Indonesian food is absolutely delicious and wherever you are in this amazing country you can be sure to find tasty dishes and street snacks on every corner. Of these regional delicacies, Balinese food is in a league of its own and plates here are known for being quite different from many other traditional dishes in Indonesia. Balinese food differs from all other Indonesian food because the island is predominantly Hindu compared to the rest of Indonesia which is Muslim. This religious difference, combined with the island seclusion, has created the unique Balinese cuisine which still thrives today. Below we will describe local, traditional dishes you shouldn’t miss!

Babi Guling

Babi Guling is the name for pig (usually suckling pig) which has been spit-roasted for hours over an open fire. It is also probably the most famous of all Balinese dishes and you will find it served all over the island. The pig is rubbed down with a blend of herbs and spices like lemongrass and galangal and then basted over hot coals until the skin is crisp. Traditionally this is the centerpiece of a Balinese feast such as a wedding celebration, but many restaurants now also serve it. If you want to try it, ask locals where to go. One of the best-known places for babi guling on the island is Babi Guling Pak Malen in Seminyak.

Bebek Betutu

Pronounced ‘betoo-too’, this dish is made from duck meat which is a specialty in Bali thanks to the flocks of ducks found parading through the rice paddies. Bebek means duck and betutu is the way in which it is prepared. The duck is smeared in a blend of herbs and the cavity is then stuffed with spices. The bird is then wrapped tightly in banana leaves for maximum flavor. The package of duck and banana leaves is then buried underground and cooked over coals for 5-7 hours until the meat falls off the bone. It can also be made with chicken if you don’t enjoy the more gamey flavor of duck.

Lawar

Lawar is one of Bali’s signature dishes and it’s sold in many little local warungs or cafes. It is a blend of minced meat, vegetables, shredded coconut, and herbs and spices often combined with palm sugar, shallots, lime leaves, and green beans. If you are feeling adventurous you can also try a signature version that is made with animal blood. This is known as ‘red lawar’ because of the color so if you are not sure about trying it then make sure to ask for ‘white lawar’ which is the version that doesn’t have any blood added to it.

Sate Lilit

Sate (also spelled satay) is the name for meat threaded onto skewers and grilled.  It is one of the best street snacks you can find in Indonesia. The Balinese version is a little different than sate found elsewhere in the world which usually uses chunks of meat. Bali sate is made from beef, chicken, or fish that is first minced into a paste and then pressed onto aromatic sticks of lemongrass or pieces of bamboo. The meat is also mixed with coconut and minced herbs like lime leaves and lemongrass. You can either eat sate on its own as a snack or as part of a larger feast.

Urap 

If Balinese food is all starting to sound a little meat heavy and you are looking for a vegetarian option then consider trying urap (also known as urab).  The salad is made of steamed vegetables such as cassava leaves, cabbage, or spinach, to which crunchy bean sprouts and green beans are added. The best part of the salad is the topping which is made of shredded coconut that adds a sweet note to the dish. Urap is often served as an accompaniment to other dishes on the menu but you can also eat it all on its own.

Bubur Mengguh

It may not sound like much but bubur mengguh is a kind of Balinese rice porridge similar to something like congee in China. The difference is the toppings that are added to the dish.  Usually bubur mengguh is sprinkled with shredded chicken, peanuts, celery leaf and minced herbs. It’s typically eaten for breakfast or lunch but we enjoy it at any point in the day. If you are feeling a little under the weather or have been having any digestive issues then bubur mengguh is a particularly soothing choice.

Seafood

Bali is an island so of course the fish and seafood here is going to be excellent. However, not all of Bali is known for its seafood so if you want the freshest catch and the tastiest dishes head to the seaside town of Jimbaran. This part of Bali is famous for its seafood restaurants and you can expect a whole range of choices like squid, clams, shrimp, crab, and even lobster. The seafood is prepared in pretty much the same way everywhere in Jimbaran which means that the seafood is rubbed with a spice paste made of chilies, herbs, and spices, and is then grilled over fragrant coconut husks which give it an amazing smoky flavor. It usually comes with white rice and some simple vegetable side dishes. We recommend eating at Made Bagus Cafe.

 Nasi Campur (na-see chahm-poor)

A buffet style meal served with rice and your choice of roughly 6 pre-cooked dishes to fill the plate. You typically order at the counter and point to the numerous vegetable, meat, egg, tofu, tempeh options in the glass casing. This is a great option for vegetarians as there are always tofu, tempe and vegetable choices! This balanced meal makes for a great option for sit down or take-away. You’ll see people carrying their take-away in a pyramid shaped cone wrapped in paper and/ or a banana leaf!

Gado-Gado

In the mood for something a bit lighter? Gado-Gado is often classified as a salad, but depending on who is making it, could be closer to a stir fry, so each time you order is a new experience.  Gado Gado combines stir-fried mixed vegetables and fresh vegetables which are then covered in a thick yummy peanut sauce.  It often comes with tofu and tempeh but since it is “made-to-order” in a wok, you can choose to add meat to your dish.

Cap Cay (chap chai)

Another lighter option you will find at every local warung is the mixed vegetable stir fried dish, cap cay. The stir-fried vegetables will come in a soupy sweet and sour sauce. It shouldn’t be too spicy but may have some red color to it. We recommend order cap cay with a side of rice, nasi, to help sop up your left over sauce.

Nasi/Mie Goreng

Fried rice or fried noodles, typically served with a fried egg on top. You can usually add a meat or tofu/tempe. The noodles in mie goreng are typically low quality, instant packet noodles, which is why we always go for nasi goreng instead. Both options are quick, cheap favorites for locals and tourists alike.

Have a favorite Balinese dish? Let us know in the comment section below.

Share This
%d bloggers like this: