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Balinese Food: 10 Foods You Must Try in Bali

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Welcome to a culinary adventure through the flavors of Bali, a food lover’s paradise where every bite tells a story of tradition, culture, and the vibrant spirit of this Indonesian island. From bustling markets to quaint warungs (local eateries), Bali offers a feast for the senses like no other. Join us on a gastronomic journey as we explore the “10 Foods You Must Try in Bali.” Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with a symphony of aromatic spices, exotic ingredients, and mouthwatering dishes that will leave you craving for more.

1. Babi Guling

Discover the irresistible allure of Bali through Babi Guling, a traditional masterpiece that’s both a feast for the senses and a cultural delight. This iconic Balinese dish features succulent suckling pig, slow-roasted to perfection over an open fire, earning its name “babi guling” or “turning pig” in Indonesian.

Bali Food Babi Guling
Babi Guling

The magic unfolds in its meticulous preparation – the pig’s skin adorned with turmeric and salt, its cavity infused with a medley of coriander, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, galangal, and a hint of chili. Wrapped in tender banana leaves, it’s then slow-cooked for hours, resulting in a mouthwatering fusion of crispy skin and tender, flavorful meat. Typically accompanied by fragrant rice, fresh vegetables, and spicy sambal sauce, babi guling is an authentic Balinese experience that brings celebrations to life. While reserved for special occasions, it’s also a favorite in local warungs, where skilled chefs master the art of this unforgettable dish.

2. Lawar

Lawar is a traditional dish bursting with flavors that represent the heart of Indonesia’s Bali. Found in local eateries and restaurants across the island, Lawar is a captivating blend of vegetables, coconut, and minced meat, infused with fragrant herbs and spices. Whether you savor it with succulent pork, chicken, duck, beef, or opt for the vegetarian jackfruit version, Lawar offers a taste of Bali’s culinary diversity.

Bali Food Lawar
Lawar, a blend of vegetables, coconut, and minced meat

Named after its star ingredients or vibrant colors, like Chicken Lawar or the intriguing Lawar Merah (Red Lawar) when spiced blood is added, this dish perfectly complements steamed rice and other local delights. While often reserved for special celebrations, Lawar’s versatility makes it a flavorful treat fit for any time of day. It’s a culinary masterpiece that reflects Bali’s rich gastronomic heritage and is a must-try for any food lover exploring the island.

3. Bebek Betutu

Bebek Betutu is a traditional masterpiece that promises to enchant your taste buds and leave an indelible mark on your palate. Originating from the heart of Hindu Bali, this dish is a cherished gem, adored by both locals and visitors alike. Its name, Bebek Betutu, pays homage to the intricate spice paste, known as Betutu, that elevates this roasted duck to culinary stardom.

The art of crafting Bebek Betutu involves a meticulous process of marinating and stuffing the duck with a symphony of local spices, including turmeric, ginger, pepper, chili, and shrimp paste. Once the duck is lovingly prepared, it’s wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted for hours, culminating in tender, juicy meat that beckons with every bite. Served alongside fragrant rice, steamed vegetables, and a fiery sambal sauce, Bebek Betutu is a sensory adventure that beckons you to savor the essence of Bali’s rich culinary heritage. Prepare to be captivated by the island’s flavors and embark on a journey that will linger in your memory long after the last delicious morsel is enjoyed.

4. Gado Gado

Gado Gado is a classic Indonesian salad filled with veggies, tofu, eggs, and peanut sauce. Its name means “mix-mix,” highlighting its ingredient variety and adaptability. You can pick your preferred veggies, raw or cooked, and customize the sauce’s spiciness to your liking. Gado Gado offers a healthy, colorful, and satisfying meal suitable for everyone.

To whip up Gado Gado, start by preparing the peanut sauce and veggies separately. The sauce combines peanut butter, sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), coconut milk, lime juice, and spices like garlic, chili, and shrimp paste. Aim for a thick, smooth, and creamy sauce. For the veggies, you can choose to boil, steam, or roast them, depending on your preference. Common choices include cabbage, green beans, carrots, cucumber, and bean sprouts. To serve, the veggies are arranged on a platter or in individual bowls, drizzle with the peanut sauce, and top with sliced eggs, crispy tofu, prawn crackers, crispy onions, and fresh coriander.

Bali Food Gado Gado
Gado Gado, a classic Indonesian salad

5. Mie Goreng

Mie Goreng, a delightful fried noodle dish hailing from Indonesia, is a culinary gem beloved not only in its home country but also in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia. The name itself, Mie Goreng, translates to “fried noodles” in both Indonesian and Malay languages, perfectly capturing its essence. What makes Mie Goreng so fantastic is its versatility, allowing for various noodles, proteins, veggies, and sauces.

The secret to Mie Goreng’s unique flavor and rich color lies in Kecap Manis, a sweet and thick soy sauce widely featured in Indonesian cooking. Mixed with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and a dash of white pepper, it forms a savory, velvety sauce that generously coats the noodles. Typically, Mie Goreng boasts ingredients like chicken, prawns, cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions, and egg ribbons as its stars, but you’ll find variations with tofu, tempeh, fish cakes, or meatballs. To elevate its taste and texture, Mie Goreng is often adorned with crispy shallots, fried garlic, peanuts, cilantro, and lime wedges. This dish is a gratifying and flavorsome experience, perfect for both a main course or a side dish.

6. Sate

Sate, also known as satay, is a beloved dish across Southeast Asia, with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore being some of its biggest fans. Imagine skewered and grilled meat served with a delectable peanut sauce alongside rice, salad, or various tasty sides. The beauty of sate lies in its versatility, as you can use chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, or even tofu to create these flavorful skewers. It’s an Indonesian national treasure and a street food sensation in many places.

The roots of sate trace back to 19th-century Java, where street vendors sold it and it graced royal banquets. Since then, sate has journeyed across Southeast Asia and beyond, spawning regional variations and specialties. You’ll find an array of sate dishes like sate ayam (chicken sate), sate kambing (goat sate), sate lilit (minced meat sate wrapped around lemongrass or coconut sticks), and sate padang (sate with spicy yellow sauce).

7. Pepes Ikan

Pepes ikan, a beloved Indonesian tradition, brings fish to life with a tantalizing blend of spices and herbs. The magic happens when the seasoned fish is lovingly wrapped in banana leaves and either steamed or grilled. “Pepes” in Sundanese means “to wrap,” and “ikan” simply means “fish” in Indonesian. This culinary technique not only infuses the fish with incredible flavors but also seals in its moisture and aroma.

Variety is the spice of life when it comes to pepes ikan, with different regions and fish types offering their unique twists. You’ll often encounter mackerel, carp, tilapia, snapper, or catfish gracing this dish. The spice and herb lineup can be quite diverse, featuring garlic, shallot, turmeric, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, chili, candlenut, tamarind, lime, basil, and tomato. Some recipes even introduce creamy coconut milk or grated coconut for an extra layer of richness. Typically served with rice and sidekicks like vegetables or sambal, pepes ikan takes center stage at special occasions like Eid al-Fitr or cherished family gatherings.

Bali Food Pepes Ikan
Pepes Ikan, a fish dish with a blend of spices and herbs

8. Laklak

Laklak, a cherished Balinese dessert, offers a delightful experience with its petite pancakes adorned with grated coconut and melted palm sugar. Crafting laklak involves rice flour, water, coconut milk, suji leaf extract, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. The batter takes a turn on a griddle or clay mold until it reaches a golden, fluffy perfection. Its inviting green hue comes from the suji leaf extract, which also imparts a delightful fragrance.

In Bali, laklak is a beloved snack or breakfast treat, especially during religious ceremonies and festivals. It pairs beautifully with a cup of coffee or tea and often boasts additional toppings like jackfruit, banana, or even cheese. While it shares similarities with other Indonesian pancakes like serabi and apem, laklak stands out with its distinct shape, size, and texture. To avoid confusion, it’s also referred to as kue laklak or laklak Bali to distinguish it from another dish with the same name in Java, which happens to be a type of rice cake.

9. Es Campur

Es Campur, a delightful chilled dessert, is a heavenly blend of shaved ice, syrup, condensed milk, and an array of delectable toppings like fruits, coconut, tapioca pearls, grass jelly, and more. Its name, Es Campur, translates to “mixed ice” in both Indonesian and Malay languages. This sweet treat enjoys immense popularity in Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, particularly during Ramadan for breaking the fast. Es Campur shares similarities with other global shaved ice desserts like the Philippines’ Halo-halo, Korea’s Bingsu, and Malaysia’s Ais Kacang.

The beauty of Es Campur lies in its adaptability, with ingredient choices varying by region and personal preference. You’ll often find jackfruit, avocado, melon, and watermelon among the common fruit toppings. Additional delights include kolang-kaling (palm fruit), nata de coco (coconut jelly), cincau (grass jelly), dawet (rice flour jelly), and even roti tawar (bread cubes). The key to Es Campur’s distinctive flavor and vibrant color is Kecap Manis, a sumptuously thick and sweet soy sauce.

Bali Food Es Campur
Es Campur, a delightful chilled dessert

10. Nasi Tepeng

Nasi tepeng hails from the picturesque Gianyar region in Bali, Indonesia, and it’s the perfect way to start your day. This traditional breakfast treat is a bowl of rice porridge, simmered to perfection in flavorful chicken broth, and embellished with tender shreds of chicken and an array of aromatic spices. The result? A dish with a smooth, comforting texture that gives way to an explosion of rich and spicy flavors.

But the charm of nasi tepeng doesn’t stop there. It’s served with a tantalizing array of accompaniments. Fresh coriander adds a burst of freshness, sweet soy sauce lends a touch of sweetness, crispy fried shallots provide a delightful crunch, and a side of crackers adds an extra layer of texture to this morning’s delight.

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