Thousands of islands with different cultures make up Indonesia, so no wonder its food is just as diverse. To complement the holiday experience on Bali, you would not want to miss out on its assortment of dishes.
These include interesting and exotic selections such as 'lawar', 'bebek betutu', the Balinese satay version known as 'sate lilit', and the island’s famed 'babi guling' whole spit-roast pig. The Balinese have a rich collection of snacks, cakes and desserts for your sweet tooth too!
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Sate (or “satay”) are marinated, skewered and grilled meats, served with spicy sauce, and may consist of diced or sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, fish, tofu, eggs or minced blends. Bali’s own variant is sate lilit, made from minced beef, chicken, fish, pork, or even turtle meat, which is then mixed with coconut, coconut milk, and a rich blend of vegetables and spices. Wrapped rather than skewered around bamboo, sugar cane or lemongrass sticks then grilled, sate lilit can be enjoyed with or without sauce.
Bali’s own take on ‘chicken rice’, nasi ayam and nasi campur can be found served at many warungs (small eateries) and restaurants throughout the island. The dish is mainly white rice served with many different elements of Balinese delights, from a bit of babi buling or betutu as the main meats, together with mixed vegetables and a dab of the iconic spicy hot sambal matah – sometimes served with a bowl of soup. For those who do not want it too spicy, simply ask for it without the sambal.
Betutu is an iconic Balinese favourite, consisting of a whole chicken or duck stuffed with traditional spices, wrapped in banana leaves, then enveloped tight in banana trunk bark before it’s baked or buried in a coal fire for 6 to 7 hours. The result is a rich and juicy, succulent feast with all meat easily separated from bones. Betutu is the Balinese slow-cooked luscious equivalent of babi guling for ‘non-pork eaters’.
Babi guling is an all-time favourite, consisting of spit-roast pig stuffed with rich traditional spices and vegetable mixes such as cassava leaves, slowly ‘rolled’ over (hence its name, guling means ‘to roll’) a coal fire. The crisp brown skins are prized, while the meat is a tender and juicy treat. At first the dish was a communal treat only during special festivities and ceremonies, but now babi guling can be found widely served at warungs and restaurants specialising in this dish.
Among the most versatile of food items, tahu (tofu) and tempe come in various preparations, some as savory snacks, and some as accompaniments and even main course dishes. These soy bean curds may be fried, stuffed and battered. Many Indonesian dishes, especially those that have the main portions of rice, include tempe crackers, while the most favourite tahu snack are the stuffed and fried versions which usually include a mixture similar to spring rolls.
The line-up of beachside cafés on Muaya beach in Jimbaran Bay typically serves grilled fresh caught seafood, ranging from shrimp, clams, crabs, calamari, lobsters and a wide assortment of fish. But in terms of taste, the secret lies in each of the café owner’s recipes of barbecue sauce and condiments – usually in the form of homemade sambal, which has collectively become known as “sambal seafood – Jimbaran style”. From sweet-sour blends to the typical hot and spicy... tasting is believing!
Pepes is an Indonesian Sundanese cooking method using banana-leaf as food wrappings. The small package is sewed with thin bamboo sticks at both ends, and either steam-cooked, boiled or grilled. It is most commonly used to prepare fish as “pepes ikan” or meat, chicken, tofu or vegetables. Tum takes on a different form, with the wrapping folded and stitched at one top end, and usually steam-cooked. The banana-leaf wrapping provides a special aromatic appeal to the cooked blend.
Lawar is a traditional mix containing fine chopped meat, vegetables, grated coconut and spices. Sometimes, and in some areas, lawar is prepared using fresh blood mixed with the meat and spices to strengthen the flavour. Lawar are usually served immediately after preparation as it cannot be kept long. There are two main types of lawar, white and red. The white version usually does not contain any meats or blood.
Traditional cakes are collectively referred to as jajanan pasar (traditional market cakes), originally used to accompany ceremonial offerings, but now have found their way to the markets as daily coffee time favourites. The varieties abound, but the ingredients usually include rice flour, glutinous rice, sugar, coconut and tropical fruits. Wajik, pancong, jaja batun bedil, bubuh injin, godoh, pisang rai, and kelepon are typical varieties.
Nasi Goreng is Indonesia's fried rice, one of the nation's most notable dishes. Nasi Goreng is pre-steamed rice stir-fried with a combination of meats and vegetables, ranging from scrambled eggs, diced beef, strips of chicken, shrimp, anchovies, lamb, crab, green peas, onions, shallots and a blend of sweet soy sauce or kecap manis and hot chili sauce. The presentation usually features the typical toppings: sliced tomatoes and/or cucumber, fried shallots, fish or shrimp krupuk crackers and mixed pickles or acar.