It’s Easter, it’s cold and it’s snowing here in the UK. Who could blame us for trawling the interwebs dreaming of that perfect sunny escape. After my top pal Charisse visited Bali, it is has been on my to-do list. If you need any further inspo after this post, head to her blog.
When one thinks of Bali, visions of soft beaches, terraced rice paddies and enchanting temples follow close behind.
These are definitely the most iconic images of this fascinating island, and all have helped Bali reach the top of the bucket list of millions of people around the world.
What you don’t hear mentioned too much in discussions about Bali is the food. Rest assured that foodies are in good hands here though as this island—like the rest of Indonesia—is home to an eclectic range of delicacies that will dazzle your tastebuds.
The following are 8 of the best items to be on the lookout for at the local restaurants (called warungs) near your villa in Bali or in the countryside during a daytime expedition of the island.
Sate is a specialty of the region and you can definitely get the classic variety here in Bali. In this timeless version, skewers of chicken or other meat are grilled over an open flame and then slathered with a peanut-based sauce before being dunked into a spicy dip.
As great as that is, the Balinese put a deliciously different spin on things called Sate Lilit. Sate Lilit is a mixture of meat (chicken, beef, pork or fish) with coconut and coconut milk which is then cocooned around lemongrass sticks or bamboo and grilled. The results are divine.
Gado-Gado translates as “mix-mix” and you can expect a little bit of everything in this veggie-centric Indonesian salad. A typical Gado-Gado will be a collection of blanched vegetables (think spinach, sprouts, jackfruit and corn) mixed with cucumber, potatoes, and tempeh (we’ll talk about tempeh shortly) all topped with a peanut-based sauce.
For those who love the idea of stuffed, slow-cooked meat but aren’t crazy about pork, then Ayam Betutu is the dish for you. This is chicken or duck (the duck version is called Bebek Betutu) that is stuffed with a mix of spices like turmeric, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilies before being wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked underground with the help of coals.
Needless to say, the result is fall-off-the-bone delicious and will have you dreaming about it long after you leave the island.
Can’t settle on one delicious Balinese dish? Then just order Nasi Campur. This special dish is a serving of fluffy white rice paired up with a handful of some of the most popular local dishes. You can expect small versions of such aforementioned dishes as Babi Guling and both varieties of Betutu.
This is the big one. Yes, if there was one dish that people flock to the island to get their hands on, it’s this Balinese version of suckling pig. From small secret mom-and-pop spots to busy warungs on main roads, it seems that everyone is spit-roasting a pig in Bali these days.
The real magic in this dish lies in the love put into the process, one that requires the pig to be slow-cooked over an open fire. Before it hits the flames, the swine is stuffed with an assortment of seasonings and that helps impart flavor to the meat.
If you want to try something that you definitely can’t get at the cafe down the street at home, then look for Lawar when you land in Bali. The dish is typically served at family get-togethers and other special occasions where you need to serve many people but it is showing up in more and more warungs nowadays.
The main components of Lawar are diced strips of veggies and meat (pork, chicken or even turtle) mixed with traditional spices and coconut milk. There may also be kaffir lime leaves and fried shallots mixed in as well. Sometimes, there is also the addition of pig or chicken blood to the Lawar and that is what makes it such a truly unique thing to try.
Vegetarians and vegans needn’t fret though, you can find Lawar which is made of jackfruit and other veggie-friendly ingredients—including shredded coconut in place of the blood.
Sure, you can get seafood all over the world, but there aren’t many places that serve it up his fresh. All over Bali, you will find beachside cafes that are grilling today’s catch—typically a combination of lobster, shrimp and dozens of varieties of other fish—at very budget-friendly prices.
While to a certain extent, fish is fish, each one of these cafes will typically put their own spin on what spices and sauces to serve their fish with and that is where the true experience in eating fresh fish in Bali comes from.
While tofu is something that most of us are probably familiar with to different degrees, Tempeh is a different soy-based snack that may come as a revelation to you in Bali. These fermented squares are high in protein and have a bit of a crunch to them as they are typically fried.
Even if you aren’t ordering vegetarian meals, Tempeh is bound to turn up on your plate in Bali and chances are you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised.
No discussion of Balinese food would be complete without a mention of some of the sweet treats on offer. Pancong is a small, spongy, often crescent-shaped coconut flavored cake that you will find served fresh from the baking pan all over Bali.
Who knew bananas could be so decadent? Godoh is fresh-peeled, battered and flash-fried bananas and all it typically takes is one bite for a traveler to become addicted. Don’t be surprised at all if you end up making a godoh run each and every night during your trip. Godoh can be typically found at street markets and you may even experiment making them if you take a local cooking class.
This by no means is the extent of the fabulous food available in Bali as we didn’t even have time to talk about Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng or gooey Kelepon or …
Photo Credit Bali Temple: https://pixabay.com/en/pagoda-temple-lake-travel-3240169/
Photo Credit Rice Paddy: https://pixabay.com/en/rice-rice-terrace-terraces-1514141/
Photo Credit Water Lily: https://pixabay.com/en/pond-lotus-water-lily-lake-3231687/