Bali is a beautiful island destination that’s really popular with tourists. It’s full of breathtaking beaches and stunning artwork. The majority of people who go there fall in love with the island immediately. The locals are warm and friendly, the weather is comforting and there’s so much to explore.
The island of Bali seems to magically pull you in with its brand of mystical beauty. There are divine carvings of gods and goddesses everywhere. You’ll also find offerings of flowers and plants which are part of the local religion. Often, you’ll hear the swaying rhythms of traditional Balinese music. Lucky visitors will get a chance to watch Legong and Kecak dancers perform.
However, there is one aspect of Balinese culture that’s often overlooked, and that’s the food. Many common Indonesian dishes are available here,like Nasi Goreng and Gado-gado. However, these are the unique dishes you can only find on Bali:
1. Sate Lilit
Here in Bali, the sate is slightly different form its neighboring regions. The meat is minced and wrapped around a thick, flat stick. Sometimes, the meat is wrapped around lemongrass stalks and this gives it an extra tangy flavor.
The sate here is made of chicken, mutton, beef or pork. The meat is minced and mixed with dried coconut and coconut milk together with spices and seasonings. It’s usually served with a chunky peanut sauce that’s a little bit sweet.
2. Nasi Campur Bali
Nasi campur literally means ‘mixed rice’ in Indonesian. Every region has its own special style and Bali is no different. Here, the nasi campur is mixed for you by the stall owner and there’s usually not that many selections. Most customers will just accept whatever is being dished out, but you can request to omit certain dishes you’re not comfortable with.
Usual side dishes will include lawar ( a salad that we will introduce later), fried tofu, tempe, greed leaf veggies, eggs and of course, sate lilit.
3. Babi Guling
This is probably Bali’s signature dish that is pretty rare is Indonesia, where the majority of residents are Muslims. Whole piglets are roasted for hours over an open flame until cooked to perfection. Then, the crispy skin is separated and its meat shredded. Both meat and crispy skin are served on a plate of rice with some sides like vegetables, lawar and sate lilit.
4. Bebek Betutu
Bebek is the Indonesian word for duck, but sometimes this dish is made with chicken too. Betutu is a very complex cooking method that can take up to several hours. First, a mixture of spices and seasoning is prepared. This mixture includes cinnamon, garlic, shallots, chili, galangal, ginger and many more ingredients.
The spice mixture is rubbed on a whole duck and also stuffed into the bird. It’s then cooked in a two step process that includes steaming and then baking it. The bebek is served with rice and a side of spicy sambal sauce.
Lawar usually isn’t eaten on its own, but served as a side dish to accompany meats and rice. It’s basically a salad made out of shredded coconut flesh, finely chopped green vegetables and other ingredients like peanuts. Finely chopped meat can also be added, including chicken, beef and pork.
Sometimes, pig’s blood is added to the lawar to give in a metallic savory zing, and this version is known as Lawar Merah or red lawar. There are also vegetarian versions of lawar that use shredded young jackfruit to replace meats.
6. Bubur Mengguh
This is a dish that originates from the northern Buleleng region of Bali and is often served at gatherings and festivals. Plain rice porridge is topped with a gravy that’s made with spices, chicken, celery and peanuts. This comforting meals is often served with a green vegetable salad called urap sayur which is served separately.
7. Urap Sayur
Urap or urab is one very vegetarian dish that is eaten as a snack or as a part of main meal. The dish consists of steamed vegetables like bean sprouts, water spinach, cabbage, cassava leaves and long beans. This mixture of vegetables is topped with a shredded coconut dressing, whereby the coconut has been cooked with some spices.
8. Tum or Pepes
Tum is a dish of minced chicken, pork or beef that’s mixed with spices and shredded coconut. This is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed over boiling water until cooked. Tum is sometimes eaten as a side dish in nasi campur or together with a platter of rice and babi guling.
Vegetarians in Bali make a version of Tum with young jackfruit which replicates the flavor of steamed meat.
9. Nasi Tepeng
Nasi Tepeng comes from the Gianyar district of Bali. Although it looks exactly like any other Balinese mixed rice, it has a very unique texture. It’s so soft that it actually resembles a very thick rice porridge. This is achieved by boiling the rice with coconut milk, bay leaf and lemongrass. It’s then topped with fried shallots, garlic and coriander.
Often street stalls will serve Nasi Tepeng with some sort of lawar or vegetable on the side.
10. Bubur Sumsum
There are many versions of bubur sumsum all over Indonesia and the Balinese version is unique in its own way. This is a dessert dish that’s made of rice flour and topped with a sweet syrup. Rice flour is boiled to form a thick lumpy porridge, and then a syrup made of brown sugar or palm sugar is poured on top. This dessert is best eaten cold to cool down on a hot day.
Bali has plenty to offer travelers. From stunning natural vistas to man made architectures, you’ll never find yourself bored. If you truly want to enjoy Bali’s culinary offerings, the best way to is to be brave and try things that are unfamiliar. You’ll be surprised at what you like.