Bali’s Culinary Heritage: Base Genep

In the world of cuisine, the word “mother sauce” is used when referring to basic sauces that will be a starting point for making various secondary sauces. In French cuisine, most cooks will know the 5 mother sauces that branch out to hundreds of derivatives. 

  • Béchamel: Basic white sauce made of equal parts of flour and butter, a mixture called “roux”, whisk in warm milk
  • Tomato sauce: Basic tomato sauce
  • Espagnol: Basic brown stock, made from roasted beef bones thicken with roux
  • Velouté: A lightly cooked roux whisk in chicken stock, fish stock or any clear stock
  • Hollandaise: An emulsion of clarified butter, a type of vinegar and egg yolk

These five sauces are the pillars of French cuisine.

Across the globe, in Bali, the principle of cooking is also based on basic sauces and herbs. The differences of climate, culture and the type of herbs and spices available obviously shape different types of basic sauces. The Balinese do not shy away from using good amounts of garlic, shallot, ginger, galangal and chilies that not only brings fragrance and flavors but also health benefits.

There is one main formula of herbs and spices that is the basic of Balinese cooking. Base Genep, loosely translated as “complete spice”. Looking at the list of ingredients below, it becomes clear why it is called the complete spice. Different households will have different measurements of each ingredient sometimes only eye balling them and not using the exact measurements. The more often you make the Base Genep the more familiar you are with the taste and how to balance the herbs and spices.


  • 250 Gr Shallots
  • 125 Gr Garlic
  • 45 Gr Galangal
  • 65 Gr Ginger
  • 40 Gr Turmeric
  • 20 Gr Lesser Galangal 
  • 125 Gr Fresh cayenne chilly
  • 50 Gr Bird’s eye chilly
  • 40 Gr Candlenut
  • 50 Gr Shrimp paste
  • 3 Gr Coriander seeds
  • 15 Gr White pepper
  • 100 Ml Cooking oil
  • 200 Ml Water
  • 4 Pcs Bay leaf
  • 3 Pcs Lime leaf
  • 2 Pcs Lemongrass

  1. Clean and peel all fresh herbs, cut ginger and turmeric into manageable sizes. 
  2. Traditionally, all ingredients, setting aside the water, oil, lime leaves and bay leaves, are finely chopped on a thick wooden cutting board or pounded in a mortar and pestle. A food processor or blender can be used to do the task and save yourself a messy kitchen. When using a food processor or blender, add half the oil and water for easier blending.
  3. After all herbs and spices are blended, heat up the oil on a thick bottomed pan and cook the spice mixture. Add lime leaves, bay leaves and the rest of the water to the pan. 
  4. Keep stirring the pan to prevent anything sticking to the bottom getting burnt.
  5. Base Genep is done when all the liquid is evaporated and the natural oil from the spice mixture starts to come out.
  6. Once finished, set aside and let cool. When kept in freezer, it can last up to 1.5 weeks.

Base Genep is perfect as a base for soups, curry, marinade for chicken, fish, pork and beef. Mix the Base Genep with finely chopped raw tuna fish to make Balinese Satay Lilit. It can also be added to shredded coconut and cooked bean sprout to make Urap, a coconut base vegetable side dish. 

You can go in different kinds of directions with Base Genep, use your imagination and create various kinds of dishes with the delicious base sauce.

To enjoy traditional Indonesian cooking visit Warung Damar, opens daily from 11.00 to 23.00.


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