Your Guide to What to Eat in Bali
If you are looking for the best food in Bali, here is your guide to what to eat in Bali. And as we all know, one of the best ways to explore Balinese culture is through the traditional food.
This guide to the local cuisine of Bali is written by Bali Villas. Indonesian cuisine is one of Compass & Fork’s favorite cuisines and we are pleased to see one of our favorite dishes, beef rendang, made the list.
Bali has long been gaining a reputation as a food destination. There are some fantastic, world-class restaurants serving every type of international cuisine you can possibly imagine. Balinese / Indonesian cuisine itself though is still sometimes a little overlooked, which is unfortunate because much Balinese food is delicious! For anyone traveling on a budget though, this can sometimes be a bonus as it means there are plenty of restaurants, warungs and street carts selling amazing tasting local dishes for an equally amazing price.
Growing Food in Bali
Bali’s position as a tropical island and its volcanic origins mean it is an extremely fertile land with the perfect growing conditions for a vast array of ingredients. Tropical fruits, coffee and of course, the spices for which the Indonesian archipelago is so famous, all grow on the island in abundance. Bali’s mountainous interior has a more temperate climate making it the perfect environment to grow carrots, cabbage and strawberries amongst other fruits and vegetables.
From the 9th century onwards, the Balinese use an irrigation system known as subak (which has recently been given UNESCO World Heritage status) to cultivate the verdant terraced rice fields covering much of the island.
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Influences on Balinese Cuisine
As with the rest of Indonesia, Balinese cuisine was heavily influenced by European (primarily Dutch) colonialism. During its time as a colony, many of the spices and seasonings now ubiquitous with the food from Bali were introduced to the island.
The main staple of Balinese cuisine, as with so many other Asian countries, is rice, and several different varieties are grown on the island. For many locals, rice is an essential part of Balinese culture, and it is part of every meal. The most popular day-to-day food in Bali for most locals is probably nasi campur, a mix of steamed rice and various accompaniments including peanuts, fried egg, bean curd, fried chicken, fried soy beans, cucumber. Nasi campur is often served with a side of satay.
Another important aspect of Balinese cuisine is chili, the Balinese love their chili! Many of their traditional Balinese dishes have a heat level described as ‘volcanic’ (most places will be happy to tone this down on request).
Bali’s restaurant scene is now world-class and there are plenty of options available to suit all tastes and budgets, but, if you really want to experience the Indonesian food in Bali in all its glory, there are a few local dishes that cannot be missed.
Traditional Every Day Foods to Try in Bali
Sometimes known as the national dish of Indonesia, you cannot come to Bali (or anywhere else in the country) without trying Nasi Goreng. The name literally translates as ‘fried rice’ and, as with many other dishes of this nature, it initially evolved as way of reducing food waste – many Balinese families prepare this dish in the morning, using leftover food from the day before.
There is no single recipe for nasi goring and many regional variations exist. However, the basic meal in Bali usually includes: cooked rice, bumbu (the Indonesian name for a spice blend), shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, turmeric, spring onions, shallots, chili, kecap manis (a thick, sticky and sweet soy sauce) and some form of protein, such as chicken, tofu or seafood.
As an added bonus, nasi goreng is often served with a few sides, including an egg (either fried or in omelet form), acah (sweet and spicy pickled vegetables), krupuk (a large cracker, not dissimilar to a prawn cracker) and, sometimes, a couple sticks of satay with a peanut dipping sauce.
Nasi goreng should definitely be on your list of food to try in Bali.
Much the same as nasi goreng, with the same ingredients and accompaniments, except instead of rice, mie goreng uses noodles. Another classic example of Indonesian food in Bali.
Bali’s own version of satay. The meat, usually pork, beef or chicken, or seafood is minced and blended with a mixture of coconut milk, lemon juice, grated coconut, shallots and spices.
The local Balinese version is wrapped (rather than skewered, as in traditional satay) around a stick made from lemongrass, bamboo or sugar cane and grilled over hot coals. Generally, served with rice at home. When purchased as street food in Bali, sate lilit is served in a bamboo leaf making it easy to eat on the move.
A popular dish in Balinese culture, and a common Indonesian food found throughout the world, beef rending is a slow cooked curry simmered with locally grown turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, ginger, chilis and coriander.
Traditionally, beef rendang cooks for a minimum of 8 hours before serving giving the meat a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Famous Foods of Bali Indonesia
Traditionally, the following two Balinese dishes were only prepared during important festivals, ceremonies or rites of passage. The rise of tourism, and many visitor’s search for an authentic taste of the ‘real’ Bali mean many of the best places to eat in Bali, including local restaurants and café’s all over the island, serve at least one of these traditional dishes from Bali.
This is, hands down, the most famous food in Bali – it is not unheard of for people to visit just to try it! A whole suckling pig is stuffed with herbs and spices, basted with turmeric juice and then slowly spit-roasted over hot coals. The perfect babi guling is crunchy on the outside, melt-in-the-mouth juicy and tender in the middle and comes with side dishes of vegetables and fluffy white rice.
The spice mix used for babi guling called basa gede (used extensively throughout Balinese cooking) consists of a mouth-watering blend of ginger, garlic, galangal, candle nut, turmeric, coriander, chili, salam leaves, salt, black pepper, kencur, shrimp paste and shallots (the Balinese do not mess around when it comes to spices!)
Steamed duck with a generous blend of spices (garlic, shallots, ginger, candle nuts, wild ginger, turmeric, chili peppers, galangal, peanuts and shrimp paste), bebek betutu, is another of Bali’s famous foods
Again, there is no single way of making bebek betutu, but the basic process is: grind the spices together, sautée in coconut oil and then use to either coat or stuff (or both) the duck. The meat is then steamed in banana leaves and finished off over a barbeque giving it a distinctive smoky flavor.
A common variant, ayam betutu, uses chicken in place of duck.
Sweet Treats to Try in Bali
If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of foods to try in Bali, many available as street food.
Banana, deep fried in a light batter and covered in toppings including: grated chocolate, condensed milk and grated cheese, pisang goreng, is a popular dessert in Bali. While grated cheese may seem off putting to the uninitiated, cheese is used, quite frequently, in Balinese cuisine to add a pleasant salty tang to sweet dishes in Bali.
Black rice pudding made by boiling glutinous black rice in coconut milk until it reaches a thick, gooey consistency. Burbur injin is flavored with pandan (a green leaf that when combined with palm sugar and simmered slowly creates a sweet tasting sauce) and palm sugar then topped with tropical fruits.
A bright green pandan flavored pancake with a stuffing of shredded coconut, cinnamon, palm sugar, salt and water. Little bundles of joy, darar gulung, is found through Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia and are well worth eating whenever you get the opportunity.
Best Places to Eat in Bali
Whilst possible to find amazing Balinese food in hotels and restaurants (Bumbu Bali is a good place to start, it has built up a great reputation over many years serving top quality versions of Balinese street food), these usually cater directly to the tourist market. Prices and flavors also cater to the tourist market.
Eating at Warungs in Bali
The best way to experience Balinese food (short of befriending a local family and being invited into their home) is to hit the streets and seek out the best and market stalls. Many warungs are simple shacks, although some of the fancier ones now resemble basic restaurants – they serve Balinese and Indonesian food and each one usually specializes in only one or two dishes. Although food prices in Bali have gone up in recent years, it is still possible to get a generous helping of babi guling and a soft drink for only a few dollars.
Eating at Night Markets in Bali
A pasar malan (night market) is another option for finding affordable local food. These usually start in the early evening and continue late into the night. Local Balinese people come here to do most of their household and grocery shopping.
The sizzling of woks and aroma of spices, grilled meat and, the ever-present, incense combined with the banter of the stallholders can make a trip to a market a veritable assault on the senses – but one that is well worth experiencing.
It is worth noting, though, some care should be taken when buying street food in Bali (either from a stationary stall or, especially, from one of the many small carts you will see going up and down the roads). Sanitation standards are not always up to scratch and you should use basic precautions to avoid getting sick while traveling. You don’t want to miss couple of days’ worth of eating delicious and distinctive Balinese cuisine!
We hope you enjoyed this guide to the best local foods to eat in Bali. There are a lot of food to try in Bali and Indonesian cuisine is one of the best in the world.
This sponsored post was contributed by Bali Villas.
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