teacher’s name was Pian. He has been one of the main tutors at the Gili Air Cooking Class since it opened. And, he’s frickin’ hilarious! Puns and quips from start to finish and just so much energy and enthusiasm for making the class really enjoyable.
Although menu items for the class may occasionally change, it seems pretty typical to focus on the classics that every visitor to Indonesia loves.
- Satay (Peanut Sauce)
- Mie Goreng Ayam (Fried noodles & Chicken)
- Gado Gado (Indonesian Salad)
- Yellow Curry
- Chicken Taliwang (Lombok’s famous spicy chicken)
- Kelopon (A rice and palm sugar dessert)
Depending on what course you sign up for, you get to make 3, 4 or all 6 of these dishes.
We opted for the 4 course cooking class.
We started with making dessert – because it needs time to set after making it. Kelopon is a sweet and cheeky rice flour based ball, stuffed with palm sugar. It’s actually a very simple, but attractive looking dish. So you can wow your friends with the photos and pretend you are a cooking rockstar. Or serve them at your next dinner party.
If you are up for a game, you can put a birdseye chilli inside one of the kelopon balls. Someone will get a spicy surprise!
Want to know how to make them… Well, maybe you should attend an Indonesian cooking class ?
Next up, the satay. The Indonesian version differs from the Malaysian version I had made before. It’s actually very quick to make. It uses a magic ingredient. One of my favourites from the region: Kecap manis. This is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. It’s thick and syrupy like molasses. Pure black and sweetened with palm sugar to make it extra rich.
I love it just squirted on plain rice. But it’s an essential element of a proper Indonesian satay.
You are going to love the satay sauce at Gili Air cooking class, because it’s the premium real deal. Many restaurants, especially the budget ones, water it down so it loses flavour. When made correctly, like here, it has a surprising amount of peanut, which makes it more like a paste than like a sauce. Thick, chunky and full of sweet, peanutty flavour.
You need something to dip in your peanut sauce. We went with tempeh. This is like tofu, except the soy beans have not been ground. Instead they stick together whole to form a course soy bean cake. We actually preferred this to regular tofu. It has a denser texture. It also deep fries nice and crispy.
So that’s dessert and appetizer sorted. Onto the main course!
Mi Goreng is another dish that you will find on every local menu. It’s fried noodles. But this is no chow mien. It’s got the totally unique Indonesian flavour profile that makes you want to eat and eat even when you are full. The addition of the oh so wonderful kecap manis again in this dish, is one of the reasons I can’t help but love it.
The final dish: Yellow Curry.
The process for making this was quite different from that of a Thai curry or Indian curry. Instead of making a paste, we added all the ingredients from the sauce straight into the blender. Turmeric, coriander seeds and a few other key spices. Blitz it with water and you have a spicy stock. Reduce this down over your meat and veg, then add coconut cream to finish.
The sauce came together so quickly given how thin the original sauce was. Quite a surprise!
The end result? Yum times. Your tastebuds will leave very happy and you will also leave entertained after Pian and the other tutors make this a resoundingly fun foodie experience.
Dining Options On Gili Air
If you don’t want to cook for yourself at the cooking class every night, then here are our 4 top choices for food on Gili Air. Indonesian options as well as international.
Sunrise Hotel – Breakfast Buffet
It’s not just that the food selection was exactly what you’d want in a buffet breakfast. It’s also the incredible morning backdrop you can enjoy from the restaurant.
Everything from Indonesian, to American/English and Continental. The croissants were possibly the best I’ve had in all of Asia. And if you have travelled much of that continent, you’ll know pastries can be hit and miss. These mini, buttery delights were layer upon layer of flaky perfection – especially plastered with honey.
Also, you can get eggs anyway you like them. And pancakes! it’s a winner.
Shark Bites – Lunch (Also dinner)
We recommend this for lunch as it’s inland a little. So you won’t get sunset or lapping of waves here. But you will get fantastic sandwiches.
All home made bread. Including their signature beetroot bread which comes out bright pink. Yes, the “Veg n beets” sandwich includes grilled veg with a beetroot and cream cheese spread that is also bright pink. Tasty and colourful!
We also tried the “Don’t Tell” which was honey grilled pork tenderloin with wasabi mayo. The side of potato wedges rocked too.
Check our Our Top Picks for Gili Island hotels HERE
Zipp Bar – Lunch & Dinner
Open all day, but perfect as the sun goes down. This is not on the sunset side of the island. But it does have great food at very reasonable prices. We ate here 3 times in total. Everything was awesome.
Choose your own fish out front (Evenings) from a great selection of local fish like parrot fish and red snapper. Always fresh as they seem to get a good turnover and get through most of the stock each night. Giant kebabs are also on offer.
Cocktail and beer happy hour from 4pm to 8pm.
35k Rupiah ($2.50 USD) for a large beer. About 65k ($5 USD) For two cocktails
Chill Out Bar – Lunch & Dinner
This place is right next door to Zipp Bar. The food is also great. But the happy hour is shorter. So… yeah that was a deciding factor. But you can’t go wrong for food at either. They have a few menu variation, but both do a selection of international and Indonesian. Plus, the epic BBQ options every evening.
We tried the local Lombok dish Olah Olah – it’s a vegetable dish in thick, white and creamy coconut milk. Really good.
Buy one get one cocktail happy hours from from 4pm to 6.30pm. Big beer only 30k.
Island View Bar
On the North West side of the island, quite a way from the busy part of the island. If you fancy a walk you’ll find a peaceful white sand beach with cabanas to sit and eat in.
We had the Urap urap – a cooked vegetable salad mixed with shredded coconut. Might not sound an exciting dish, but it was spiced and seasoned perfectly. We came for lunch, but this would be an ideal spot for sunset too. Bring a flashlight to get home safely after dark.
Find Island View Bar
Mowies Gili Air
During our stay it was cloudy for every sunset. So we opted to stick with the happy hours on the east side of the island, rather than pay more than double to sit and watch a cloudy sunset on the west side.
If you want sunset but with less distance to walk, Mowies comes highly recommended by all the local dive instructors (And by trip advisor). There was a strange confusion online that they are a vegan restaurant. Not the case. They serve for all diets. In fact their tuna burger is supposed to be fantastic.
Gili Air Accommodation
We stayed at sunrise in a private bungalow suite. The downstairs room features a 4 poster bed and a massive stone bath that could be one of the most incredible bathtubs we’ve seen from all our travels. Carved from one solid piece of grey stone.
But one of the other key features is the ocean front terrace on the top floor of the bungalow. A view straight across the water to nearby Lombok. The whole bungalow is huge and great value for the price.
We felt very at home here. I guess some hotels feel like a hotel. Sunrise really feels like somewhere we could just move in and stay forever. Actually we felt that about Gili Air in general. Relaxed island life that just let you relax the second you arrived.
Cold face towels and a cool drink on arrival was also a happy inclusion – you need that after a warm and bumpy boat ride out to the island.
For more information about Gili Sunrise Resort CLICK HERE
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