We’ve compiled this list of local Balinese food with your kids in mind, since local cuisine can be a big part of your family’s Balinese experience. By chance, most of these selections are also among the most popular Indonesian and Balinese dishes, which seasoned travellers have become accustomed to and will always have as part of their menu on each of their visits. Importantly, you can find most of these at hotel restaurants or mall food courts, with good regards to quality and food safety standards.
What you’ll see here is a mixture of main meals and snacks or dessert dishes (the locals don’t really differentiate between these – they’re practically enjoyable at any time of the day, and available at almost all restaurants serving local cuisine). There’s the ever-present nasi goreng fried rice, which varies from kitchen to kitchen, and the all-time favourite grilled meat skewers we know as ‘satay’. We’ve selected these in terms of flavour and palatability, particularly for the little ones.
Fried rice (nasi goreng)
Nasi goreng or Indonesia’s version of fried rice comes in a virtuously endless variety, and it’s easy to find. The most common composition includes pre-steamed white rice that is then stir-fried with a combination of strips of chicken (or diced beef, veal, pulled pork; or crabmeat, shrimps and anchovies) with vegetables, scrambled eggs, green peas, onions, shallots and a balanced blend of sweet soy sauce and tomato sauce. The kids will love the colourful presentation, with fun toppings of sliced tomatoes and cucumber, fried shallots, shrimp crackers and mixed pickles. Mum can rest assured as it’s quite balanced and nutritious, too. Chilli and sambal chilli sauce are usually served on the side, but you can ask for, “no chillies” for the kids.
Skewered meats (satay)
Spelled ‘sate’ in Indonesian, satays are the most common grilled delicacy available throughout Indonesia. In Bali alone, there’s a good variety such as sate lilit that includes a blend of minced tuna and spices that is ‘wrapped’ around a bamboo stick or lemongrass stalk then grilled to perfection. The regular skewered satay can include any proteins, be it chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, calamari and even freshwater snails. Servings of satays are incomplete without the sauce, which varies from sambal chilli and tomato dips, to sweet soy sauce and tomato sauce. But the real deal is the succulent peanut sauce (contains nuts) that goes splendidly with meat satays.
Fried noodles (mie goreng)
The noodle equivalent of the favorited nasi goreng fried rice, mie goreng involves egg noodles that are stir-fried with a blend of garlic, onion or shallots, and with the main meat and vegetable ingredients similar to nasi goreng, such as shrimps, chicken, pork, beef, veal or optional sliced meatballs. Sweet soy sauce and tomato ketchup is served on the side to be added by yourself to preferred taste. In some ways, mie goreng can prove a great substitute to spaghetti bolognaise.
Spring rolls (lumpia)
Spring rolls serve as a favourite appetizer or snack, and can be enjoyed by your kids anywhere and at any time of the day. They’ll love the crunchiness of the crisp wonton skins, and the thick meaty fillings. Common versions comprise minced meats or sliced sausages such as chicken and beef, with sweetcorn and beaten eggs as fillings. There are also vegetarian versions of lumpia, called lumpia sayur, with rice glass noodles, thin-sliced carrots, chopped leeks and celery. Enjoy with sweet soy sauce or tomato ketchup as dips on the side.
Chicken noodles (mie ayam)
Noodle soups in Indonesia come in a good variety, but this one particular preparation involves minced (sometimes diced) sweet stewed chicken as its main topping. The noodles most commonly used are yellow egg noodles, rice vermicelli or flat kway teow. Mie ayam is usually considered a street food delicacy, which you can also find at food courts and local restaurants. Seasonings include soy sauce, chicken oil and blend of spices such as clove, white pepper, ginger and coriander. In some cases, fried wontons and bakso meatballs (chicken or beef) are added for a filling meal.
Chicken congee (bubur ayam)
This favourite breakfast dish is ubiquitous throughout Indonesia, and is also a common offering at hotel buffet breakfasts serving local selections. Bubur ayam or chicken rice congee has rice that is cooked to a right texture that is not too watery, topped with shredded chicken and a variety of other ingredients to taste. These include crisp-fried shallots, chopped celery, steamed beansprouts or fried soybeans, and a dash of chicken broth and sweet and salty soy sauce to taste. Bubur ayam is a highly nutritious dish, great for kids as it is easily digested. The locals often serve it as a recovery meal much like chicken soup. Nevertheless, it can be enjoyed as an all-day meal.
Thick pancakes (terang bulan)
A favourite evening street food, terang bulan pancake (literally ‘full moon’, perhaps due to its round shape and lunar crater-like inner layer during baking) is also known by other names, such as ‘sweet martabak’. The pancake dough is sweet, made from a liquid batter of flour, eggs and sugar, while the kids will love this dessert dish most for its choices of fillings, ranging from chocolate sprinkles, sliced bananas, peanuts, grated cheddar, to Nutella and peanut butter.
Shumai dumplings (siomay)
Shumai dumplings are of Chinese and Peranakan heritage, but the dish has found a firm place amongst the rich array of Indonesian cuisine. Kids love these morsels for their tasty, meaty and chewy textures. Shumai dumplings are most commonly made from mackerel, blended with egg whites, shallots and carrots in a maize flour batter. They are steamed before being sliced and served with a variety of vegetables such as steamed cauliflower, steamed potatoes, boiled eggs, and fried tofu. Then, tasty peanut sauce is doused over with sweet soy sauce to taste, perfecting the serving of this healthy and filling treat. Most food courts serve it.
Banana fritters (pisang goreng)
In Bali, this snack is oftentimes associated as a morning snack to accompany a hot coffee or tea. However, pisang goreng or banana fritters, is a dessert snack that kids often fall in love with for its combination of crunchy batter and sliced banana filling that is rendered to a sweet and close-to-melted texture. Variations in fillings and servings include chocolate that melts with the banana as it is fried, and with grated cheddar sprinkled over upon serving.
Palm sugar-filled flour balls (kelepon)
This local favourite Balinese dessert is a fun treat where every mouthful becomes a kind of challenge. These palm sugar-filled rice flour balls are steamed to a gelatinous texture, then rolled in shredded coconut before being served. You enjoy one whole ball in a single mouthful, keeping your lips shut with every bite, otherwise the watery palm sugar will explode and seep through your teeth into a delightful mess down your chin! Kelepon is easily found at the market area of the Tanah Lot Temple, where it is a typical treat. Your hotel’s local menu might feature it as well.