Traditional Balinese cuisine is a rare art that cannot be learn perfectly at cooking course, it has to be learn in the preparation of a ceremony since the traditional Balinese cuisine is dedicated mainly for the ceremonial purpose and the authenticity of the flavor cannot be achieved in the cooking course. The basic obstacle in learning traditional Balinese cuisine is the spices.
There are many kind of spices used in the traditional Balinese cuisine and there is no exact measurement on the quantity of spices used in a cooking process, all depends on the chef preference. Moreover, there is no standard for the traditional Balinese cuisine every village has its own way of cooking and the use of spices. Despite all these obstacle there is a basic philosophy that is shared by all the traditional Balinese cuisine’s chef all over Bali.
All the traditional Balinese cuisine has to embody Sad Rasa (Six Basic Flavors) and the unity of these six flavors, through the combination of spices called Basa. The six flavors are pakeh or salty, lalah or pungent (hot), masem (sour), manis (sweet), pahit (bitter) and sapek, considered an overall flavor felt through the other senses like smell, vision, touch and hearing.
The sad rasa (six flavors) have different names in different regions in Bali. In Gianyar it is kotu for pungent, amla for sour, madhura for sweet, lawana for salty, tikhta for bitter and kasaya for insipid or bland. During the teeth filing ceremony, you must consume the six flavors, which are in the penambal or filling in order to accustomed the teeth and the tongue with the Sad Rasa (Six Basic Flavors).
In Balinese traditional cuisine, the combination of spices that embody these six flavors (Sad Rasa) is prepared and cooked before the actual cooking is begun. For example basa uyah lengis is a simple combination of salt and vegetable oil, and its dominant flavor is salty. Basa embe, which combines three flavors: salty from salt, pungent from shallots and garlic, and sour from lime.
Basa lalah manis is an expanded mix of basa embe wherein brown sugar (gula jawa or gula bali) is added and the vegetable oil is replaced with fresh coconut. This combination consists of four flavors: salty from salt, pungent from red chilies and shallots, sour from limes, and sweet from brown sugar. Basa genep is a combination of six flavors.
This combination of spices usually consists of salt, vegetable oil, shallots, garlic, chilies, kaempheria galangal, brown sugar, ginger, greater galangal, turmeric, candlenuts, lemongrass, salam leaves, trassi and lime, as well as black pepper, white pepper, coriander, cumin, cumin leaves, cloves, nutmegs and sesame seeds, and a root called lempuyang, purut lime leaves, cinnamon and a certain type of incense called menyan.
The actual Balinese traditional cooking method is mainly to mix the prepared combination of spices (basa) with other ingredients and cook the mixture if necessary.